Secretary General Rasmussen,
Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
At the outset, please allow me to thank the Secretary General for kindly inviting me and my dear colleague and brother Minister of Interior Muhammed Umer Daudzai to this important NATO meeting. It is indeed a great pleasure to be with so many of Afghanistan’s close friends and allies.
I will share the Afghan government’s perspective with you on four specific topics; namely Transition, our peace and reconciliation efforts, our upcoming presidential and provincial council elections, and of course the Bilateral Security and Defense Cooperation Agreement (BSA) with the United States and our enduring security and defense partnership with NATO. Minister Daudzai will separately address the Afghan government’s security plan for next year’s elections.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am joining you at this august gathering exactly fourteen days after a historic consultative loya jirga or grand assembly of 2500 delegates from seventeen categories – including men, women, young and old, lawyers, ulema, journalists antative loya jirga or grand assembly of 2500 delegates from seventeen categories – including men, women, young and old, lawyers, ulema, journalists and civil society activists, Members of Parliament, representatives of Afghan refugees in neighbouring countries as well as members of Afghan diaspora communities in the four corners of the globe, including here in Europe – gathered in Kabul to discuss and debate the Bilateral Security and Defense Cooperation Agreement between Afghanistan and the United States.
Following four days of lively, in-depth and comprehensive discussions, consultations and debate, I am happy to report to you that the loya jirga delegates overwhelmingly approved the draft text of the BSA in general terms in the final loya jirga resolution, and at the same time underlined their desire for peace and security in the country. By strongly endorsing the BSA, the Afghan people once again demonstrated their profound desire for a true friendship and a lasting security partnership with the United States, and by underscoring their rightful aspiration for peace and security, they sent the clear message that the BSA must furnish necessary assurances for peace in Afghanistan and ensure the safety, security and dignity of the Afghan people in their homes.
It is precisely in this context and based on the clear and unambiguous recommendations of the loya jirga that the Afghan government is seeking assurances from the United States regarding efforts to propel our peace and reconciliation efforts forward and to put an end to military operations against Afghan homes in accordance with the text and spirit of the BSA. So we are seeking these specific assurances because we want the agreement and the strategic partnership based on it to contribute to peace and security in Afghanistan in a significant way and so that it serves as the bedrock of a solid, enduring alliance between Afghanistan and the United States, our most important international ally.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I can assure you that the BSA will be signed in good time between our two governments. Given the desire of the Afghan government and people for long-term cooperation and an enduring partnership with NATO, I have the privilege of extending the Afghan government’s official invitation to NATO for the initiation of formal negotiations with us on a Status of Forces Agreement for the post-2014 NATO presence in Afghanistan on the BSA model.
We are prepared to start these negotiations anytime and conclude them rapidly. Let me state that we regard continuing cooperation with NATO a necessity and stand ready to formalize this partnership for the post-2014 period. Based on the model of the Bilateral Security Agreement between Afghanistan and the United States and in the context of a Status of Forces Agreement, we can agree on a set of principles, which ensure the continued legal presence of NATO while upholding Afghan sovereignty, independence, territorial integrity, national unity and Afghan ownership.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
We are already strengthening our sovereignty and national ownership through the ongoing transition process. Soundly designed between Afghanistan and our NATO and other international allies in 2010 and embraced fully by the Afghan people, Afghan soldiers, police and other national security forces have proven both the strategic and tactical success of the Transition process. The successful implementation of Milestone 2013 in June this year, which marked the full transfer of the lead for all combat operations to Afghanistan, demonstrates the determination of the Afghan nation to take our own affairs into our own hands and underlines the capability of our national security forces to provide security for their compatriots and defend the country against external threats. Not only have Afghan forces maintained control and security across the country, they have driven the enemy from some areas where they had previously established a presence. Most importantly, security in most transitioned areas has improved.
We realize that our security transition successes have come at the price of increased casualties among our national security forces. However, the fact that Afghan soldiers, police and other security personnel have taken these sacrifices in stride is proof positive of their unshakable commitment to fight for and, where needed, to give their lives for an independent, sovereign, free, democratic and developing Afghanistan.
The Afghan people are prepared to continue our just struggle against terrorism and violent extremism in our vital region; however, we will continue all our efforts through all possible channels to seek peace and reconciliation with the armed opposition.
In this context, will continue our dialogue with the new government of Pakistan in order to encourage the Afghan Taliban to return to dialogue and negotiations for peace and security in our country. We continue to draw all sides’ serious attention to the inescapable fact of peace in Afghanistan being a precondition for peace, security and prosperity in the entire region. We also expect that the United States and our strategic partners in Nato will undertake all possible and necessary practical efforts through national, bilateral and multilateral channels involving Afghanistan, Pakistan and any other country that could play a constructive role in order to help us start a meaningful, substantive peace process between the High Peace Council and the Taliban.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
To the government and people of Afghanistan, the upcoming presidential and provincial council elections on 5 April next year offers a serious test to the strengthening of our democratic process and the continuity and consolidation of our young democracy. Precisely four months ahead of polling day, almost all the key signs are positive and boost hopes for success. Both the government, those competing in the elections, voters, civil society groups and the vibrant independent Afghan media share the view that the success of these elections is crucial to the future of Afghanistan. We have a much smaller field of 11 presidential candidates running this time. Well over 3.1 million new voters have registered for the elections throughout the country. The unity of purpose on the timely holding of transparent, free and fair elections is a powerful symbol of the strong Afghan national consensus that exists about the future direction of Afghanistan as a democratic, peaceful and prospering nation in the Heart of Asia region. The success of these elections and the peaceful transfer of power from one elected president to another elected president will undoubtedly assure the preservation, consolidation and expansion of our historic gains over the past more than one decade in all areas of our national life.
We are also cognizant of the challenges our elections face, including the possibility of foreign interference and, of course, insecurity as the biggest challenge. And we are engaging our international partners in order to tackle these challenges.
Finally, I would like to take this opportunity to express the deepest thanks and gratitude of the Afghan people to all the countries represented in this room for your sincere and tremendous cooperation over the years. I would like to assure you that the government an people of Afghanistan will never forget your friendship and support and shall remain a reliable long-term strategic partner by your side.
Thank you for your patience.