Your Excellency Secretary General Rasmussen
Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is an honor to once again address the Foreign Ministerial meeting of Afghanistan’s NATO and ISAF partners and provide you with the Afghan government’s perspective as we continue to move forward with our unprecedented political transition.
Allow me to begin by thanking NATO member states and ISAF partners for your lasting commitment to the cause of a peaceful, democratic and prosperous Afghanistan.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Like our last meeting, which came just days before our landmark April 5th election, today’s meeting is also taking place at a critical and momentous time in the days following the second round of our presidential elections. On June 14th, for the second time in the span of only a few weeks, millions of Afghans ignored security threats, put their faith in the Afghan National Security Forces, defied the Taliban – even if it meant having their fingers cut off – and flocked to the polls to cast their votes for their future president.
The success of our fully Afghan-managed election process is a testament to the maturity of Afghan institutions and the culmination of our joint efforts and sacrifices since 2001. It is now evident more than ever that Afghanistan has undergone a genuine transformation over the last 13 years.
The success story of our security institutions is arguably the biggest highlight of this transformation so far. In the span of only 13 years, Afghanistan has gone from having no military, no police and, to a rapidly growing army and police force that is now leading the security operations of the whole country. One year ago, the Afghan National Security Forces marked the important milestone of assuming lead security responsibility from ISAF throughout Afghanistan. While this security transition will not be fully complete until the end of this year, the ANSF have already won the confidence and trust of the Afghan people in their ability to protect them and their country. This was clearly evidenced by the unprecedented voter turnout during both rounds of the presidential elections and by the outpouring of grief throughout the country after the killing of twenty ANA soldiers during a terrorist attack in Kunar Province last February. We are extremely proud of our security forces, who are paying the ultimate price for defending the Afghan people on a daily basis. They are fulfilling both a national and international role in opposing the forces of global terror and extremism in the region. In this context, the continued support of our international allies, particularly NATO’s Resolute Support Mission, is pertinent to further developing and sustaining ANSF’s capacities. Our partnership must also result in the built-up of key capabilities and enablers for ANSF, particularly in the area of air forces that woefully has not seen much progress in the last 13 years. NATO’s post-2014 non-combat train, advise, and assist mission and the Chicago financial commitments are therefore essential for the sustainable and lasting stability of our country. After all, a peaceful, stable and prosperous Afghanistan is not only a firm guarantor of peace, stability, and prosperity in our region but the world at large.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
While the success of our security transition and repeated examples of the ANSF to prove their abilities to protect Afghans are noteworthy, many challenges still remain.
Afghanistan and the region we are situated in remain vulnerable to the threat of terrorism and radicalism – these are the greatest impediments to the region’s development. Considering the regional dimension of this threat, we require result-oriented and sincere cooperation from Pakistan and we will continue to engage with them to advance cooperation in dealing with terrorism sanctuaries and sources of support and sustenance.
While we are still some time away from the announcement of the final result of our election and the inauguration of the next Afghan president, both Dr. Abdullah and Dr. Ahmadzai have repeatedly stated that upon taking office they will swiftly conclude the BSA and NATO SOFA. As such, notwithstanding the election outcome, we are confident that the necessary legal framework will be in place in time for NATO and its operating partners to plan and mobilize duly for the post-2014 Resolute Support Mission. At this critical time, what is most important for Afghanistan is that the electoral institutions be allowed to continue to carry out their mandates and complete the electoral process in a legitimate and credible manner.
Both the Independent Election Commission and Independent Election Complaints Commission fully understand that their impartiality and transparency are essential for producing a broad-based acceptable election outcome. It is critical for the presidential candidates and the voters to be patient, respect the electoral process, and allow these institutions to carry out their functions within the prescribed legal framework. There can only be one new president, but irrespective of who it may be, it is imperative that both frontrunners work together in the collective interest of the Afghan people and the future peace and stability of our country. The importance of maintaining the integrity of the electoral process and a resulting inclusive government that is acceptable to all Afghans and instills a sense of national unity across the country cannot be overstated.
This is a message that President Karzai has stressed on many occasions and we hope that it is also a message echoed by our international friends and allies.
We are pleased that both candidates are currently engaged with the electoral institutions with the support of the United Nations to agree on an acceptable mechanism for the way forward.
The Afghan government continues to be committed to a timely conclusion of the electoral process and for the new president to be sworn in on 2nd of August 2014.
This will allow the new Afghan government to direct its efforts vigorously and in a timely manner on the key priorities of strengthening security, advancing reconciliation, improving governance and foremost boosting the Afghan economy.
The will of the people of Afghanistan has been tested time and again. We have repeatedly expressed our desire for democracy, the rule of law, and a long-term partnership with our international allies. Thanks to our joint efforts and sacrifices we have transformed the Afghanistan of 2001, a country destroyed by decades of invasion, civil war, and oppression, into a budding democracy that is at the brink of its first ever peaceful and democratic political transition.
This is a remarkable achievement in the span of only a decade and indicative of the type of progress Afghanistan is bound to make in the coming years under our new leadership and with the continued support of our international friends.