The Permanent Mission of Afghanistan in Vienna participated in the 16th Meeting of the States Parties to the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on Their Destruction, held in Vienna from 18-21 December 2017.
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DELEGATION OF AFGHANISTAN
By Ambassador Khojesta Fana Ebrahimkhel
OSCE – 1170th Permanent Council
Agenda item 1:
Report by the Special Representatives of the Chairperson-in-Office on
Youth and Security
21 December 2017
Thank you, Chair!
Let me start by thanking the Special Representatives on Youth and Security for their comprehensive and excellent report. We congratulate Mr. Alajbegovic, Ms. Deininger, Mr. Pugliese, Mr. Safdary and Mr. Schernbeck upon their great efforts in 2017.
We commend the OSCE for providing a stage for young people at major events of our organization, making their voices heard at meetings of the Ministerial Council and the Permanent Council, the Asian Contact Group, in events of the OSCE campaign “United in Countering Violent Extremism” and at other meetings organized by OSCE institutions and structures.
Afghanistan shares OSCE’s dedication to boost the role of youth in society and fully integrate youth in our peace and development agenda, making full use of their potential to nurture Afghanistan’s young democracy. We are committed to protect our young people while facilitating the participation of our young generation, girls and boys, across all spheres of society.
Almost 65 percent of Afghans are under 25 years of age. Afghanistan’s Unity Government makes every effort to provide education and opportunities and to empower our young people to facilitate full participation and to contribute to stability and development in Afghanistan.
Afghanistan’s National Youth Policy was created in 2014, by the Office of the Deputy Ministry of Youth Affairs within the Ministry of Information and Culture, in close co-operation with line ministries, civil society organizations including youth groups, and UN agencies. The document reflects the needs and abilities of young people in delivering peace, development and social and economic growth, and it makes clear recommendations towards youth participation at every level, in a free, independent and democratic Afghanistan.
In July last year, the 122-member Afghan Youth Parliament was established, with the assistance of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan and the first session was opened by the Deputy Special Representative for Afghanistan of the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Ms. Pernille Dahler Kardel, and addressed by President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani. This has been a great exercise for our youth to familiarize themselves with the mechanics of a pluralistic democracy and to discuss a broad range of issues from health to education and jobs. In July this year, the Afghan Youth Parliament held another session, with the support of the Upper House of the Afghan Parliament and the United Nations Population Fund, and its recommendations will be shared with Government officials and will be discussed in the two houses of the Afghan Parliament.
Afghanistan, supported by our international partners, has made countless efforts over the past sixteen years to tackle youth-related problems, most and foremost the issue of education: Over the past ten years, the literacy rate has increased to 40%, with thousands of schools and 150 public and private universities providing education. We seek to invest as much as possible to accomplish Sustainable Development Goal 4, “Quality Education”. Other areas of youth-related activities are tackling child marriage, unemployment, gender inequality, violence, radicalization, drugs, and the dangerous travels of young people undertaken as migrants, to seek better opportunities abroad.
In this context, let me also mention again the excellent high-level discussion on migration organized by the OSCE and IOM on Monday this week. Afghanistan suffers when young educated people leave our country. Following decades of war and conflict, the ensuing brain drain only adds to the many other challenges and impedes our efforts towards reconstruction and development. Nonetheless, we will always protect the dignity and well-being of all Afghan citizens abroad, especially young people and other vulnerable groups.
Our young people are our most valuable asset and our future, our only future and we will not spare a single effort to enable them to contribute to peace, stability, development and democracy in Afghanistan. Much has been achieved but much also remains to be done. To accomplish our goals, we will need the continued assistance of our international partners and I call on our partners here around this table to provide additional scholarships and fellowships for Afghan students. The Government of Afghanistan will also work to provide better opportunities for our young people, through increased foreign investments, trade and commerce, in our region and beyond.
The Permanent Mission attended a high-level OSCE event on migration. Please find all relevant information here:
بِسْمِ اللهِ الرَّحْمٰنِ الرَّحِيْم
The Honorable Secretary of State, John Kerry,
Distinguished Members of the US and Afghan Delegations,
Dear Colleagues, Ladies and Gentlemen,
We are delighted to host the Third Meeting of the US-Afghanistan Bilateral Commission at the Presidential Palace. I wish to begin by expressing a very warm welcome to you, Secretary Kerry, and your accompanying delegation to Kabul.
At the outset, please allow me to reiterate that the National Unity Government of Afghanistan is fully committed to the Enduring Strategic Partnership Agreement between the United States and Afghanistan, as well as to its integral component and implementation mechanism: the Security and Defense Cooperation Agreement between the United States and Afghanistan.
I would also like to take this opportunity to convey my deep appreciation for the generous assistance, the ultimate sacrifices, and the resolve of the United States and Coalition forces, as they continue to help our brave forces to secure and defend Afghanistan against our two countries’ common enemies: terrorism and extremism.
As we welcome the United States’ security assistance for our forces, I would like to assure our US and international partners that we are working hard to prepare for the upcoming NATO Summit in Warsaw and the Ministerial Conference on Afghanistan in Brussels, in order to solidify International aid pledges.
At the same time, we would like to assure you that Afghanistan is firmly committed to implementing the objectives of our robust reforms agenda under the agreed terms of the New Development Partnership and the Self-reliance through Mutual Accountability Framework (SMAF).
In this light, we continue to ensure the ongoing institutionalization and protection of human rights, including the rights of women, while strengthening the rule of law and implementing the necessary electoral reforms for the upcoming Parliamentary elections.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
As you all know, in the lead-up to our Third Bilateral Commission Meeting this week, three Working Groups (Security and Defense; Democracy and Governance; and Social and Economic Development) met to review the progress made towards the various shared objectives, which were set during the March 2015 visit of H.E. President Ghani and H.E. Chief Executive Abdullah to Washington.
We hope that today’s Meeting will chart the path forward for future bilateral cooperation in the three areas, especially in the area of Security and Defense, while building on the economic and social development gains of the past 15 years in Afghanistan.
Please, allow me to briefly discuss our shared progress in the three areas of ongoing bilateral cooperation overseen by the Commission:
In the area of Defense and Security, the Government of Afghanistan appreciates the delivery of helicopters and aircrafts by the United States to our forces, and we greatly welcome the addition of more attack helicopters before August.
Also, the Train, Advise and Assist support provided by the United States and our international partners continue to strengthen our forces in their daily battles against terrorists. This critical support coupled with institutional and technical capacity building assistance will go a long way in enabling our forces to achieve full operational independence.
On our part, Afghanistan is firmly committed to combating any violations of human rights, while preventing any abusive practices, including those committed by ANDSF.
Both sides agree that the SPA is the most appropriate venue for the continuation of Defense and Security Cooperation. In this light, we too agree that ongoing threat assessment coupled with developing and sustaining of Afghanistan’s defense capabilities is a necessary step forward.
This requires that the Security Consultative Forum under SPA be renewed for joint needs and threat assessments for appropriate bilateral response, ensuring the defense of Afghanistan’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.
This forum under the SPA should not only serve as the security component of the Bilateral Commission framework, but also reaffirm commitment by the United States and Afghanistan to a mutually supportive defense relationship.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The Afghan government is making every effort to advance our peace and reconciliation efforts as a measure to achieve a lasting peace for our people. We have invested heavily in this endeavor, and will continue our efforts with strong resolve.
In this respect, we all acknowledge the importance of the Quadrilateral Coordination Group in helping us to achieve our shared goals for lasting peace in Afghanistan. However, we realize that our QCG efforts wouldn’t bear fruit, unless the Taliban groups come to the negotiation table. We believe the international community can help encourage key actors in the region to have the Taliban groups engage in direct talks with the Afghan government.
In the area of Democracy and Governance, I would like to reiterate the National Unity Government’s resolve to fight corruption, while doubling our efforts to promote democracy and good governance across Afghanistan, as shown by our recent progress in the electoral reforms process to ensure credible, inclusive, and transparent elections.
Our commitment to defeating corruption is based on our firm belief that good-governance and the rule of law are the answer to our long-term stability and prosperity, and the foundation for progress in any sphere: be it security, development, social or political. To that end, H.E. President Ghani has recently established the “Supreme Council on Countering Corruption” to address the problem systemically.
At the same time, we are committed to protecting human rights, including the equal rights of all citizens, particularly those of the most disenfranchised segments of our society: women, children and persons with disabilities.
A few examples of the National Unity Government’s major reforms include: the signing of the Global Action Call to Action, the promotion of the National Action Plan on Women, Peace, and Security, which will implement UNSCR 1325; and the Anti-sexual Harassment Regulation approved by the Council of Ministers and signed by H.E. President Ghani last September, which is fully enforced in all our institutions.
Additionally, the National Unity Government is working to revise the penal code, develop child protection legislation, and take major steps to implement the law on the Elimination of Violence against Women.
Moreover, led by H.E. President Ghani, various practical initiatives are underway to facilitate the reintegration of Afghan returnees, while providing opportunities for others through the “Jobs for Peace Program” to avoid risky trails to Europe. In this regard, we are grateful to the United States as the largest humanitarian donor for providing us with $213 million in relief aid for the internally displaced persons across Afghanistan.
In the area of Counter Narcotics, we understand that achieving notable progress in this area helps to ensure the well-being of our citizens, strengthen governance and the rule of law; and deny terrorist financing to destabilize Afghanistan.
This past October, we adopted our National Drug Action Plan, which demonstrates our resolve to fight opium poppy cultivation and drug production and trafficking, while highlighting the respective roles and responsibilities of the Afghan Government, and those of our regional and international partners.
In the area of Freedom of Press, Afghanistan has the freest media in the whole region, in accordance with the World Press Freedom Index 2015. To build on this major achievement, the Afghan Ministry of Information and Culture, with the help of private media, has endorsed the Law of Access to Information.
In January, H.E. President Ghani instructed the Attorney General’s office to re-investigate unsolved cases of murdered journalists and instructed key ministries to develop legislation to better regulate the classification of and access to government information.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
In the area of Economic and Social Development, we realize that human and protective security is intertwined in the Afghan context. Therefore, sustainable development is a major priority of the National Unity Government, as it was discussed during March 2015 visit of H.E. President Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah to Washington.
So far, the Afghan government has proven our firm commitment to fiscal and financial sector reforms through the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and Staff Monitored Program.
Furthermore, Afghanistan’s accession to the WTO and our plan to meet the terms for the WTO accession are good examples of the National Unity Government’s determination to achieve self-reliance in economic and social development.
Indeed, for all of these notable gains that need ongoing consolidation, I would like to thank the United States for providing the Afghan Government with $800 million in financial pledge of support to be administered by the World Bank trust fund with a set of benchmarks.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Despite the numerous achievements by the National Unity Government of Afghanistan, which could have been impossible without the assistance of the United States and our international partners, a lot remains to be done.
Indeed, the Afghan government considers the SPA Bilateral Commission an important forum to ensure strategic communication between our officials. This forum should not only report on our shared achievements but also frankly discuss issues of mutual high concern and interest.
Some of those concerns and interests include our ongoing efforts to eliminate the networks and sanctuaries of support for terrorism and extremism outside of Afghanistan, while enabling us to develop on a sustainable basis through private sector development, integration with regional markets, and implementing regional energy projects such as the CASA-1000, TAPI and others.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
As we continue consolidating our hard-earned gains of the past 15 years, thanks to the ultimate sacrifices of the American and Afghan forces, I would also like to acknowledge that the people of Afghanistan remain grateful to the American people, and I kindly request my dear colleague and a great friend of Afghanistan, Secretary Kerry, to convey this message of deep gratitude and sincere friendship to the American people from Afghanistan.
On April 9 in Kabul, Afghan Foreign Minister Salahuddin Rabbani and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry convened the third meeting of the U.S.-Afghanistan Bilateral Commission to review progress in the bilateral relationship and chart a course for future cooperation. This meeting, called for by the Enduring Strategic Partnership Agreement (SPA) between the United States and the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, reaffirmed the commitment of both governments to Afghanistan’s future as a strong, stable, democratic, and self-reliant state.
The Bilateral Commission highlighted the continuation of the U.S. security presence beyond 2016 to carry out two important missions: training, advising, and assisting the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF) in coordination with international partners; and cooperating bilaterally on shared efforts to counter terrorism.
The Bilateral Commission welcomed the U.S. commitment to provide continued financial support to the ANDSF via NATO’s Afghan National Army Trust Fund and the UN Development Program-managed Law and Order Trust Fund for Afghanistan (LOTFA), and to provide significant levels of development assistance during Afghanistan’s Transformation Decade. The participants looked forward to the NATO Summit in Warsaw in July and the Brussels Ministerial Conference on Afghanistan in October as opportunities to solidify these join with the international community in renewing international security and development assistance pledges, respectively.
The Bilateral Commission reaffirmed the reform objectives in the New Development Partnership (NDP) decided in August 2015 and the joint commitments established in the Self-Reliance through Mutual Accountability Framework (SMAF) launched at the Senior Officials Meeting (SOM) in Kabul in September 2015. The Commission reiterated the important roles played by civil society including women’s groups in helping to chart a democratic future for Afghanistan and ensuring respect for human rights and the rule of law.
Recognizing Progress in the Strategic Partnership
The Bilateral Commission discussed cooperation in the areas of defense and security; democracy and governance; and economic and social development. Ahead of the Bilateral Commission meeting, U.S.-Afghan working groups for these three areas met to review progress on the specific objectives set during the March 2015 visit of President Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah to Washington and to identify goals for the future. Minister Rabbani and Secretary Kerry welcomed the following specific accomplishments:
Defense and Security
Secretary Kerry and Minister Rabbani acknowledged the sacrifice and resolve of the ANDSF, U.S., and Coalition forces and called for an end to insecurity and violent attacks that resulted in over 11,000 civilian casualties in Afghanistan in 2015 alone. To weaken and defeat terrorists, while denying them safe haven, both sides reaffirmed their commitment to strengthen the security and stability of Afghanistan.
As part of ongoing efforts to strengthen the Afghan security forces, the United States announced that 14 MD-530 attack helicopters and eight A-29 aircraft have been successfully integrated into the Afghan security forces. The addition of 14 more MD-530s before August 2016 will further enhance the operational capabilities of the Afghan Air Force. U.S. and Afghan officials also noted the completion of the semi-annual Program Management Review to validate our long-term security cooperation partnership and to continue efforts to develop an effective, affordable, and sustainable ANDSF.
The Afghan security institutions are building capacity in systems and processes to staff, equip, and sustain an ANDSF that is capable and combat-ready. The challenges the ANDSF face are complex. Train, Advise, and Assist efforts continue to be required to develop the necessary capacity to build institutional knowledge and expertise in the areas of budgeting, force generation, personnel management, maintenance, logistics, and procurement.
The U.S. participants commended Afghanistan’s participation in the Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism (GICNT) and its active cooperation in developing a strategic trade control system and associated border controls that help prevent the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.
Noting that a negotiated political settlement is the best and surest way to bring peace to Afghanistan, Secretary Kerry and Minster Rabbani welcomed the efforts of the Quadrilateral Coordination Group (QCG) in creating an environment conducive to bringing the Taliban and its affiliates to the negotiation table with the goal of creating a lasting peace in Afghanistan. Minister Rabbani appreciated the United States’ contribution of $5 million to the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) for supporting the Afghan Peace and Reintegration Program (APRP) in 2015, as well as the United States’ commitment to provide further support in 2016 for the implementation of the APRP reforms plan.
The United States welcomed Afghanistan’s membership in the 66-nation Global Coalition to Counter ISIL and Afghanistan’s commitment to counter violent extremism and terrorism in partnership with other like-minded countries around the world. The ANDSF, working closely with the United States, has already made significant progress against the “Islamic State Khorasan Province” (ISKP), Daesh’s affiliate in Afghanistan.
Democracy and Governance
Secretary Kerry commended the Afghan government’s commitment to combat corruption and promote democracy and good governance in Afghanistan. Both sides welcomed progress on electoral reforms and noted the importance of ensuring credible, inclusive, and transparent elections. The Afghan side acknowledged that Parliamentary elections are overdue and should take place as soon as possible once necessary electoral reforms have been implemented.
Minister Rabbani emphasized the importance of institutionalizing and enforcing Afghanistan’s constitutional commitment to human rights, including the equal rights of all citizens, with particular attention to women and minorities, and persons with disabilities. He noted the government is revising the penal code, developing child protection legislation, and taking steps to implement the law onElimination of Violence Against Women.
The participants welcomed the Afghan government’s continued commitment to women’s rights, the signing of the Global Call to Action, and the June unveiling of the National Action Plan on Women, Peace, and Security, which will implement UNSCR 1325. The commission also applauded the anti-sexual harassment regulation approved by the Council of Ministers and signed by President Ghani in September, as well as efforts to remove barriers to women’s economic empowerment and participation.
The United States is the largest single contributor of humanitarian aid to Afghans displaced within Afghanistan and across the region, providing nearly $213 million in fiscal years 2015 and 2016 to date. A key priority for the U.S. and Afghan governments is facilitating the integration of Afghan returnees into development programs.
The participants acknowledged that drug production and trafficking is driven by global demand for narcotics, which transnational organized criminal networks produce in permissive environments like that of Afghanistan, undermining governance, security, and public health throughout the world. Hence, both sides emphasized the importance of increased multilateral cooperation in support of Afghanistan’s efforts to address the global challenge of drug production and trafficking, under the provisions of the UN Security Council Resolutions 1817 (2008) and 2195 (2014).
Both sides highlighted the recently released Afghan National Drug Action Plan, which offers a balanced, comprehensive, coordinated, and sustainable approach to combatting illegal drug production, trade, and use through 2019.
The participants welcomed the ranking of Afghanistan by the World Press Freedom Index 2015 as having the freest media in the region, and noted important progress on the protection of journalists and access to information. In January, President Ghani instructed the Attorney General’s office to re-investigate unsolved cases of murdered journalists and instructed key ministries to develop legislation to better regulate the classification of and access to government information. The Afghan government also created the Mass Media Commission, to support freedom of speech and rights of journalists.
Economic and Social Development
Secretary Kerry and Minister Rabbani underscored the fundamental importance of economic and social development to future stability and security in Afghanistan.
Since the March 2015 visit of President Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah to Washington, the United States and Afghanistan have collaborated on a private sector driven by economic development agenda. Our New Development Partnership was established to incentivize reforms and provide up to $800 million in funding to the Afghan government via a World Bank-administered trust fund. The Afghan government achieved key benchmarks and received the $180 million of the total $200 million available in 2015.
The Afghan government demonstrated its commitment to fiscal and financial sector reforms through the International Monetary Fund (IMF) Staff Monitored Program (SMP), which concluded in March, and development of the Public Financial Management Roadmap II and its implementation plan. Afghanistan also demonstrated its commitment to self-reliance by achieving record revenue collections in 2015, facilitated in part by the introduction of electronic payments for customs in Kabul. These gains can be expanded through additional improvements in tax compliance and an economic expansion. The commission participants also praised the Afghan government for substantially increasing mobile payments of government salaries.
Technical advisors from the U.S. Department of Treasury are working with Afghan counterparts to improve financial management, combat financial crimes, and strengthen banking supervision. Treasury completed a consultation on managing government revenue collection with the Afghan Revenue Department in March 2016 that identified key areas for technical assistance.
The U.S. government congratulated Afghanistan on the approval of its application for WTO membership at the Ministerial Conference in Nairobi, Kenya, on December 17, 2015. The U.S. and Afghan governments stressed the importance of Afghanistan accomplishing its legislative agenda to meet the terms for WTO accession by June 30, 2016. The U.S. and Afghan governments also reviewed the progress of their bilateral Energy Working Group, established as an outcome of President Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah’s 2015 visit to Washington. This group, which met twice, once in November and once in January, serves as an effective forum for discussion and cooperation on Afghanistan’s energy priorities, including developing domestic energy production and technical capacity, expanding and securing energy infrastructure, and facilitating greater regional energy integration.
The United States also fulfilled its commitment to nearly double the number of Afghan scholars pursuing graduate-level studies in the United States through the Fulbright and Junior Faculty Development exchanges, increasing Afghanistan’s capacity in higher education and key professional sectors.
Charting the Way Forward
Minister Rabbani and Secretary Kerry discussed avenues for future cooperation to continue to build effective and professional Afghan security forces, to make progress in advancing democracy and improving governance and to build on economic and social development gains.
Defense and Security
Secretary Kerry and Minister Rabbani emphasized the importance of the continued development of Afghan security forces that are able to defend the territorial integrity of Afghanistan, provide security for the Afghan populace and operate consistently with Afghanistan’s international human rights obligations and commitments. The United States welcomed Afghan commitments to continue combatting gross violations of human rights and to prevent abusive practices.–
To help counter the continuing threat of improvised explosive devices (IEDs), the United States and Afghanistan decided to develop a strategy to build upon existing IED exploitation efforts; consider ways to improve information-sharing related to exploitation of IED components; and conduct an assessment of the current public awareness program and expand it as appropriate.
The planned resumption of the Security Consultative Forum in 2016 with the U.S. Secretary of Defense and Afghan Ministers of Defense and Interior will further these strategic goals and serve as the security component of the Bilateral Commission framework, reaffirming the U.S. and Afghan commitment to a mutually supportive defense relationship.
Democracy and Governance
The commission participants concurred that over the coming months, the United States will support Afghan efforts to advance electoral reforms. They also concluded that strengthening sub-national governance, combatting corruption, and ensuring effective delivery of services to the population were crucial to peace and stability.
The Afghan government noted that its efforts to improve human rights will include implementation of the Afghan government’s plan to eliminate torture and a commitment to safeguard freedom of the press, including combating violence against journalists.
Rule of law reforms will include a focus on completing and implementing the ongoing penal code revision, as well as continued cooperation to advance gains achieved through counter-narcotics initiatives.
Economic and Social Development
The United States and Afghanistan will continue to focus on policies that support trade and revenue generation, strengthen the Afghan economy, nurture robust private sector development, promote integration in regional markets, and develop domestic energy production, all of which will lessen Afghan reliance on donor assistance. The two governments noted that the New Development Partnership would continue, and achievement of reform benchmarks could result in additional funding for Afghanistan. The U.S. side welcomed continuing discussions on Afghanistan’s progress in meeting SMAF goals, establishing a new IMF program, improving its business and investment climate, and fostering conditions for long-term economic growth and fiscal sustainability, including the aggressive scale up of mobile salary payments and further roll-out of e-payments for customs.
The United States and Afghanistan remain committed to the implementation of the CASA-1000 project and other regional energy projects which expand regional cooperation in energy markets and promote economic growth in Afghanistan and in neighboring countries.
Both governments acknowledged the interdependency between economic growth, health, agriculture, and education and plan to collaborate in all these areas. The two governments reaffirmed their support for increased access to quality education throughout the country at all levels, with an emphasis on quality higher education, technical and vocational training, and continued expansion of educational access, including community-based learning. They also recognized the importance of Afghanistan preserving its rich cultural heritage, emphasizing that the country’s economic development must include protecting cultural heritage sites of significant national and international historical value.
Secretary Kerry welcomed the recent initiative by the Afghan government to launch a “Jobs for Peace Program,” which intends to provide short- to medium-term employment opportunities for Afghanistan’s youthful population.
Minister Rabbani and Secretary Kerry reaffirmed their resolve to advance the Afghan people’s desire for a stable, secure, and sovereign Afghanistan, governed on the basis of the Afghan Constitution, including respect for human rights, the rule of law, and democratic values. They underscored that cooperation between Afghanistan and the United States continues to be based on mutual respect and shared interests, and affirmed their intent to continue these high-level bilateral consultations to further strengthen our partnership on the basis of the Strategic Partnership Agreement. To that end, they agreed to announce the specific date for convening the Fourth Meeting of the Afghanistan-U.S. Bilateral Commission in Washington-DC as soon as possible, while the three Working Groups should regularly meet throughout the year to ensure consistent cooperation and coordination.
August 10, 2015
In the name of Allah, the most merciful, the most compassionate
Dear compatriots, over the last few days, we witnessed to some significant developments in our county and the region. The war methods have changed against Afghans. The peace process is facing new questions. Furthermore, our people need to know where the Afghanistan-Pakistan relations are heading. I would like to further discuss these issues.
At the very outset, I would like to pay my heartfelt tributes and prayers to all those killed in the recent terrorist attacks and condolences to their families. I also wish a quick recovery for all those injured.
You must recall that we and those who are informed of the situation in our country and region had predicted that this year would be the most difficult of all since the Bonn process. The reason is clear. The withdrawal of over 100,000 highly equipped international military forces plus the transfer to Afghan forces of the entire responsibility to counter threats – a development that was not unforeseeable. International observers had predicted that Afghanistan may not be able to deal with this new situation even for a few days. Our enemies had been waiting for a power vacuum so they could take advantage of and see the government collapse. However, none of the gloomy predictions turned to reality. The enemies were disappointed. Our defense and security forces quickly filled in the gap left behind by the international forces and defeated the enemies on all fronts. Let me express my deepest gratitude to our brave sons and daughters in uniform for all the sacrifices they are making.
On the political ground, a recent significant development was that Mullah Omar was not alive. It was our intelligence agency which confirmed the death of Mullah Omar and revealed the lies and fabrications. This confirmation not only demonstrated the strength and maturity of our intelligence agency, but also reaffirmed the fact that the war in Afghanistan is fought for and by others and that the so-called Amir-ul-Momenin, who apparently led and commanded the war, might not have even existed.
Terrorism is a vast and a widespread concern. The terrorist attacks in Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Syria, Turkey and other Muslim countries are of the same nature. These attacks pursue no goals but to collapse states and state system in the region. This was for this particular reason that a grand gathering of Muslim scholars in the city of Makkah condemned these attacks. As I reaffirmed it in the Shanghai Summit in Russia, we will continue to make every effort to overcome this phenomenon, and to build a regional consensus for effective cooperation to that end.
The recent series of attacks in Kabul and other provinces show that the war has changed shape. The enemy who was fighting to gain some territory and to claim a victory has now had its backbone broken. It is so desperate now that it has turned to cowardly attacks against innocent people just to weaken people’s morale.
In my conversation last night with Pakistan’s Prime Minister and the Chief of Army Staff, I made it clear that the government of Pakistan should have the same definition of terrorism in regard to Afghanistan, just as it has for its own. During my visit to Pakistan last November, we affirmed our full commitment for peace and made it clear that peace had two aspects: peace with Pakistan and peace with Taliban.
We discussed the common opportunities and threats. We made it very clear to the Pakistani side that a new window of opportunity has opened and depending on the capacity and the will of the Pakistani leadership to change the window into a door and then to an alley and even a highway, or shut it all together.
Over the past ten months, we have persistently shown that Afghanistan has both the will and enough capacity to this end. We have shared intelligence with the Pakistani side so that both could carry out a comprehensive and targeted anti-terrorism campaign to rid our nations of violence. We waited all this long for Pakistan to demonstrate its will through action.
However, Pakistan still remains a venue and ground for gatherings from which mercenaries send us messages of war. The incidents of the past two months in general and the recent days in particular show that the suicide training camps and the bomb making facilities used to target and murder our innocent people still operate, as in the past, in Pakistan. Just as the incident in Peshawar and the killing of hundreds of innocent children in a school became a turning point in Pakistan, the recent incidents in Kabul and other provinces are no less and we call it a turning point for Afghanistan.
Our righteousness has been proven and everyone in the region knows we made all sincere efforts for peace. The decisions that Pakistani government will be making in the next few weeks will be as significant to affect bilateral relations for the next decades. The security of our people and the national interests of Afghanistan lay the basis of our relationship with Pakistan. We can no longer tolerate to see our people bleeding in a war exported and imposed on us from outside.
In my conversation last night, Pakistan Prime Minister pledged to direct his government to chart out an action plan against terrorism and to discuss and decide on its implementation during a trip by an Afghan delegation in the coming Thursday.
We hoped for peace, but war is declared against us from Pakistani territory; this in fact puts into a display a clear hostility against a neighboring country.
I ask the government and people of Pakistan to imagine that a terrorist attack just like the one in Kabul’s Shah Shahid area took place in Islamabad and the groups behind it had sanctuaries in Afghanistan and ran offices and training centers in our big cities, what would have been your reaction? Will you have looked at us as friends or enemies?
I would like to call on those Taliban who do not want their country destroyed and their people killed, to quit the ranks of criminals and insurgents and to reintegrate into their society. Today, the resources that should have been spent on building factories, hospitals and on other development projects are spent for defense and fighting a war exported to us by others.
The people of Afghanistan are all Muslims, so Islam is not the issue in this war. The political system in Afghanistan is based on the religion of Islam, and all the research shows that the Constitution of Afghanistan compared to those in the neighborhood, is enriched with Islamic values and ideas. Islamic scholars believe that having a system, even weak and rife with defects, is a lot better than not having a system at all. Islam is a religion of peace and stability. According to Islamic Sharia, anyone engaged in acts to destabilize and wreck security in a society and kill Muslims, is described as insurgent and warmonger.
Again, the main question is how can those who claim to have been acting on Sharia can be this careless to the massacre of the innocent people? What would be their response to Aya 32, Sora Almaida of the Holy Quran which says, “Whoever kills a soul unless for a soul or for corruption [done] in the land – it is as if he had slain mankind entirely.”?
There will be no flexibility of any kind with the criminals. We have directed the courts and the judicial authorities to show no leniency with those who have our people’s blood on their hand and those who respond the peace call with war and criminality will undoubtedly receive maximum punishment.
We very well know who stands in the way peace and why they do so. Whoever is engaged in criminality, narcotics, and atrocities, and whoever works for the outsiders to destroy Afghanistan is the enemy of peace. Such people fear peace, they fear rule of law and fear a stable and peaceful Afghanistan. Experience has shown that whenever there is a chance for peace, enemies are irritated and resort to violence and brutality. However, we have not and will not allow any such acts to deter us from our quest for peace or to force us into giving warmongers any concessions. We will make peace only with those who believe in the meaning of being a human, Muslim and Afghan and who do not destroy their own country on order from foreign masters.
I call on and request our politicians to do their utmost to keep this nation together at this critical juncture and to refrain from any actions that spread suspicions and disunity from which enemy may benefit.
Very luckily, Afghan youth are more willing today than ever to join the ranks of their country’s armed forces. Consistent to the demand, we have also adjusted and increased our recruitment volume up to 9 percent.
Let me conclude by a last remark on the relations between Pakistan and Afghanistan. Our relation with Pakistan is based on our national interests, on top of which comes security and safety of our people. If our people continue to be killed, relations lose meaning and I hope it will not happen.
H.E. Ayoob M. Erfani today visited Vienna’s Museum of Natural History (NHM) where he met Dr. Ernst Vitek, Director of Botany, who showed the Ambassador around the museum, in the spirit of the museum’s fine tradition of strong external cooperation. The Museum regularly conducts external collecting expeditions, hence its Department of Botany holds specimen from all over the world, with its herbarium possessing numerous historically important collections.