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Opening Remarks by H.E Salahuddin Rabbani Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan at the Third Meeting of the Afghanistan-U.S. Bilateral Commission

بِسْمِ اللهِ الرَّحْمٰنِ الرَّحِيْم

The Honorable Secretary of State, John Kerry,

Excellency Ministers,

Distinguished Members of the US and Afghan Delegations,

Dear Colleagues, Ladies and Gentlemen,

 

Good afternoon!

 

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.

Mr. Secretary,

Excellencies,

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.

Thank You

 

END

Translation of Remarks by President Ashraf Ghani at a Press Conference

2Q==

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.

Thank you

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