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.