In the Name of God the compassionate the Merciful
Secretary General Stoltenberg,
Excellencies Foreign Ministers
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is my great pleasure to join you all here today. Secretary General Stoltenberg, thank you for your kind invitation, and more broadly for your dedicated leadership of NATO’s support and assistance for Afghanistan.
Alongside your predecessors, you have led an effort that is instrumental in helping the people of Afghanistan shape a new future for their country.
I am delighted to be in the presence of this collective group of partner countries and organizations, who have supported us in our quest for peace, stability and democracy.
Over the past fifteen years, we have made substantial gains together in various domains, which have improved the lives of our people across Afghanistan, and enabled them to stand confident in securing a peaceful and prosperous future.
The Warsaw NATO Summit in July marked a milestone in the start of a new phase of our strategic partnership with our NATO partners.
Taking this opportunity, I reiterate the appreciation of the people and Government of Afghanistan for NATO’s renewed commitment to continue national contributions for the financial sustainment of our Afghan National Defense and Security Forces, until the end of 2020.
We also commend the important work of the Resolute Support Mission for training, advice and assistance to our national security institutions.
The Warsaw Summit has generated renewed confidence in our national army and police as they defend Afghanistan’s territorial integrity and national sovereignty against the evil forces of terrorism and violent extremism.
The contributions made in Afghanistan by NATO and its individual members are, in fact, an investment in the security and stability of your own nations and the world at large. We look forward to continuing this joint partnership and building on our shared achievements for our mutual benefit.
I will now provide an overview of some key developments in Afghanistan since the NATO Warsaw Summit related to the security situation, governance, peace and reconciliation, regional cooperation and human rights.
In the area of security, our security forces were again tested on various fronts, as the Taliban and other extremist and terrorist groups such as Al-Qaeda, Daesh and the Haqqani network sought to seize and occupy territory in different parts of the country, particularly in southern Helmand and northern Kunduz and Baghlan provinces.
In that regard, our security forces repulsed repeated large-scale attacks in which many foreign terrorist fighters also took part. The operational capability of extremist forces has weakened, owing to heavy casualties within their ranks.
As a result, they have increasingly shifted focus on attacking soft-targets to capture media attention. This was manifested most recently by last month’s attacks on the German Consulate in northern Afghanistan and the mosques in Kabul and Mazar-e-Sharif, which aimed to disrupt our people’s unity.
As our security forces have turned the tide against terrorist groups, we attribute this success to their courage and determination, and the important tactical and advisory support provided by the Resolute Support Mission. Nevertheless, our fight against terrorism is a work in progress.
In that context, we underscore continued international support to enhance the capability of our forces, including the provision of necessary enablers.
As we all know, insecurity and violence in Afghanistan is not a homegrown phenomenon. It is region-based, as extremist groups are sustained from abroad with sanctuary, freedom of movement, recruitment and material support, which remain the fundamental source of insecurity.
This year’s General Assembly resolution on the Situation in Afghanistan again calls on neighboring States in particular, to deny extremists with various forms of support, as it endangers regional peace and security.
We hope relevant actors in our region will heed to that call in adherence to the UN Charter, and to avoid further isolation at the international level.
We also reject recent claims by the Taliban that the group’s leadership Council has relocated to southern Helmand province from Pakistan.
Such claims have no merit and are aimed at diverting attention from a lack of sincere effort by some to combat terrorism effectively, and in good faith.
Esteemed Colleagues, Ladies and Gentlemen,
Over the recent months, the leadership of the National Unity Government reached agreement on a number of important issues that are essential for the restoration of peace and stability, and the consolidation of democracy in our country.
This important development is part of a broader effort to strengthen our political stability and national unity, and preserve the national interests of Afghanistan.
On the reconciliation front, the peace agreement signed between the Afghan government and Hizb-e-Islami was an important development. The agreement was the result of over a year’s effort in which wide-ranging discussions were held with a multitude of domestic stakeholders, including government officials, heads of political parties; prominent national figures and civil society to garner national support.
At this stage, we are focused on the implementation of the agreement in letter and in spirit, for the benefit of sustainable peace. To that end, a Joint Commission was established by a Presidential Decree and mandated to monitor progress on meeting joint commitments. We hope it will provide a model for the Taliban to follow suit.
In the near future, we will present an official delisting request to the relevant UN Security Council Sanctions Committee, in accordance with the peace agreement. We have urged the members of the Security Council to afford favorable consideration to our request, as a measure to help advance our peace efforts.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
As we move forward, the fight against corruption and strengthening governance will remain high on the agenda of the National Unity Government.
In that context, our goal is to build on the notable progress we have achieved thus far, as manifested by the creation of the High Council on the rule of law and Anti-Corruption, the Anti-corruption justice center; and the formation of the national procurement commission.
Many of you here today were also present at the Brussels Conference on Afghanistan in October, where we highlighted our key counter-corruption measures, and their outcomes.
Our central message remains clear: Afghanistan will spare no efforts to eliminate corruption, and ensure accountable and transparent governance across Afghanistan. We will do so realizing that the rule of law constitutes the fundamental pillar for Afghanistan’s long-term stability and prosperity.
Progress in the area of electoral reform is another important development since the NATO Warsaw Summit and Brussels Conference. Just a few weeks ago, new commissioners of the Independent Electoral and Complaints Commission were appointed following an extensive process that was based on the principles of inclusivity, transparency and merit.
This was a key part of a broader effort for ensuring the credibility, transparency and integrity of our future Presidential, Parliamentary and District Council Elections.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
This brings me to the issues of regional cooperation, which remains of vital importance for the stability of Afghanistan and the wider region. We have long advocated a concerted approach by all of our close and distant neighbors to overcome dominant challenges facing our region, including terrorism, militancy, and narcotic drugs and other forms of organized crime.
Earlier this week, at the 6th Ministerial Conference of the Heart of Asia – Istanbul Process in Amritsar, India, we again underscored that all regional countries have a stake and interest in elevating their cooperation to tackle common challenges, and achieve a more peaceful, stable and prosperous region.
As an issue of particular importance, the Amritsar Ministerial Conference underscored that terrorism posed the biggest threat to peace and stability in the region, and called for an immediate end to all forms of support given to terrorists from within the region.
Over the past year, together with regional partners, we have pressed forward on a number of important regional projects, aimed at advancing regional connectivity and economic opportunity for the wider region.
Recent progress on this front includes the signing of the Chabahar Port and Lapis Lazuli Trade and Transport Agreements along with the inauguration of the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan railway segment by President Ghani and President Berdimuhamedow of Turkmenistan, just over two weeks ago.
In that context, we look forward to the 7th Regional Economic Cooperation Conference on Afghanistan planned for November 2017 in Ashgabat, Turkmenistan.
Ladies and gentlemen,
To protect and promote the rights of our citizens, especially women and children’s rights decisive steps have been taken by my government. I’m pleased to say that steady progress continues in ensuring the full and equal participation of women in all spheres of life, including in the political, social and economic domains.
We have adopted a whole of government approach, revising and initiating new policies to meet goals set out in our national action plan for Security Council resolution 1325 on women and peace and security.
We are equally focused on the physical protection of women, in line with our national commitments under our law as well as the international convention on the elimination of violence against women.
Our serious commitment in the area of human rights is reflected by our candidacy to the Human Rights Council for the period 2018-2020, for which we seek the support of our international partners.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
As we continue our efforts towards stabilization and achieving Self-reliance, we will continue to count on the support of our friends and partners in the global community.
NATO has been an important factor for stability since the beginning of the international community’s renewed engagement in Afghanistan in 2001. Over the years, our collaboration has deepened and evolved to a “Strategic Partnership.” We are keen on making the most of our partnership for the benefit of our shared security and stability.
To that end, Afghanistan is keen on establishing an official Mission at NATO Headquarters to enhance our cooperation in respective fields. We have already submitted our official request, and I hope it will receive the favorable consideration of NATO member-states.
I would like to take this opportunity to commend General John Nicholson for his able leadership of the US and NATO forces in Afghanistan. We also appreciate the dedicated service and contributions of Ambassador Ismail Aramaz as NATO Senior Civilian Representative in Afghanistan. We wish him every success in his future endeavors.
Last, but certainly not least, I would like to thank the many countries assembled here today for your continued commitment to the security and stabilization of Afghanistan. I wish to highlight, in this context, the central role of the United States of America in leading the international security effort in our country.
We look forward to continuing our “strategic cooperation” with the next US administration to advance our shared goals.
In conclusion, let us pay tribute to memory of each and every one of your service men and women, and of our national security forces who served, fought and made the ultimate sacrifice to secure a peaceful Afghanistan and promote global security for our current and future generations.