Thursday, October 30, 2014

Afghanistan Convenes International Conference on Afghanistan

The first-ever international conference on Afghanistan in the Afghan capital, Kabul, has successfully concluded

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The first ever international conference on Afghanistan in the Afghan capital, Kabul, has successfully concluded. The historic event was held at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Afghanistan and brought together representatives of seventy countries, international and regional organizations, and other institutions. The international Kabul conference marks the beginning of the “Kabul process,” and an increased commitment to a secure, prosperous and democratic Afghanistan.

Among the many senior officials participating at the conference included UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon; and US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. Delegations included more than 40 Foreign Ministers, 10 Deputy Foreign Ministers; as well as the heads of relevant international and regional bodies, including North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), European Union (EU), and Asian Development Bank (ADB).

Delivering the keynote address at the conference, H.E. President Karzai noted that Afghanistan and the international community shared a common enemy, one which “violates every Islamic and international norm,” and is aimed at breaking the “unity of effort,” as regards Afghanistan’s partnership with the international community.

He also stressed transition to increased “Afghan leadership and ownership” as essential for sustainability of progress.”

While expressing appreciation for international support and assistance, President Karzai urged the international community to focus less on short-term projects, and instead concentrate efforts on specific national programs and projects to “transform the lives of our peoples, reinforce the social compact between state and citizens, and create mechanisms for mutual accountability between the state and international partners.”

He also noted with satisfaction the commitment of Afghanistan’s partners, the United States in particular, to “channel 50% of their assistance through the Afghan national budget in the next two years.”

On security, President Karzai, highlighted the progress made by the Afghan national army and police; and national directorate for security, and reaffirmed his determination for achieving self-reliant Afghan security forces. He underscored in that regard, Afghanistan’s commitment to ensuring responsibility of Afghan security “for all military and law enforcement operations throughout our country by 2014.”

On reconciliation, he asserted that the recent peace-jirga expressed “a national consensus for peace, and framed the terms on which we must reach out to those of our armed opponents who will be willing to accept our constitution and renounce ties to Al-Qaeda’s network of terror.” In that regard, he called the international community to support Afghanistan’s peace initiatives.

In her address, US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton echoed the continuing support of the United States of America to Afghanistan. “We have no intention of abandoning our long-term mission of achieving a stable, secure and peaceful Afghanistan,” said Secretary Clinton.

On his part, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon noted that Afghanistan commended the national action plans, presented by Afghanistan, which “with international support and Afghan resolve, can bring tangible change into the lives of ordinary Afghans: improved security, better standards of living, and an inclusive intra-Afghan dialogue, stronger regional cooperation can complement domestic result.” He highlighted, in that regard and among other issues, the “Afghan National Security Policy and the Afghan Peace and Reintegration Program.”

The UN Secretary General also reaffirmed the continued support and commitment of the United Nations for Afghanistan, asserting in that regard, that “the United Nations will work and deliver as one.”


PRESS CONFERENCE (near verbatim transcript)

At the close of the Kabul International Conference on Afghanistan

held at the Government Media Information Centre, Kabul

Hamid Karzai, President of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan

Ban Ki-moon, United Nations Secretary-General

Kabul – 20 July 2010

President Karzai [unofficial translation from Dari]: Distinguished national and international media, Asalamu Alaikum. I am very honoured to be in front of you with His Excellency Ban Ki -moon, Secretary-General of the United Nations. His Excellency is a very trusted and close friend of Afghanistan and a friend who has always been beside us. Today at the closing session of the Kabul Conference, His Excellency Ban Ki-moon narrated a story of 1973, when he was a South Korean diplomat and came to Afghanistan with their Ambassador to inaugurate diplomatic ties with Afghanistan. He talked of Kabul’s beauty and greenness and beauty of the Foreign Ministry’ building to the participants of the Conference. He shared a very good memory with all of us.

Dear media, the Kabul Conference that was (for) several months being prepared for today, Alhamdulillah, it was organized very well and more than 60 countries of the world and 12 international entities, more than 40 Foreign Ministers, heads of foreign organizations and His Excellency Ban Ki-moon, Secretary-General of the United Nations, personally attended it.

In this conference Afghanistan put forward their wish for the reforms in our country, strengthening governance, and the transition for the protection of our homeland and security of our people and our borders, and other issues such as our requests from the international community and our appreciation from them were expressed. You witnessed the details today, and I will not go into those details.

I will conclude here with words of appreciation from the international community, and we thank His Excellency Ban Ki-moon, America, Europe, our neighbors, Japan, India, China, Arab countries and those who all participated in this conference. We thank them for their assistance and their efforts through their presence in this conference to make it a success. We thank them for their commitments for this country and for the future of this country.

In brief, this was an extremely successful conference and very much on due time. I hope that Afghanistan and the region will move towards a bright and better future and strengthening of the system. Work that we have not done yet, we will, Inshallah, be able to do it in the near future or in the long-term in the right order and right time.

I once more thank the United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon for coming here. If there has been any shortage in our hospitality, we apologize for that. Once more we welcome him to our country.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon: Thank you, Mr. President. Salam Alaikum. Tashakor.

Ladies and gentlemen of the media.

I am glad to be here for today’s conference on Afghanistan. And I thank and I appreciate the leadership of President Karzai and the commitment for peace and security, development, and human rights of Afghanistan under the leadership of President Karzai.

I am honoured that the United Nations has served as co-host together with the Afghan Government. This conference marks the beginning of a crucially important transition. As agreed at the London Conference earlier this year, in January of this year, and again here in Kabul, Afghanistan will now take the lead in shaping the country’s future. Afghans will set the priorities and decide which path to follow. The international community will play a supporting role.

It is thus symbolic that today’s event is the first international conference on Afghanistan to be Afghan-led and held in the country itself.

The Afghan Government presented 23 priority national programmes in the key areas of peace and security, governance and development. President Karzai and his Government have renewed their commitment to deliver real meaningful improvements for the country’s people.

The international community has agreed to realign its efforts behind those Afghan priorities. We have also reaffirmed our long-time commitment to Afghanistan’s well being.

I am encouraged by today’s results. I have urged all partners to make good on their pledges.

The United Nations will do its part.

The people of Afghanistan have suffered greatly for many years. They continue to want only what people everywhere want – jobs, shelter, education and health, their fundamental human rights, safety for their children, the hope of a better future for all.

With the steps taken today Afghans have a better chance to gain a more secure foothold on that path. With them in the lead, and with the right support from the international community, I am convinced we can succeed.

Thank you very much.

Questions and Answers:

Wakht News Agency [unofficial translation from Dari]: My first question is to President Karzai. According to you, what was the main strategic point of the Kabul Conference? And my question to the Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is, what are the assurances that the commitments of the international community at the Kabul Conference will be implemented?

President Karzai [unofficial translation from Dari]: In today’s conference our agenda included different proposals and the preparedness of Afghanistan towards better reforms in governance and the system in Afghanistan, as well as expectations on Afghanistan from the international community, with assistance from us, in relation to the reforms of contracts, about the private security forces and about the transition of the executive operational powers to our military and security forces, since Afghanistan will assume the entire responsibility in terms of military and security by 2014.

We had a very wide agenda proposed to the international community which was fortunately accepted by the international community and they made their commitments.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon: Now about the commitments, commitments are mutual. On the part of the international community we committed that we will continue to provide necessary support, political support, socio economic development support and also military support to ensure peace and security here. And we also committed that while the Afghan government will gradually take a greater role and more of an ownership role in transitioning in this period, we will align with national governmental priorities in all aspects, and we will continue to provide long term and sustainable support to help strengthen the capacity of the Afghan people and government. We hope that the Millennium Development Goals, that the Afghan Government will also be able to reach these goals.

In the commitments on the Afghan Government side, President Karzai has rightly explained.

The international community would expect and strongly encourage that President Karzai and his Cabinet will enhance good governance, and address all the socio economic problems irregularities and make reform; socio economical reform and security reform; and there is a good plan by the Ministry of Interior that they will strengthen the national police capacity and also be able to help the national forces of Afghanistan to strengthen their capacity.

So these commitments are mutual and we have agreed that under this commitment and the Communiqué we will continue to work. Now, I am quite convinced that while this transition is made, toward a gradual transition from greater responsibility of Afghanistan, I am sure that the Afghan Government and people will be able to enjoy freedom, human rights and prosperity.

Der Spiegel: You have announced major programmes for reconciliation with the Taliban, which include the leadership of the Taliban. Just in recent days and weeks we have seen intensive efforts by ISAF to target Taliban commanders in which a lot of these commanders were killed. How does this military strategy of the international forces fir with your reconciliation programme?

President Karzai [original in English]: In today’s conference I outlined the decisions of the Afghan Peace Jirga – that was held a month-and-a-half ago – to the international community. And I was very happy to find out that the decisions and recommendations by the Afghan Peace Jirga were endorsed by the international community in a significantly strong way. While these incidents of violence go on, while we continue to fight incidents of terror as well, as they occur against our people, we will continue earnestly and with full dedication the pursuit of the peace process. I am glad today that this peace process was endorsed by the international community.

Al Jazeera: My first question will be to the Secretary-General about the accusation from foreign countries to the Afghan Government on corruption. It is in a time in which more over 70 per cent of the money since 2001 which came to Afghanistan is spent by international donors or by international organizations. As United Nations Secretary-General, can you promise to the people of Afghanistan that you would launch, the way that President Karzai launched an investigation to Afghan officials, an investigation into foreign officials, into where is the money now? My second question will be to President Karzai. Mr President, recently ISAF claims that they have some information that Mullah Omar is in Pakistan, do you have any information on that?

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon: The first question is the very important area of good governance. We are concerned there is a prevalence of corrupt practices all throughout the country. The international community naturally expects that while the international community will continue to provide socio economic and financial support, this money should be properly used for good purposes, planned purposes. This is what I have been discussing with President Karzai and this is what world leaders are expecting, that President Karzai and his Cabinet Ministers should be fully committed. I am encouraged that President Karzai has stated this morning in his opening remarks that he is committed to reform of judiciary and investigative sectors. Also we want to see the coming parliamentary election on September 18th to be a transparent, democratic and credible one without any irregularities. That is the best way for the Afghan Government to gain confidence and trust from the international community so that their support can flow continuously. Thank you very much.

President Karzai [original in English]:: On the question of Mullah Omar staying in Pakistan, well, we knew all along that some of the very senior leadership is in Pakistan. This is not news for us. This is an old story. While we know this, we are working very hard to improve our relations with our brothers in Pakistan further and further, and to advance the cause of peace and reconciliation and reintegration. These facts aside, Afghanistan will continue to work hard to have the best of relations with our neighbours with our friends, especially Pakistan, and to pursue peace, reintegration and reconciliation as well. Gentlemen and ladies, the Secretary-General and I have to go to lunch with dignitaries that have arrived, so we have time for one more question. And that question will go to a lady, and that lady is from CNN.

CNN: Thank you Mr President and Mr Secretary-General. The date 2014 has been used in this conference today and yesterday. Can you elaborate more as to what that means? Does this mean that the Afghan forces will take on the complete combat role and the international forces will leave? And Mr Secretary-General, can you elaborate on my colleague’s question here: when it comes to the international community, the Afghan Government has now been taking steps to fight corruption, to bring those who are accused of corruption to justice, what’s going to happen to those in the international community. Will there be investigations into them as well?

President Karzai [original in English]:: On the 2014 date, ma’am, Afghanistan has specified its objectives. If you recall, in my inauguration speech to the Afghan people some months ago, I committed to having the ability by 2014 – meaning another five years which by now is almost four years – to reach a level of strength and ability and capacity within our forces to provide for our own security for the population, for the country, for our borders. This is a commitment we have made to the Afghan people and to our international partners, and we hope accordingly the international community will help Afghanistan reach that objective that we are working on very earnestly and with dedication. This is a national objective that we have to fulfill and we must.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon: On your second question,I believe that each corruption case should be properly and in a transparent way investigated by Afghan Government authorities. At the same time, I am also concerned that not many such corruption cases have been properly and thoroughly investigated. That is what President Karzai has committed to, to continue to strengthen the capacity and change all these judiciary systems. It would be much more important to prevent such corrupt practices and also create an environment conducive to prevent and not to give any such temptations on the part of business sector or government officials to engage in such corruptive activities. For that to be possible, first of all, we expect the Afghan Government should have institutional reforms and strengthen judicial procedures and provide jobs and to revitalize the economy. That is what the international community is now looking more towards…

President Karzai (interjects) [original in English]:: Mr Secretary-General, she was asking about corruption in the international community. And so was the gentlemen from Al Jazeera.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon: Of course, I am going there.

President Karzai [original in English]:: In other words they are beginning to be fair.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon: When the people are given incentives to engage in proper jobs, when they are educated and institutions are strengthened there is not much room for international corruption to be practiced here. I sincerely hope that international donors and international partners will also take this matter very seriously. They should be able to give aid in an effective way – there should be aid effectiveness, and a transparent manner. By making every procedure in a transparent way, we are able to get rid of all such possibilities.

President Karzai [original in English]: Thank you very much.

[Ends with President Karzai and Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon shaking hands]

Strategic Communication and Spokespersons Unit

United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA)

Kabul, Afghanistan

Tel: 079 000 6121; +39 083 124 6121

http://unama.unmissions.org

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Opening Remarks of Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon at the Kabul Conference

Opening Remarks of Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon at the Kabul Conference

(As Delivered)

Kabul, 20 July 2010

Your Excellency President Karzai,

Excellencies,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Six months ago, in London, we promised to meet again in Kabul.

And so, today, we are gathered here on this auspicious occasion the first international conference on Afghanistan to be held in Afghanistan, organized by the Afghan Government for the Afghan people.

President Karzai, we thank you for your hospitality and your leadership. Thank you for your very hard work in making this day happen.

Please be assured: we recognize that the journey from London to Kabul is measured in more than miles.

It is measured in the progress that you have made in delivering on the London Commitments.

In London, we redefined the relationship between Afghanistan and its international partners.

In effect, we forged a new compact a compact that builds on the lessons we all learned from the past.

Henceforth, Afghans would increasingly take the lead in shaping their future.

Embracing its own destiny, the Afghan government would take essential steps to deliver on the needs of its people.

And that is precisely what has begun to happen.

Slowly but greatly, surely, the government has expanded its capacity and scope of governance.

It has spelled out what it intends for the future and how it intends to get there.

With this conference, we mark the true beginning of a very fundamental transition.

Excellencies,

I would like to take this opportunity to address a few words directly to the people of Afghanistan, who are listening through radio or television or who may read what we say today in newspapers tomorrow.

To the Afghan people I say:

We here today share your aspirations and we understand your frustrations.

We are aware that, with the best of intentions, the government and its international partners have sometimes sought to achieve peace, security and development without sufficient engagement of the Afghan people.

At times, we have shown insufficient consideration for Afghan culture and history.

The Kabul Process, upon which we embark today, is intended to do better.

The government has taken the lead in designing programmes that the international community will support.

These plans aim to deliver real results for you, the Afghan people, without delay.

They aim to establish effective democratic governance and guarantee your rights and the rule of law.

Yet these programmes cannot succeed without your support – without all of you, acting in good faith.

That is why, today, we appeal to the Afghan people to come together to achieve peace through reconciliation to achieve justice through mutual respect to build a future based on economic development and mutual cooperation with full respect for your nation’s sovereignty.

This is my message to the Afghan people: to unite in the national interest.

You have suffered much, for too long.

The United Nations and I personally will do all we can to help build a brighter future for you and your children.

Excellencies, Distinguished Ministers,

The Afghan people wish us well at this conference. But they will base their judgments on our actions, not our words.

This conference is not meant to review or revise our strategies.

We are here to support the Afghan government and its new priorities to reaffirm our pledge to stay engaged for the long term.

This gathering marks a milestone in a journey begun in Paris in 2008, with the Afghan National Development Strategy.

We continued along our road with meetings in Moscow, The Hague and, more recently, in London.

Today, Afghanistan’s government is becoming a full and increasingly effective partner.

Afghan ministers have met important short-term commitments.

They have set up effective consultation structures.

They have devised programmes which, with international support and Afghan resolve, can bring tangible change into the lives of ordinary Afghans: improved security, better standards of living, and an inclusive intra-Afghan dialogue, stronger regional cooperation can complement domestic result.

In this regard, we welcome sincerely the recently concluded Afghanistan and Pakistan trade and transit agreement which is a very promising examble.

And they have done all this in a short time, amid a dense political calendar that has included electoral preparations and the Peace Jirga.

I commend President Karzai and his cabinet for this achievement.

As we move ahead, security will be crucial.

Let no one think that we are closing our eyes to the challenge.

But these are programmes that can be implemented now, despite the security challenges.

Neither should anyone interpret our efforts to pass responsibility to the Afghan government as a sign of diminishing international resolve.

Yet let us also be clear: just as Afghans are taking greater responsibility for governance and development, so must they take greater responsibility for security as well.

This was our goal nine years ago; it remains our goal now. Afghanistan must take that decisive step towards guaranteeing its own sovereignty.

The government has prepared several important documents on the security situation, including the National Security Policy and the Afghan Peace and Reintegration Programme.

It has designed a strategy for the transfer of lead responsibility on a province-by-province basis, according to clearly defined conditions.

The Ministry of Interior has carried out important institutional reforms.

The Afghan National Army and National Police continue to receive essential training.

These efforts must continue – with international support.

Today’s conference is also an opportunity to highlight the grave situation of Afghan civilians affected by the conflict.

We continue to see a rise in indiscriminate, disproportionate and deliberate attacks by anti-government elements against civilians and government representatives.

Too many Afghans see their basic human rights violated again and again.

Improving security for Afghans is not just a matter of physical protection. It also requires accountability for serious violations of human rights – those happening now and those that took place in the past.

And of course, Afghanistan will not achieve peace, development and human rights without the full participation of women.

Excellencies,

Let me close by expressing my profound gratitude to all the international community members for providing military assistance [inaudible] at a great sacrifice and also providing financial and economic support to Afghan people.

And I would like to take this opportunity again to express my profound gratitude to our Special Representative, Staffan de Mistura, and his UN staff for their outstanding work.

Their exceptional commitment, and exceptional bravery, is an eloquent testament to all that is at stake.

I assure you Mr. President that the United Nations will work and deliver as one United Nations. And thank you for giving us for this opportunity to work together with you.

Let me assure you that we will be working closely with Finance Minister Zakhilwal, the Afghan government and other partners as we move ahead.

We need to develop concrete mechanisms for helping the government to implement its ambitious programmes.

We need to assure that aid and development programmes are well-coordinated fully transparent and comply with the seven principles of good-donorship that we will discuss today.

We cannot overstate the importance of this mission.

In fulfilling it, I look forward to working closely with all of you confident that the measure of our success will be our deeds, not our good intentions.

Thank you very much.

source: UNAMA

Britain Reaffirms Support for Afghanistan Effort

LONDON — As the Obama administration reaches out to head off any weakening of allied resolve, Prime Minister David Cameron of Britain — America’s closest military ally — flew to Kabul on Thursday, saying this would be the “vital year” for the campaign against the Taliban.

Prime Minister David Cameron of Britain and President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan during a news conference in Kabul on Thursday.

His visit came after a three-day diplomatic offensive in London, with a trio of top Pentagon figures — Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates; Gen. David H. Petraeus, the top commander in the region; and Gen. Peter W. Chiarelli, vice chief of staff of the Army — seeking assurances that Britain will remain steadfast in its Afghan commitment.

Britain has committed around 10,000 troops in Afghanistan — the second largest contingent in the 46-nation coalition after the 94,000 American soldiers there. On his surprise visit, which comes as British casualties are mounting and the country confronts huge financial strains, Mr. Cameron made clear that his government was not planning to increase its troop levels. Such an increase, Mr. Cameron said, was “not remotely on the U.K. agenda.”

Indeed, he made clear that Britain’s goal was to hand over security responsibilities to Afghan forces as soon as that was possible.

“We should all the time be asking ‘Can we go further, can we go faster,’ ” Britain’s Press Association news agency quoted him as saying.

At a news conference alongside President Hamid Karzai, Mr. Cameron declared: “No one wants British troops to stay in Afghanistan for a day longer than is necessary.”

But, he said, “What we want — and is our national security interest — is to hand over to an Afghanistan that is able to take control of its own security.”

The visit was Mr. Cameron’s first to Afghanistan as head of a coalition of his Conservative Party and the smaller Liberal Democrats. He said he had described this year “in terms of the NATO mission in Afghanistan, as the vital year.”

“This is the year when we have to make progress — progress for the sake of the Afghan people, but progress also on behalf of people back at home who want this to work,” he said.

His remarks echoed comments in London on Wednesday by Mr. Gates, who said that the United States and its allies were under pressure to show progress in the war by the end of the year, and that American voters would not accept an open-ended “stalemate.”

“All of us, for our publics, are going to have to show by the end of the year that our strategy is on the right track and making some headway,” he said.

As Mr. Gates headed for a NATO defense ministers’ meeting in Brussels, it seemed clear the Americans had achieved the reaffirmation they had sought after Mr. Gates and General Petraeus met separately with Mr. Cameron, and in talks both men had with the new British defense minister, Liam Fox.

After Mr. Gates met Mr. Cameron on Monday, the prime minister’s office issued a statement saying that he had “reiterated U.K. support for U.S. strategy,” but tellingly singled out as the strategy’s main element the $20 billion plan to build up Afghanistan’s own forces so they can take over security responsibilities and allow allied troops to leave.

The renewed British commitment was expected. Mr. Cameron and Mr. Fox are Conservatives, who strongly supported the British role in Afghanistan while in opposition, before they joined the left-of-center Liberal Democrats in a coalition after the inconclusive May 6 general election.

The Conservatives’ differences with the former Labour government centered less on whether the war should be fought than on whether the British troops had been adequately equipped.

In Kabul on Thursday, Press Association reported, Mr. Cameron said, “My biggest duty as prime minister of the United Kingdom is to our armed forces, to make sure that they have all the equipment and all the protection they need to do the absolutely vital job that they are doing here in Afghanistan.”

He also announced extra spending of around $100 million for a specialized unit to counter the threat of insurgents’ roadside bombs — one of the Taliban’s most effective weapons.

American officials regard a bolstering of Britain’s support as especially important at a time when many European countries with troops in Afghanistan, including Britain and Germany, are committed to sharp cuts in defense spending as part of their drive to reduce huge government deficits. With Britain reaffirming its backing for the Afghanistan effort, the American hope is that other European nations will be hesitant to back out.

Mr. Gates said in London that he hoped the European allies would follow the Pentagon’s example in seeking $100 billion in spending cuts by reducing overhead costs and spending on new weapons programs. “I would hope that our allies, before they consider force structure reductions, and reductions more broadly in capabilities, will look overall at how they spend their money,” he said.

In a concession to Britain, American officials said they had abandoned plans to move many of the 8,000 British troops who have been fighting in the southwestern province of Helmand to the city of Kandahar as part of a mission realignment. Many of the additional 30,000 American troops ordered into Afghanistan by President Obama will be sent to Helmand.

British officials had argued that many of the nearly 300 British soldiers who have been killed in the war died fighting in Helmand, and that giving way to the Marines would amount to surrendering territory that had been won with British lives.

Mr. Cameron said on Thursday: “In Helmand, there are now over 20,000 U.S. troops and 10,000 U.K. troops. I think it is important to let them get on with the very important work of delivering greater security in Helmand and making sure we have the right force density — the right number of troops — together with the Afghan national security forces throughout the province.”

By JOHN F. BURNS and ALAN COWELL

John F. Burns reported from London and Alan Cowell from Paris.

Source: The New York Times