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Introductory  Remarks by

H.E. Said T.  Jawad Ambassador of Afghanistan to the United States

 

“Understanding Afghanistan: Turbulent Past; challenging Future”

 

 

 Smithsonian institution

Washington, DC

 

September 29, 2009

Ambassador Khalilzad,

Ambassador Culter,

Dr. Rubin,

Mr. Steve Coll,

Ladies and gentlemen,

It is a privilege to be with you today. Thank you for inviting me.  I would like to extend my sincere gratitude to the Smithsonian and my dear friend, Ambassador Walter Culter for holding this timely forum and I look forward to our discussion.

Ladies and gentlemen,

  • This is a crucial time in the history of Afghanistan and the United States that will test our determination to fight a brutal enemy, terrorism and improve the lives of the Afghan people.  Eight years have passed since the fall of the Taliban but Afghanistan still endures serious security challenges. Unfortunately, many of our shared achievements have been overshadowed by a sharp increase in violence, a dramatic rise in suicide attacks and roadside bombings.
 
  • Our mission is clear. This is America’s war and NATO’s battle for global security, as well as Afghanistan’s struggle for survival. You are in Afghanistan primarily because of 9/11. You are there to defend the United States, Europe, the whole of humanity and assist us in the process. We must continue to ensure that terrorists do not reestablish sanctuaries in Afghanistan to victimize the Afghan people, destabilize the region and endanger world security. Eight years after the 9/11 attacks, the threat from terrorists is still clear and imminent.

 

The stakes are high, but we cannot afford to let the Taliban win. Their return to power has obvious implications for all of us.

  • Your presence is needed and welcomed by the majority of Afghans. There are many debates in Washington and among NATO partners on the size and duration of the international military presence in Afghanistan. We fully respect your decision and are grateful for what you have provided us.  Fighting and dying for Afghanistan is primarily our responsibility. The Afghan National Army is fighting alongside your soldiers. On average, 7 Afghan National Police officers are dying every day defending Afghanistan. We want to increase our share of responsibility.

 

However, your presence is demanded by the Afghan people. You have fundamentally changed the lives of millions of Afghans. Your economic assistance and your soldiers’ sacrifices not only prevented another major attack, but also have paved the way for millions of our children to return to school, for our women to reemerge from the shadows to reclaim their human rights, and for millions of refugees to, finally, return home.

The benefits from a continuing US military presence are mutual.  You came to Afghanistan in direct response to attacks on your soil, planned by terrorists that had found safe havens in Afghanistan. Your engagement in Afghanistan is vital to US and Afghan security interests.  

We are concerned about the fact that you always have the option to walk away; you have exercised this once before after the Soviet’s collapse. We remember the dire consequences of even more emboldened terrorists and extremists in the region.

I know being in Afghanistan is dangerous.  The fact is, as we remember from history, not being in Afghanistan is far more dangerous.

4.    We have clearly heard the concerns of the US Government, Administration and media and those of the rival Afghan presidential candidates about corruption, fraud and governance issues. We are working hard to fight corruption and build clean and competent institutions. Over 600 officials were arrested this year. We have one of the best cabinets in the history of Afghanistan and are improving the quality of  our governors and other officials. However, allegations against the President’s brother are unsubstantiated and politically motivated. We have a long way to go but we will get there, certainly.

 
  • We welcome General Stanley McChrystal’s recent assessment and support request for additional troops and resources for Afghan security forces. The current strength of the combined international troops with Afghan Forces is clearly inadequate to meet many deepening security challenges.

 

Short-term, we need to increase the number of international troops and improve the quality and numbers of Afghan troops. Looking at a long term, sustainable solution, the capacity of the Afghan Security Forces must also be built. We estimate that Afghanistan needs an army of 250,000 soldiers and 150,000 officers in the police force.

I know that some experts argue that you should train more self-reliant Afghan troops. I respectfully add that it cannot be accomplished without sending more US combat troops. At this stage, it is not a zero-sum game.

The key recommendations of Gen. McChrystal’s assessment are in compliance with our continued requests, including:    

  • A new approach to partner with and build the Afghan Government’s capacity to deliver services and eliminate corruption, instead of undermining the leadership of the country. Failure to partner with Afghans guarantee failure.
  • “Winning the hearts and minds” will not work because it is not a strategy, it is a charity gesture. You need to build mutual trust and confidence by respecting the dignity of ordinary Afghans.
  • Change the military operation culture to connect with and protect the population is fundamental.
  • Partner more closely with the Afghan National Security Force. They should and will win this fight.
  • Eliminate the sources of terrorists training, indoctrination and ideological, financial and logistical support in the neighborhood of Afghanistan.
  • Set forth clear parameters for negotiation and reconciliation with the Taliban.

 

Ladies and gentlemen,

 

    • We need your continued support to build on our shared accomplishments and overcome our continued challenges.

Today, some 7 million children are going back to school, 36 percent of them girls. Women have become elected officials, senator and ministers; they are voters, students, teachers, and entrepreneurs. We have a vibrant and free media, with hundreds of private radio and TV stations. Schools and health clinics have been built with your assistance in far-flung villages that had never had medical assistance before.

 

    • We hope for a clear message of long-term  commitment to succeed from leaders in the United States and NATO partners.  Pondering and hesitating directly feeds terrorists’ propaganda of questioning the International Community’s staying power and pushes the frustrated Afghan population to submit to terrorists and despair. 
 
    • The Afghan election was not a perfect process in perfect conditions. However, we all must be careful about our statements that seem to delegitimize the democratic process of the elections that took place in August. There is a legal process, led by the Independent Selection Commission and the Election Complaint Commission, to adjudicate complaints, and that process must be allowed to proceed before sweeping conclusions are made.

 

    • Here in Washington, some of our friends suggest we can fight Al Qaeda with remote-controlled Drone and  cruise missiles. Afghans fully understand and respect the deep concerns that you have with regard to increased troop casualties. We support all reasonable technological and tactical measures to limit casualties. But effective use of drone aircrafts, cruise missiles and other approaches must complement, rather than replace, on-the-ground operations of  your soldiers and their Afghan counterparts.

 

Fighting Al Qaeda with remote-controlled weapons will fail, as we have learned from recent history of our region. We have seen missiles attacks against Al Qaeda bases in Afghanistan after the attack on US embassies in East Africa in 1998 and, again, after the bombing of the U-S-S Cole in 2000.  This action did not prevent 9/11.  The cruise missile attacks pushed Al Qaeda and the Taliban closer together.   

 

    • Afghans are proud of what they have accomplished and are aware of their responsibilities.  Afghans want to keep moving forward and take their destiny in their own hands.  They do not want to go back and submit to the terror and tyranny of the Taliban. 
    • Time matters. Together, we must act swiftly and decisively.  Patience is in short supply among the Afghan population and the US Congress.

The perception of wavering serves only to embolden our mutual enemies, while disenchanting Afghans about the prospects of a sustained commitment to Afghanistan’s future by the International Community.

The time is now for decisive leadership and for swift action to enable Afghanistan to stand on her own feet, and ultimately allow American and international troops to go home with deep gratitude of our people.

It is the time for all of us to stand together as partners to strengthen a democratic, accountable and constitutional government to fight corruption, improve governance and build our security forces, so we can jointly accomplish our mission of defeating the terrorists, and making the world a better place for our children.

Thank you.

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