World Affairs Council-DC Presents Diplomatic Leadership Commitment Award to Ambassador Mohib

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Photo: Ambassador Mohib and World Affairs Council
Photo: Ambassador Mohib speaking at World Affairs Council event
Photo: World Affairs Council Audience

December 14, 2015

The Embassy of Afghanistan and the World Affairs Council-Washington, D.C. co-hosted a reception as part of the WAC Embassy Series Program. The reception began with an introductory speech by Mr. Tony Culley-Foster, President of WAC-DC. Mr. Culley-Foster who told an audience of around 100 distinguished guests about Afghanistan’s history.

Ambassador Mohib spoke to the audience about the Afghanistan-US bilateral relations, the importance of regional cooperation and the multiple transitions that Afghanistan has gone through in the past year, with focus on the efforts towards Afghanistan’s “transformation decade”. The speech was followed by a question-and-answer session by Ambassador Mohib, which was moderated by Ambassador Ronald Neumann, the former US Ambassador to Afghanistan.

The reception ended with an award presented to Ambassador Mohib in recognition of his diplomatic leadership commitment to global education and international affairs. The reception was followed by a dinner.

Below, you can find Ambassador Mohib’s speech for the reception.

In the name of the God, the merciful and compassionate. Ambassador Neumann, Ambassadors, Senators, Mr. Culley-Foster, members of the World Affairs Council, Distinguished guests!

It is an honor to welcome you tonight to the Embassy of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan.
We are delighted to have you here and have this chance to share with you what is going on in Afghanistan today, and to engage in a dialogue with you about the country’s future. I see many familiar faces here this evening and gladly, many new faces. So to all of you, welcome.

As many of you may know, I am a newly appointed Ambassador. My team and I are thrilled to be here in Washington and we are enjoying meeting the many wonderful people who make this one of the world’s most intellectual and vibrant capitals.

For as long as I am here, I plan to keep our embassy’s doors wide open and engage as often as possible in events such as tonight’s. My position is that the more people who know about and take an interest in Afghanistan, the better.

We have occupied the world’s attention for the past 15 years for all the wrong reasons, and I firmly believe the next 10 to 15 years will surprise the naysayers.

I suspect that many of you here tonight, and most Americans for that matter, have only experienced Afghanistan through the news media -- the doom and gloom headlines that appear on an almost daily basis.
But what you read is only one small piece of a much larger picture. It is not the Afghanistan I know, and tonight I want to tell you about the other side of my country. Over the past 15 years, we have gone from a nearly destroyed nation to a functioning democracy that has one of the most free and robust civil societies and press in the region.

We have democratic systems in place and a population that turned out in record numbers to vote last year in our first peaceful democratic transition of power. Forty percent of those voters were women, who now play an active role in all spheres of public life. We provide healthcare and education to our citizens, most of who are below the age of 35 and who have a critical role to play in taking the country forward.

But even as the foundations for state building were being laid in the past 15 years, my country was struggling with endemic corruption in both the government and private sector, which corroded people’s faith in the state, and perhaps even worse, in each other. Afghans who worked hard and followed the law were too often dragged into situations where bribes and nepotism and unfair practices stacked the deck against them.

We are still trying to root out the institutionalized corruption that has flourished for decades.
But we do so as a new country -- one that has entered a “decade of transformation” that involves sweeping reforms and renewed partnerships.

We are working toward peace, modernization, and self-reliance, and every day the new government takes steps to forward that goal.

For the first time in 14 years, we have a clear, strategic roadmap for our future, written by our president, Mohammad Ashraf Ghani. It is a vision shared by our Chief Executive, Abdullah Abdullah.

Last year’s election of the National Unity Government brought an abrupt halt to ‘business as usual.’ Our approach to governance is informed by the best practices of the world’s most successful states.

Every planned reform is designed to produce a measurable result or advance a specific goal.
And yet, despite all this determination and promise, there is no denying that this past year has been one of our most challenging in decades.

In the short span of just one year, Afghanistan underwent its first peaceful democratic transition of power; installed an untested new form of government led by previous opponents who came together to advance the best interests of the country, and saw our brave national security forces assume full responsibility for the security of the country from international coalition forces –
despite not having close air support, available medevac, or other essential military capabilities.

We did all this:
- while our economy was plummeting following the departure of over 600,000 foreign military personnel and contractors, and as unemployment peaked at 40%;
- while imposing austerity measures;
- while implementing the most rigorous reform agenda the country has ever seen,
- and while fighting a war against two enemies simultaneously – the Taliban and Daesh.

And yet, despite these formidable challenges, Afghanistan is ending 2015 standing strong and even more determined to route our enemies and revive our economy.

So, despite what you might have read, there is good news to report. The national unity government is determined to do everything necessary to achieve peace and prosperity, and has already shown its will to do so by enacting a tough reform agenda in the face of stiff opposition.
The reform agenda based on President Ghani’s ‘Realizing self- Reliance’ roadmap was endorsed by the international community in November 2014 at the London Conference and again this past September at the Senior Officials Meeting in Kabul.

We have made significant progress in this reform agenda in just 12 months.

Just a few of the highlights:

On corruption:
We took immediate action on the Kabul Bank case to prosecute senior officials. And to date have recovered $450 million for the national treasury.

We have streamlined anticorruption efforts by removing duplication and overlapping responsibilities among agencies like the Attorney General’s Office and High Office of Oversight.
The customs and revenue departments, hotbeds of corruption, have undergone sweeping changes
that include leadership and administrative reforms, personnel management changes,
simplified procedures to increase transparency, and automation of systems.

As a result, we are for the first time ever, meeting our revenue collection goals.
President Ghani set up and chairs a Procurement Commission which reviews all contracts. The Commission has saved over 100 million dollars on these contracts for the Afghan government. Most of this is US taxpayer money saved. President Ghani has approved the National Counter Narcotics Plan, a comprehensive roadmap to reducing the cultivation, production, and smuggling of drugs.

On creating jobs and increasing private sector investment:

The government last month reached agreement with the World Trade Organization to become a member, which will improve market access for Afghan exports and protect them through a global rules-based system for international trade.

We are also taking strong steps to improve our ranking in the World Bank’s Doing Business Indicators. This includes a new office in the Ministry of Commerce and Industries better coordinate activities and monitor how quickly obstacles for business are being removed. The initial phase of streamlining business licensing in Kabul has been completed. President Ghani has launched the Jobs for Peace program.
In its first phase, the program will cover 12 provinces and aims to provide months of food security for nearly 100,000 families by creating 5.5 million labor days. The program is set to cover all 34 provinces of Afghanistan by June, 2016.

To help the rural poor, the government launched a program last month to provide at least 4,500 rural communities with funds for labor-intensive works to repair agricultural infrastructure and roads

On creating development opportunities through regional partnerships:

Turkmenistan agreed to provide up to 2,000 MW of electricity for sale to Pakistan through Afghanistan, which will mean annual revenue of more than $800 million for them and transit revenue of $320 million for Afghanistan. This line will also meet any future power needs of Afghanistan until domestic generation plants are developed. The four-country Central Asia-South Asia Electricity Transmission and Trade Project – known as CASA 1000 -- is now signed after nearly a decade of delay. CASA 1000 will enable a transfer of 1,300 MW of power to Pakistan during the peak time and 1000 MW during off peak, with 300 MW going to Afghanistan.

Afghanistan and China signed three cooperation agreements in early November 2015. Under these agreements, China will build 10,000 apartments, award 50 scholarships for Afghan students, and install security scanners at a number of Kabul city gates.

These are but a few of the highlights. We have made a lot of progress, but we still have far to go.

Throughout our journey toward self-reliance, a key element of our continued success will be the strength and endurance of key partnerships, particularly with the United States. Our international partners, including the United States and NATO, have pledged to maintain a significant troop level to train, assist and advise our security forces at least through 2017. This is invaluable support.

We are grateful for the continued friendship of the United States and for the fact that both our nations realize that we are united against a shared threat. In Afghanistan, the United States has an earnest and eager partner. I hope this evening that I have shed a new light on my country for you.
We are a young democracy in an era of transformation, we are a resilient people, and are not discouraged by the challenges before us —we will persevere, for a better Afghanistan, for our generation and our children’s generation.

Afghanistan is a land of opportunities that has suffered for too long at the hands of proxy wars. It is a vicious cycle that is very difficult, if not impossible to get out of. We are working skillfully and with patience to steer our country away from a space where others fight their wars to a place where they collaborate for economic prosperity.

Thank you! I look forward to opening the floor now and having an insightful discussion.