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International Community Gathers for Hague Conference on Afghanistan

Seventy-three countries and 20 international organizations gathered in The Hague, Netherlands on March 31 for the "International Conference on Afghanistan: A Comprehensive Strategy in a Regional Context." The conference, which was organized by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and hosted by the Netherlands, was aimed at discussing how to leverage international will and resources to address remaining challenges in Afghanistan. On March 27 the U.S. released their new strategy for Afghanistan, which was presented to the conference and will be discussed by NATO at a summit in France later this week.

Speaking at the conference, President Hamid Karzai stressed the importance of bringing the international community together to address security and development challenges in Afghanistan. "Our collective struggle in Afghanistan has reached a critical juncture and I am grateful that, at an important time like this, we are meeting today to ensure that our joint struggle for security, freedom and democracy remains a priority and that Afghanistan and the region’s place in this struggle remains a focus," he said.

President Karzai outlined a shared strategy for success in Afghanistan that revolved around four key issues: security, development, governance and reconciliation. On security, President Karzai mentioned the importance of a regional approach to combatting terrorism, minimizing civilian casulties, expanding the Afghan security forces and a process of reconciliation with certain groups and individuals. With regards to development, President Karzai highlighted agriculture and energy and a more effective use of development aid. President Karzai also addressed the government battle against corruption and the promotion of good governance initiatives, as well as the continuing fight against the cultivation of opium.

President Karzai stressed the importance of the coming August 2009 presidential election for Afghanistan's democracy. "This election represents an important milestone in our journey towards consolidating democracy and stability in Afghanistan," he said. "Therefore it is crucial to ensure that free, fair, credible and secure elections are held across Afghanistan."

In her remarks discussing the new U.S. strategy, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton recognized the international importance of the mission in Afghanistan. "The range of countries and institutions represented here is a universal recognition that what happens in Afghanistan matters to us all," she stated. "Our failure to bring peace and progress would be a setback not only to the people of Afghanistan, but to the entire enterprise of collective action in the interest of collective security. Our success, on the other hand, will not only benefit Afghanistan, Pakistan and the region, but also the blueprint for a new diplomacy powered by partnership and premised on shared interests."

In the conference's final declaration, the countries that attended agreed that "a well coordinated and strategically integrated approach" was needed for Afghanistan that focused on the following priority goals: "To promote good governance and stronger institutions; to generate economic growth; to strengthen security and to enhance regional cooperation." The declaration also pledged the resources to achieve these goals.

Related News: Final Declaration of The Hague Conference on Afghanistan

                      Remarks of President Hamid Karzai

                      Remarks of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton

                      Ambassador Jawad Welcomes New Strategy for Afghanistan

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