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Remarks by Said T.  Jawad Ambassador of Afghanistan to the United States on “Afghanistan: Where Do We Go From Here?”

Hosted by The Center on Politics and Foreign Relations  at John hopkins  University School of Advanced International Studies  and  the Financial Times


John Hopkins University

Washington, DC

   December 4, 2009

Distinguished panelists,

Friends from the media, academe,

Ladies and gentlemen,

Good morning. Thank you, Professor Guttman, for the kind introduction. I am grateful to the Center on Politics and Foreign Relations of John Hopkins University School of Advanced International Affairs and the Financial Times for providing me the opportunity to discuss Afghanistan’s perspective with you this morning.

Ladies and gentlemen,

I welcome President Obama’s new focused strategy and new commitment to allocate more troops and resources to Afghanistan. We are especially grateful for the additional resources to build our security sector, as well as the capacity of the Afghan Government to deliver services, and renewed attention to the agricultural sector. We appreciate the focus on protecting the Afghan population. We agree with the President that we must reverse the extremists’ momentum, deny the Taliban access to populated urban centers and work with Pakistan to destroy the Taliban’s safe havens, including those working against Afghanistan, the US and NATO forces in their territory.  

The surge of troops is needed to provide us with time and space to further build our own security forces. We are fully committed to do our part for the success of this new strategy. I personally admire President Obama for emphasizing that the United States was founded on the values of freedom, justice and human rights.

Let me begin by conveying my gratitude to the US and NATO soldiers, who are fighting in Afghanistan, and to those who are about to be deployed to Afghanistan.  They are fighting to make Afghanistan, the region and the world a safer place for our children. We are very grateful to them.


Today, I would like to convey my position on some of the key issues being raised in connection with the new strategy.

1. We fully support President Obama’s plan to gradually hand over security responsibilities to our security forces. This is what we demand. Conditions permitting, the responsible drawdown of US combat troops may start in 18 months, if other security and regional factors remain unchanged. We are ready to take full responsibility of our country’s security in five years. This will be done in a province-by-province basis. We are already in charge of the most populated and important province—Kabul, where one-fifth of the population lives; and we are practically leading in a number of provinces in Central and North Afghanistan. Within the next three years, we will lead and fully conduct military operations independently.


We think that success is the best exit strategy. Afghans are seeking a long term political partnership with the United States, and Afghans understand that defending Afghanistan is their primary duty.  For an effective and smooth transfer, we want to establish a Joint Security Consultation Group with the US and NATO. 

The Afghan National Army is fighting alongside your soldiers. There is no military operation now in Afghanistan where our troops are not partnering with your soldiers. On average, 3 Afghan National Police officers are dying every day defending Afghanistan. There is not a shortage of courage or manpower; there is a shortage of skills and equipment and funds to adequately pay and recruit better soldiers and police officers.

Your assistance in enhancing the training pace of the ANA (95,000) and the ANP (81,000) is needed.  Out of 2,375 Police Mentor Teams, only 1,050 (44%) are assigned. Out of 2,663 embedded army training teams, only 1,125 (44%) are filled. Out of 103 Operation Military Liaison Teams (OMLET), only 53 are assigned (55%).

We appreciate that 20 NATO member-countries have shown willingness to send additional troops. We understand the constraints the rest of them are facing. If our NATO allies cannot send more troops and trainers, there are many other ways they can assist. An alternative is to pay the salaries of the ANA and ANP and to provide artillery, helicopters and transport aircrafts to our forces. We should seek a synergy between various degrees of commitment and capabilities that our NATO partners are bringing to the table.

Europe has been a viable partner in improving the quality of education and health care. Many Afghans speak German or French. Our NATO partners can set up extensive scholarship programs for Afghans to get trained in Europe so they may lead the new institutions that are being built in Afghanistan.

2. To enhance cooperation and further Afghanize security and development, planning is underway for 3 important international conferences, designed to find the proper mechanisms that will provide a gradual transition of security responsibilities and increase the pace of economic development.

A conference in London in late January 2010 will focus on security issues. The Kabul Conference will focus on developing two new sets of compacts. One between Afghanistan and our international partners and neighbors to set forth mutual expectations and responsibilities. A second compact between the Afghan Government and the Afghan people to recommit to government reform, improve governance and fight corruption.

3. We heard very clearly your message about corruption and governance. We know that our government institutions are not fully functional. That is why you and 60 other countries are in Afghanistan. 42 of them have troops on the ground. We are grateful to every one of them. If state institutions were fully functioning, there would not have been state failure, the Taliban, and the Bonn Agreement, NATO, and ISAF in Afghanistan.


Improving governance is our primary responsibility and we want to move quickly and decisively on key governance issues. We are finalizing a comprehensive roadmap to combat corruption.  President Karzai has clearly stated that “individuals who are involved in corruption will have no place in the


Over 600 officials were arrested this year and a dozen of former and current ministers are under investigation. We have one of the best cabinets in the region and we are improving the quality of our governors and other officials.

The Afghan Government will fulfill its responsibilities to the Afghan people and the International Community through merit-based appointments at national and provincial levels.

Narcotics fund major corruption.   Targeting drug trafficking and drug barons is a cross-cutting priority in our anti-terrorist and anti-corruption strategies. To fight corruption, the country needs political will, adequate legal institutions and improved laws and procedures. The political will to punish corrupt officials is now much stronger.  We are fully upgrading the capacity and mandate of the High Office of Oversight for the Implementation of the Anti-Corruption Strategy for detection and investigation.

We are revising laws and improving regulations.  For instance, the Constitution forbids nepotism but the penal code fails to stipulate a clear punishment for those who commit it. The Constitution calls for assets disclosure of public officials but there is no mechanism for penalizing those who lie or do not comply. We are changing these laws. We are building special tribunals to prosecute corrupt officials.  The Afghan Government has recently broken a corruption ring at the Kabul airport worth tens of millions of dollars a year and the culprits will be prosecuted. Corruption is a symptom of bad governance, not its cause. However, the challenges of good governance is not confined to bad governance, it is also due to weak governance and the absence of governance. We welcome President Obama’s civilian surge to strengthen our government capacity.

With all due respect for media’s constitutional right to choose unfairly and report irresponsibly, we should also listen to the people of Afghanistan. According to the Asia Foundation Survey, 36% of Afghan people think security is the biggest problem, 35% name unemployment and 17% name corruption. The order is very important. What the Afghan people demand is not only to eliminate corruption, but also to provide them with security and jobs.

Furthermore, the perception here in the media does not always meet the reality in Afghanistan. According to the Asia Foundation Survey, 71% of people support the performance of the Afghan Government in the national level and 75% at the provincial level. 91% of people think that ANA is honest and fair, 83% have a very positive view of the ANP, despite its shortfall.

4. No Afghan corruption has infiltrated the spending of your funds and international aid money. We are ready to be fully accountable for funds spent through the “Afghanistan Reconstruction Trust Fund.” However, the International Community has been slow to change their traditional means of delivering assistance. 80% of aid is delivered by donors directly, bypassing the Afghan Government. This must change. Over the next year we would like you to increase on-budget support in Afghanistan to 40% to support our national priorities.


5. Direct support for qualified Afghan institutions and officials is welcomed. We must focus on capacity development, rather than capacity replacement; on building institutions not creating parallel structures, undermining the Constitution and bypassing the Afghan Government. Fighting corruption cannot be accomplished by undermining the leadership of the country. Failure to partner with Afghans leads to failure. We need to work together.

We also expect from our partners greater transparency, mutual accountability, aid efficiencies and information-sharing. We should get most value of every development dollar that you spend in Afghanistan. We are seeking the establishment of a Joint Economic Cooperation Council to oversee and coordinate our efforts.

6. “Winning the hearts and minds” is not a sustainable strategy, it is a charity gesture. You need to further strengthen mutual trust and confidence by respecting the dignity of the Afghan people and government and assisting them to take charge of their destiny. The “Afghan Face” strategy is ineffective, we need the “Afghan Hands” strategy.


We welcome President Obama’s emphasis on the need for reconciliation and reintegration of the Taliban. This has been our policy since 2004.  There must be one channel of conduit: the government institutions of Afghanistan. According to the Asia Foundation Survey, 71% of Afghans approves the Afghan Government’s reconciliation efforts with the Taliban. 

7.Why should our soldiers die for the Afghan Government?” is a question that I have been asked repeatedly. First, these heroic soldiers who are dying in Afghanistan are sacrificing their lives to preserve security and freedom throughout the world. You came to Afghanistan because you were attacked in your home by Al Qaeda, who was operating from bases in Afghanistan hosted by the Taliban. We appreciate that you are there and assisting us build our state institutions. The failure of the state in Afghanistan led to the formation of the Taliban and Al Qaeda bases. You are not there to die for the Afghan Government. The Afghan Government, the Afghan army and police and, more importantly, the Afghan people are your partners.


8. Why are you in Afghanistan? The mission is clear. This is America’s war to disrupt, dismantle and ultimately defeat Al Qaeda; and NATO’s battle for regional and global security, as well as Afghanistan’s struggle for survival. You are in Afghanistan primarily because of 9/11 and to prevent terrorist attacks on US and European soil. You are in the mountains of Afghanistan to defend the streets of the United States and Europe, to protect humanity from terror and tyranny and assist us in the process.


The benefits from a continuing US military presence in Afghanistan are mutual.  Your engagement in Afghanistan is vital to US and Afghan security interests.  One cannot separate security in Afghanistan from instability in Pakistan, a nuclear armed nation of 175 million people and the epicenter of international jihadists and extremists; and other neighbors with ambitions to acquire nuclear arms.  

I know being in Afghanistan is dangerous.  The fact is, as we remember from history, not being in Afghanistan is far more dangerous. A setback in Afghanistan will embolden extremism regionally and globally and place violent extremists on the winning side of history. America’s historic strength is in the way you end wars and prevent conflicts, as President Obama said.

Security aside, your presence has fundamentally changed the lives of millions of Afghans. Your economic assistance alongside your soldiers’ sacrifices not only prevented another major terrorist attack here, but have also paved the way for millions of our children to return to school, for our women to reclaim their basic human rights and for millions of refugees to, finally, return home.

9. What is success in Afghanistan? Success is protecting the US by stabilizing Afghanistan through building Afghan security forces to prevent the return of Al Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan and for Afghanistan to serve as your stable and reliable partner in a volatile region.

10. Why are we losing public support for the mission? Afghanistan is a tough mission. The precious lives of many Afghans, US and NATO member-countries are lost. There have been little effective efforts to explain the significance of this sacrifice and this mission for the safety and stability of Europe and the US. Leadership is about shaping public opinion, not following it. Joint efforts by the US and NATO are needed to turn the tide of negative media around.

 11. Who is your partner in Afghanistan? Your real longstanding partner is the Afghan people. The Afghan Government is actively seeking continued partnership with the United States. The President of Afghanistan is your partner and he should be treated as such. 

12. We are deepening our relations with Pakistan’s civilian government and military. We welcome a strategy to work on both sides of the border to target, with Pakistan’s support, the safe havens of high level terrorists whose location are known and whose intentions are clear.


13. Success is within reach. Our goals are modest and our mission so far is successful. For each setback in the past 8 years, substantial gains have been made. We have delivered basic health care to more than 85% of the country, primary education to 7 million children, 40% of who are girls, and domestic revenue collection has increased by 60% during the past 6 months alone.

14. We need your continued partnership to improve the lives of our people and to build on our shared accomplishments. 71% of Afghans approve of the performance of the Afghan Government. 63% of the people think they are more prosperous. 42% think that Afghanistan is going to the right direction. 78% of the population agree that democracy is the best form of government in Afghanistan. 82% of people support gender equality.

We have come a long way. Today, 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. Access to electricity increased from 8% to 62%. We are not out of the woods yet. President Obama’s attention on agriculture is very welcome.

15. Time matters. Together, we must act swiftly and decisively with mutual trust and respect 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. The terrorist propaganda is questioning the International Community’s staying power and pushes the frustrated Afghan population to submit to terrorists and despair.

It is the time for all of us to act with perseverance and patience, and to stand together as partners for our just cause. We should join hands to strengthen a democratic, accountable and constitutional Afghan Government to improve governance and builds our security forces. We can jointly accomplish our mission of defeating terrorism, and making the world a better place for our children.

 Thank you.



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