Thank you, Mr. President. Foreign Minister Rassoul, thank you for being here today. You honor us with your presence and we’re grateful for your remarks. Special Representative de Mistura, thank you for your briefing and your continued extraordinary service. I hope you will also convey to all of the staff of UNAMA the enduring gratitude of the United States, for the important work that they do every day throughout Afghanistan, under considerable hardship, for the benefit of the Afghan people. We are also grateful for the important contributions of Deputy Special Representative Martin Kobler, who is on his way to Iraq to be the new SRSG there.
This morning, I will focus my remarks on security, upcoming events that frame the 2014 transition, and the New Silk Road initiative.
Earlier this month, as you know, the U.S. Embassy compound in Kabul was attacked. Afghan National Security Forces have responsibility for Kabul and they responded ably. They ended the assault on the Embassy, there was minimal damage to Embassy property and our compound and no U.S. personnel were killed. However, the insurgent attack killed five Afghan national police and eleven other Afghans, including children. While the security situation in Afghanistan continues to present challenges, notably including the insurgents continuing targeting of fellow Afghans, our goal remains to shift gradually to a supporting role, as Afghan National Security Forces continue to develop their capabilities. The deployment of additional U.S. military service members together with additional troops committed by our allies and partners has helped stabilize more of the country and shifted the momentum away from the insurgency. Together, we have made significant progress.
The tragic assassination of Afghanistan’s former President, and Chairman of the Afghan High Peace Council, Professor Rabbani, has only strengthened our collective resolve. We will continue to work in support of the Afghan government and the Afghan people to end the insurgency, pursue justice against those who fund, direct, and carry out the violence, and realize a peaceful future for all Afghans.
President Obama has been clear that the strong U.S. relationship with Afghanistan will extend well beyond 2014. We continue to make progress on our Strategic Partnership document, which outlines our long-term cooperation during the transition period and beyond. As President Obama and President Karzai reaffirmed in their meeting last week, we will have a strategic partnership between our nations that provides a long-term framework for bilateral cooperation on security, economic and social development, and institution building.
As Afghanistan moves towards the 2014 transition, we know that government alone cannot grow Afghanistan’s economy, so we must all continue to work to create an environment that attracts private-sector investment. Last week Foreign Minister Rassoul, German Foreign Minister Westerwelle, and Secretary of State Clinton met with 27 of Afghanistan’s neighbors and partners to advance their shared vision of a New Silk Road. The New Silk Road is an Afghan-led venture—a rallying point for securing Afghan, regional, and international commitments to support Afghanistan’s transition and develop a sustainable Afghan economy that will benefit the whole region. The creation of a New Silk Road will help Afghanistan and its neighbors to maximize the value of their natural resources, build human capacity, create jobs, generate revenue to pay for needed services, and capitalize on the region’s economic potential. The New Silk Road will also promote women entrepreneurs, since we know that sustained and successful development depends on women becoming equal partners.
The international community has an important role to play in supporting Afghanistan and the region’s efforts to make this vision a reality. The New Silk Road initiative will reinforce the search for diplomatic solutions to end the war in Afghanistan.
Mr. President, 2011 remains a pivotal year. The International Afghanistan Conference at the end of the year in Bonn will be a key opportunity for the Government of Afghanistan, its neighbors, and the international community to strengthen economic cooperation in the region. This will be complemented by regional efforts to strengthen mutual confidence and neighborly relations at the Conference for Security and Cooperation in Istanbul in November. We also welcome the start of the comprehensive review of UNAMA’s mandated activities and the United Nations’ support in Afghanistan.
We reaffirm our gratitude for the crucial and continued commitment of the United Nations. UNAMA is working in partnership with the government of Afghanistan for the benefit of all Afghans in their quest for peace, security, and stability.
Mr. President, we will continue to support the Afghan government and people, regional partners, and the international community as we work to establish stability and prosperity in Afghanistan and throughout the region.
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