Brussels: The US Secretary of State John Kerry said here today that after the peace agreement between the Afghan Government and the militant group headed by Gulbuddin Hekmatyar that was announced last week, there is a path forward towards an honorable end to the conflict that the Taliban have waged. It cannot be won on the battlefield. A political settlement negotiated with the Afghan Government is the only way to end the fighting and ensure lasting stability.
Kerry was addressing the Brussels Conference on Afghanistan, hosted by a combination of European Union and Afghanistan, on Wednesday 5 October. He said that the agreement with the Afghan Government requires Hekmatyar, one of the country’s most notorious figures, and his commanders to cease violence, cut all ties with their international terrorist organizations, and accept the Afghan constitution, including its guarantee of the rights for women and minorities. In return for keeping these commitments, Hekmatyar’s group will be able to emerge from the shadows to rejoin Afghan society.
Today, Kerry pointed out, the Taliban are again just trying to test the Afghan Government’s resolve. And Afghan forces continue to bravely repel these challenges.
Regarding the Afghan forces, Kerry went on to underscore “a few years ago, the United States of America had 140,000 troops in Afghanistan. We are now down to slightly shy of 10,000, and we have been there for the last few years. And guess what? The Afghan army, an army of 190,000 forces and a police force of 160,000, 320,000 strong in the security sector, have stood up, have resisted, have fought back within their current capacity, which we all have the ability to grow even further.”
Last month, the US Secretary of Sate said, the Taliban attacked the American University of Afghanistan, which is a bastion of progress and learning for the next generation of Afghan leaders. A movement that attacks Afghanistan’s youth, my friends, has no legitimacy whatsoever to claim to lead the country’s future.
Emphasising that “their goal of ridding Afghanistan of external forces will not occur by the demand or by the continued insurgency; it will come through peace. Make no mistake: The world community fully recognizes the stakes. And that is why at the NATO Warsaw Summit in July, the United States and other donors pledged to continue supporting the country’s security needs through 2020. And I think everybody here at the table knows and understands that if this progress continues and we continue to see the possibility of Afghanistan free and whole and stable in the future, no nation, I think, will walk away.”
Kerry observed “since we joined forces 15 years ago, since 2001, maternal mortality in childbirth in Afghanistan has gone down by 75 percent. Average life expectancy has risen from 42 years to 62 years. Access to basic health care has skyrocketed from 9 percent to 67 percent. In 2001, there was only one television station and it was owned by the government. Now, there are 75 stations and all but two are privately owned. Back then, there were virtually no cell phones, zero. Today, there are 18 million cell phones covering about 90 percent of residential areas connecting Afghans to the world.
We know that Afghanistan is going to continue to develop socially and economically. We know the Afghan people are, broadly, committed to peace and security, and that is something that they have been denied for too long by a small group of armed insurgents.”