Change Visible but Security Problems Remain Challenging
Amid Afghanistan’s progress in politics and education, the United States of America today said the road to peace and stability remains challenging in the landlocked nation that was rocked by war in past years.
In her remarks in New York City, U.S. Deputy Representative Ambassador Afghanistan Michele J. Sison to the UN said the Afghan people are still threatened by the Taliban, international terrorists, other violent extremist groups and criminals.
“Afghanistan’s electoral system is in need of serious reform. Economic growth must be increased.” – Ambassador Sison
In addition, corruption and abuses of human rights continue to be matters of grave concern.
Gains Evident, but Need to Be Maintained
According to Ambassador Sison, it is clear that extraordinary gains continue to be made in Afghanistan. However, these gains must and will be maintained.
This effort was supported when it became the focus of a High-Level Event convened by Secretary Kerry, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, and Afghan Chief Executive Dr. Abdullah on the margins of the UN General Assembly meetings.
Also, Ambassador Sison highlighted that the international community must remain committed to complement advances made by the Afghan government and support a path to peace, stability, and economic growth across the region.
She explained that governance and development will remain the foundation for stability and progress in Afghanistan.
US Commitment to Afghanistan and Its People Endures
According to Ambassador Sison, the US government will continue to support President Ghani and the national unity government as they pursue critical reforms.
In fact, the US welcomes the appointment of new provincial governors, and encourage President Ghani to continue his work to combat corruption, strengthen institutions, complete reforms, and uphold the rule of law.
“On the economic front, the government has made it a priority to expand connectivity across the region, which we welcome.” – Ambassador Sison
To cite an example, there are numerous energy, trade, and infrastructure initiatives are underway, including the CASA-1000 electricity transmission line.
“As President Obama said last month, our commitment to Afghanistan and its people endures.” – Ambassador Sison
US On Military Mission In Afghanistan
According to Ambassador Sison, US forces remain engaged in two specific but critical missions – training, advising, and assisting Afghan forces; and conducting and supporting counterterrorism operations to ensure that Afghanistan will never again serve as a safe haven for terrorism.
The Ambassador cited that in 2016, the US government looks forward to working with the diverse coalition of Afghanistan’s friends and partners to chart the future of international security, economic, and political commitments to Afghanistan.
Two conferences, in Warsaw in July and in Brussels in October, will serve as the focal points for this engagement.
Gains In Upholding Girls’ and Women’s Rights
According to Ambassador Sison, Afghanistan has made significant progress in protecting and upholding the rights of girls and women.
Compared to before, when Afghan girls received little or no formal education, today, millions of girls sit in classrooms.
Ambassador Sison stressed that this progress matters, because access to education for girls has proven to be one of the most important measuring sticks for progress in any country.
“It matters as well that Afghan women, once confined to their homes, now serve as cabinet ministers, parliamentarians, judges, security officers, and business leaders.” – Ambassador Sison
She added that it is important that a whole new generation of Afghans is eager for the chance to move their country forward, to find a place in the global community and the global economy, and to innovate and to start new businesses that will create employment and prosperity for decades to come.
Afghanistan: Now and Then
Surveys say 76 percent of Afghans believe that they are economically better off today than they were under the Taliban.
Between 2002 and 2012, Afghanistan experienced a greater improvement in human development, a measure of health, education, and standard of living, than did any other country in the world, as measured by the UN Development Program.
With regards to education, literacy has increased from 12 percent in 2003 to 30 percent in 2012.
An estimated 900,000 boys were in school and virtually no girls in 2002. Now, there are 10.5 million students enrolled in school, nearly 40 percent of them girls.
In addition, the Afghan government and donors have built more than 4,000 schools and increased enrollment rates for school-aged children to nearly 50 percent since 2002.
Higher education has also boomed when student enrollment increased from 8,000 in 2001 to over 100,000 by 2012 in public universities and institutes of higher education.
According to a US State Department report, Afghanistan’s GDP has grown an estimated 9 percent annually since 2002. Overall, the economy has more than quadrupled over the last 12 years.
Exports also increased from approximately $69 million in 2002 to nearly $380 million in 2012.
In 2002, only 6 percent of Afghans had access to reliable electricity. Now, over 30 percent have access and more than 2 million people in Kabul now benefit from electric power 24 hours a day.
Since 2009, agricultural cultivation has grown by 236,000 hectares, creating 174,000 full time equivalent jobs.
US – Afghanistan Partnership
Both nations have worked together to set forth a long-term political, diplomatic, and security partnership, and it entered into force just a few days ago.
The US government sees this alliance as a powerful symbol of its commitment to Afghanistan’s future.
The United States also wants to continue to invest in doing what the Afghans believe they need.
The United States will continue to protect Afghanistan from any efforts by insurgents and outsiders to destabilize Afghanistan.
The US government supported previous President Karzai in his effort to have an Afghan-owned, Afghan-led reconciliation process.
In December 2011, the United States withdrew 10,000 U.S. troops from Afghanistan.
July 2011 marked the beginning of a responsible transition that aimed to see Afghan forces gradually taking the lead in securing their own country, by 2014.
As Afghan security forces moved into the lead, the United States continues to reduce its military footprint. The remaining U.S. troops are expected to leave Afghanistan by the end of 2016.
The U.S. government has made significant progress towards their goals.
The U.S. government says it is is redoubling its efforts to pursue a peaceful end to the conflict in the region.
The U.S. government has taken tangible steps to advance Afghan reconciliation and reintegration initiatives, including support to the Afghan High Peace Council and provincial police and reintegration councils.