Afghanistan heading in the right direction, finally!
Amid threats that the Taliban will sabotage the historic Afghan poll, the turnout for the presidential election made headlines as it turned out to be peaceful and orderly.
According to media reports, seven million went to the polling stations to cast their votes.
It will take six weeks for final results to be disclosed considering the country’s rugged terrain.
The election will pave the way to the first-ever democratic transfer of power in a country engulfed by insecurity and war.
US Congratulates The Afghan People For Peaceful Election
In Washington, Secretary of State John Kerry congratulated the Afghan people on the elections.
“Millions of Afghan men and women took to the polls today with courage and commitment.” – Secretary Kerry
He pointed out that the Afghan people secured the election and it demonstrates how committed the Afghan people are to protecting and advancing their democracy.
He added that the United States remains ready to work with the next president of Afghanistan.
“We will continue to stand with the people of Afghanistan as they work to build a democratic future.” – Secretary Kerry
US Committed To Help Afghanistan On Its Transition To A Democratic Country
The US has spent $90 billion in aid and security training to overthrow the Islamist Taliban regime in 2001.
Asserting that the election of a new president will pave the way to become a more stable and secure country, the United States announced it will provide nearly $100 million to facilitate the April elections through a variety of programs, including monitoring and observation in the Middle East country.
Ensuring credible elections, the US has emphasized that it strongly supports the democratic process, but that it neither favors nor opposes any particular candidate.
To address the monitoring challenges of the election, more than 12,000 Afghan observers are expected to have a role in verifying the integrity of the process.
Credible Elections Pave The Way To Democratic Progress
The US says credible, transparent, and inclusive elections will pave the way to democratic progress in Afghanistan.
A successful transfer of presidential power, following the democratic elections, will solidify the gains made over the past 12 years and contribute much to the country’s future development and stability.
Elections Can Make A Difference
According to a recent survey, 77 percent of Afghans believe that the upcoming elections can make a difference to their lives.
It may seem that Afghans may be divided by ethnicity, language and religion, but a majority of them don’t seem to be experiencing gridlock.
In addition, the current presidential campaign is surfacing more agreement than discord on all the major issues facing Afghanistan.
Afghanistan: Now and Then
A survey says 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.
Economy Is Booming
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 Helps Afghanistan manage its three transitions: security, political, economic
Afghanistan is managing three very significant transitions: a security transition, a political transition, and an economic transition.
The US also supports the Afghan-led peace process, recognizing that the reconciliation is the best way to try to provide the surest end to violence and to secure a unified and a sovereign Afghanistan.
The US government continues to join with President Karzai in calling on the Taliban to join a political process, to renounce the violence and join in a political process.
Afghanistan moving closer to self-governing, to self-determination, self-relianceUS reports that while fewer women are dying in childbirth, more of them have been elected to parliament, and more of their children, especially their daughters, are going to school.
Many more Afghans are connected through the air and on the ground, with access to technologies like cell phones rising.
And more roads have been built in the past 10 years than in the entire previous history of Afghanistan.
US emphasizes that there’s a lot of work yet to do, but with each of these steps, Afghanistan is moving closer to self-governing, to self-determination, self-reliance.
Afghanistan to Take Full Responsibility for Its Security By 2014
For the past decade, tens of billions of dollars in security-related spending have fueled consumption and economic growth in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Central Asia.
Since last November 2012, seven provinces and municipalities have already begun transition.
US Pledges Long-Term Military Commitment
The US is negotiating a Strategic Partnership agreement that signals a long-term civil-military commitment.
The US knows the cost of neglecting Afghanistan as well, and says it will continue to support the sovereign rights of the people of Afghanistan.
US and Afghanistan PartnershipBoth 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 has supported 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 will see Afghan forces gradually taking the lead in securing their own country.
By 2014, the process of transition will be complete, and the Afghan people will be responsible for their own security.
The Afghan security forces move into the lead, the United States continues to reduce its military footprint. Its mission will change from combat to support. The remaining 23,000 “surge” troops in December 2009 will leave Afghanistan by the end of summer 2012.
The U.S. government has made significant progress towards their goals as well.
Reports say the U.S. government 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.