Afghanistan optimistic about its own future
Amid uncertainty in its security transition, speculations started to made headlines if Afghanistan is heading in the right direction.
In his keynote address at ASAP-USIP-VOA Conference on “Getting Beyond Afghanistan in 2014,” Special Representative James F. Dobbins said Afghanistan is heading in the right direction and its political transition continues to move forward on schedule amid uncertainties clouding the country’s security transition.
Afghans ready for elections?
According to Mr. Dobbins, Afghans are heading toward the polls at a time of rising incomes, rising longevity, rising literacy, rising mobility, rising political engagement, and, of course, also rising uncertainty about the future.
Despite uncertainty about the security transition and the continued international commitment, Mr. Dobbins highlighted that recent polling shows that most Afghans are more optimistic about their future than are most American or other outside observers.
He pointed out that Afghans tend to be more optimistic now about their future than most Americans.
In addition, most recent poll finds that 67 percent of Afghans believe their country is headed in the right direction, as opposed to the only 33 percent of Americans who hold a similar view about their own country.
Elections can make a difference
According to recent survey, 77 percent of Afghans believe that the upcoming elections can make a difference to their lives.
It may seem fghans may be divided by ethnicity, language and religion, but majority of them don’t seem to be experiencing grid lock.
In addition, the current presidential campaign is surfacing more agreement than discord on all the major issues facing Afghanistan.
Afghanistan: Now and Then
Survey say 76 percent of Afghans believe that they are economically better off today than they were under the Taliban.
Mr. Dobbins affirms that 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 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, licit 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 Afghanista.
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 Expected 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 for long-term military commitmentUS is negotiating a Strategic Partnership agreement that signals our long-term civil-military commitment.
US knows the cost of neglecting Afghanistan as well. The US will continue to support the sovereign rights of the people of Afghanistan.
US and 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 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.