US optimistic on Afghanistan’s future
Saying that 2014 is a turning point for Afghanistan, the United States of America underscored its optimism on the country’s future as it consolidates its gains of the past decades.
In her remarks in Washington DC, Deputy Assistant Lynne M. Tracy says today’s Afghanistan is not the Afghanistan of the 1990s.
“Afghanistan is now connected to the rest of the world.” – Ms. Tracy
She reports many Afghan youth are in schools and on social media. Now, Afghans watch multiple TV stations from around the region and enjoy access to radio and cell phones as well.
The youth have opinions, and they are heard in public debate whether through Parliament, civil society, or social media, Ms. Tracy highlighted
A Decade Of Substantial Progress in Afghanistan
According to Ms. Tracy, Afghans are also now economically connected to their neighbors.
Afghanistan trades more with its regional neighbors than it does with the rest of the world, she added.
In addition, customs revenues are up and goods are moving across borders, and electricity is flowing from Central Asia to turn the lights on in Kabul. The vast majority of Afghans do not want to return to the chaos and turmoil of the 1990s. They have come too far, shed too much blood, and sacrificed too much to turn back now.
There are many reasons to be optimistic about the future.
According to Ms. Tracy, U.S. government are working so hard with our partners in the region to translate the New Silk road vision into concrete results.
“What we seek is an economically vibrant, inter-connected region, in which Afghanistan is a full partner.” – Ms. Tracy
She explains that the security and political challenges, the international community has to work on economic connectivity in parallel so that there are real links between Afghanistan and her neighbors that hold.
Amid the difficulty, the US is optimistic this can be achieved while remaining appropriately vigilant against the security threats emanating from terrorism, narcotics smuggling, and other forms of transnational crime.
“New Silk Road” A Guiding Principle
According to Ms. Tracy, the New Silk Road means physical connectivity, transport, communications, and energy infrastructure that links countries of the region together and links them with South Asia, East Asia, the Middle East, and Europe.
In addition, the New Silk Road means the practices, regulations, legislative bases, and international agreements in the areas of trade and transit that allow goods and services to flow efficiently from country to country across this infrastructure.
“The United States has invested significant resources and political capital in both of these components of the New Silk Road.” – Ms. Tracy
Ms. Tracy states that the US has made real progress in the past few years in these areas.
The US has made direct investments in infrastructure mostly in Afghanistan.
In fact, the United States has provided more than $2 billion for energy transmission lines, hydropower plants, and associated energy reforms in Afghanistan.
“We have built or rehabilitated more than 3,000 kilometers of roads, and have helped Afghanistan establish a National Rail Authority and develop a national rail plan.” -Ms. Tracy
In addition, the U.S. technical assistance, Afghanistan now has more than 4,000 kilometers in fiber optic cable.
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.