In a press conference with Afghan Foreign Minister Rangin Dadfar Spanta, U.S. Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte said, "We made significant progress over the last 7 years in Afghanistan."
In May 2005, President George W. Bush and Afghanistan's President Hamid Karzai established the U.S.-Afghanistan Strategic Partnership Dialogue as part of the wider U.S. effort to help Afghanistan's fledgling democracy safeguard its citizens and build effective governing institutions, confront corruption and narcotics trafficking, and rebuild the country after decades of conflict and years of oppressive Taliban rule.
Foreign Minister Spanta said that now Afghanistan has a newly elected government and thousands of kilometers of new roads, as well as health clinics, and a growing free press. A new generation of Afghan children is attending school, acquiring the knowledge and skills they will need to lead Afghanistan in the 21st century. Mr. Spanta said Afghanistan seeks to build a strong government based on human rights and the rule of law.
Deputy Secretary Negroponte said Afghanistan continues to face serious challenges, including drug trafficking, terrorism and the continued threat from militants launching attacks from strongholds along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border. "The strategic partnership plays a crucial role in helping us chart our way forward to confront them together," he said.
Mr. Negroponte said the war on terror is taking a toll on Afghan civilians. Closer cooperation is needed between the U.S., its coalition allies, and the Afghan government, to minimize civilian casualties. "United States forces take every precaution to avoid harming any Afghan civilian during military operations," he said. The Taliban and its al-Qaida terrorist allies, by contrast, murder and intimidate civilians and do their utmost put civilians at risk.
The United States has been the leading donor to Afghanistan's recovery, delivering more than 31 billion dollars in security, reconstruction, governance and humanitarian aid since 2001. These funds support the priorities identified by Afghan authorities in the Afghanistan Compact and the new, 5-year Afghanistan National Development Strategy introduced at the June 2008 International Conference in Support of Afghanistan.
The U.S., said Deputy Secretary Negroponte, is committed to "enhancing the long-term security, democracy and prosperity of Afghanistan."