Afghanistan is in the heart of Asia and remains the key to regional stability. Speaking at the recent “Heart of Asia” conference in Kabul, U.S. Deputy Secretary Bill Burns said, “It will be through deeper regional cooperation that Afghanistan can achieve increasing stability, security, and prosperity. And so along with many of our allies and partners, the United States is here to support the success of this process.”
The conference focused on seven confidence-building measures (CBMs): cooperation in the field of disaster management, enhanced cooperation in fighting terrorism and drug trafficking, enhanced cooperation among chambers of commerce, the improvement of trade and infrastructure, and broadening cooperation and exchanges in the field of education and science. These particular CBMs are pragmatic and well-balanced, focusing on complex issues that will require a step-by-step approach over the long-term, said Deputy Secretary Burns. “We welcome the commitments many countries have made here today to turn aspirations into action.”
The United States is willing and prepared to participate in all seven CBMs, offering our support and assistance in a way that makes sense for the region and is welcomed by the “Heart of Asia” countries. Underscoring the importance of the three economic CBMs, Deputy Secretary Burns said the United States will do its part to support governments that make the necessary, but often tough, decisions to pursue open markets and greater cross-border trade.
The United States looks forward to working with Afghanistan and the international community to build on the civilian security and development gains achieved so far. The U.S. will also support Afghanistan’s efforts to continue reforms, reduce donor dependency, and transition toward a private-investment driven, sustainable economy. It will require substantial effort from the Afghan government to achieve this vision, as it will require sustained levels of international and regional assistance.
Last July, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton spoke about a “New Silk Road vision,” with a secure, stable and prosperous Afghanistan at the heart of a secure, stable and prosperous region. By any name, this vision was shared by all conference participants: Central and South Asia reconnected along historical trade routes that were largely cut off due to war, mistrust, and enmity. In rebuilding these connections, the region is beginning to unlock its great untapped potential.