At the Tokyo Conference on Afghanistan on July 8, the international community made clear its intent to support Afghanistan while recognizing that sustained financial support is only possible, and only responsible, if Afghanistan successfully implements its program of necessary governance and economic reforms and maintains a political system that reflects its pluralistic society.
In this context, the international community has pledged $16 billion in development aid for Afghanistan over the next four years. Speaking at the conference, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said, “Afghanistan’s security cannot only be measured by the absence of war. It has to be measured by whether people have jobs and economic opportunity, whether they believe their government is serving their needs, whether political reconciliation proceeds and succeeds.”
The United States welcomed Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s public commitment in Tokyo to fighting corruption, improving governance, strengthening the rule of law, and increasing access to economic opportunity for all Afghans, especially for women. As Secretary Clinton said, “No nation can achieve sustainable peace, reconciliation, stability, and economic growth if half the population is not empowered. All citizens need to have the chance to benefit from and contribute to Afghanistan’s progress, and the United States will continue to stand strongly by the women of Afghanistan.”
In addition to the international community, Afghanistan’s neighbors have an especially key role to play. The New Silk Road, or expanded regional trade, is critical to an economically thriving South and Central Asia. Nothing offers a more credible alternative to violence than an inclusive economy that offers jobs and opportunities under the rule of law. Increasing regional trade will open up new sources of raw materials, energy, and agricultural products, not just for Afghanistan but for all nations in the region.
The last essential element of a successful economic transition is the private sector. It is the key to driving growth, creating jobs, and supporting the kind of reform that needs to be sustainable. “We look to the Afghan government,” said Secretary Clinton, “to follow through on their reform commitments, and we look to the international community to do what we can to draw business and investment to Afghanistan.”
“The future,” said Secretary Clinton, “has got to be what the Afghan people have forged for themselves, and we need to make sure that we do everything to make that a reality.”