Our core goal in Afghanistan is to disrupt, dismantle, and defeat Al Qaida and to prevent its return to Afghanistan.
As President Barack Obama has said, our core goal in Afghanistan is to disrupt, dismantle, and defeat Al Qaida and to prevent its return to Afghanistan. We also seek to render Al Qaida incapable of threatening America and our allies in the future. To do this, we seek to strengthen Afghanistan so that it can never again be a safe haven for international terrorism.
Thanks to the great progress that we have made with Afghanistan, NATO allies and ISAF partners, our combat mission will end and Afghan forces will take full lead for their security by the end of next year. We will not be patrolling villages and mountains, and the Afghans will rightly assert their full sovereignty, as the President stated.
We’ve already seen Afghan security forces increasing their reach and capabilities. In mid-June Afghan forces assumed the lead for security across Afghanistan and the NATO-led ISAF mission shifted from combat to a support role. This important milestone shows that our security transition strategy is on track. This is also the first time that the Afghan security forces have been in the lead during an entire fighting season, conducting practically all of the combat operations.
While security is important and necessary for Afghans to build a strong, stable, democratic and prosperous nation it is difficult to overstate the importance of a transparent, credible, unifying, and inclusive election next April. We welcome the appointment of commissioners to the Independent Electoral Complaints Commission and the Independent Election Commission. With these institutions in place and candidate registration underway, Afghanistan’s electoral process is off to a promising start. As Ambassador James Dobbins, America’s Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, has said, the United States is supporting the Afghan election process itself not any particular candidate or party.
In addition to these political and security transitions Afghanistan faces a long-term economic transition toward a private-sector led economy -- and that depends a great deal on regional integration. There is no escaping the simple fact that Afghanistan’s fortunes are tied to its neighborhood, just as the neighborhood’s fortunes are tied to Afghanistan. Afghanistan and its neighbors share many common threats that will require solutions developed and carried out by Afghanistan and its neighbors, and supported by the international community.
Like any country emerging from conflict, there will be challenges and the United States remains committed to Afghanistan. President Obama and President Hamid Karzai signed the Strategic Partnership Agreement in May 2012 formalizing an enduring relationship between our two countries. Over the past two years Afghanistan and its international partners, including the United States, have established a diplomatic framework of security, economic and political support for the next decade through agreements at the Bonn, Chicago and Tokyo conferences.
Afghanistan is facing significant transitions in the coming year and a half in the security, political and economic arenas but will not face these challenges alone.