On September 6, Minister Counselor and Chargé d’Affaires, Ms. Madina Qasimi, joined by Embassy staff hosted a reception marking the 99th Anniversary of the Restoration of Independence of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan. Among the distinguished speakers were the Department of State’s Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs-Deputy Assistant Secretary H.E. Ambassador Henry S. Ensher, Congressman Jim Banks, and Ms. Lael Mohib.
Minister Counselor and Chargé d’Affaires Ms. Qasimi gave opening remarks and requested a moment of silence to remember the innocent victims of the recent tragic incidents in Afghanistan. In her remarks, she stated that “it is important to acknowledge that somewhere someone in our country is sacrificing everything to protect our sovereignty so the rest of us can live with our freedoms and rights secured”. Ms. Qasimi expressed the country’s appreciation with the international community, especially the United States, who have worked endlessly to support Afghanistan in the rebuilding of the nation. She also spoke about some of the government’s achievements including the millions of children that are in school and the number of women that are lawmakers, judges, ministers, and diplomats. Ms. Madina Qasimi stated that Afghanistan has one of the most thriving civil societies and the most independent media in the region. She mentioned the 13 journalists who died this year, “upholding the pillar of our society that very much strengthens our democracy- a free press.” Minister Counselor Ms. Qasimi concluded her remarks stating that ideas such as freedom, equality, and preservation of human rights have taken root in the Afghan society and that the government is committed to building a new Afghanistan.
Ms. Lael Mohib delivered a message from National Security Advisor and former Ambassador to the US, Dr. Hamdullah Mohib. In NSA Mohib’s remarks, he stated that his priorities are to bring safety and security to the Afghan people and to oversee critical reforms and the implementation of accountability measures within the security sector. When speaking of his time as an Ambassador, Dr. Mohib mentioned in the letter, “one of the highlights of my tenue has been traveling around this beautiful country and meeting with its many Afghan diaspora communities, whose members are making such important contributions in both their adopted homeland and their motherland”. He added, “it has also been an immense honor to befriend so many American veterans who fought shoulder to shoulder with our brave Afghan National Defense and Security Forces against terrorism and for freedom”. NSA Dr. Mohib said he is part of a generation of young leaders who were born and raised in war and, “as a result, we view war not as an expression of ideology righteousness, or a source of endless profit, but as an illness that has afflicted our society, our economy, and our social fabric”. He assured the guests that America has a partner with a shared mission, values, and principles with his generation and those to follow.
In the Department of State’s Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs- Deputy Assistant Secretary remarks, H.E. Ambassador Henry S. Ensher stated that the Department of State is committed to supporting Afghanistan in the peace process. Ambassador Ensher said that he “looks forward to better days to come”. Congressman Jim Banks also spoke about the international resolve to see a stable and free Afghanistan. He said that the ceasefire in June showed the world a glimpsed of what peace looks like. Congressman Banks stated that the United States Congress appreciated President Ashraf Ghani’s leadership.
The remarks were followed by the cutting of the celebratory national day cake.
Read Ms. Madina Qasimi’s full speech at the event.
“H.E. Ambassador Ensher, Honorable Congressman Banks, Congressman Suozzi, Your Excellency Ambassadors, Dear Afghan brothers and sisters, distinguished guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,”
Good evening and welcome to the Embassy of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan.
We are celebrating our independence day, while we have lost several innocent people in Afghanistan yesterday. To remember the innocent victims of all recent tragic incidents in Afghanistan and pay tribute to them, please join me in a moment of silence.
Today we are gathered to celebrate the 99th restoration of independence of Afghanistan’s sovereignty. Thank you for joining us on this special occasion.
As we speak, it is important to acknowledge that somewhere someone in our country is sacrificing everything to protect our sovereignty so the rest of us can live with our freedoms and rights secured. Afghans have made sacrifices throughout our history in order to maintain our national sovereignty and territorial integrity. Freedom, respect, and patriotism are pillars of the society and culture of our homeland, and we will continue that legacy to achieve a peaceful future.
99 years ago, King Amanullah, a progressive monarch, restored Afghanistan’s control of its foreign policy from the British Empire and initiated an intensive reform program that changed the course of history for Afghanistan. He believed that to achieve real independence, Afghanistan had to join other developed nations around the globe and become fully integrated into the international community. His reforms were the difference between isolation and independence. He started to pave the way for the integration of Afghanistan into the international community and sought development and prosperity for Afghanistan.
99 years later—and our path to development and reform was waylaid tragically by 40 years of war, but our persistence, resilience, and determination have never faltered. Over the past 17 years, with the assistance of the international community and especially the United States, we have worked hard to rebuild. We celebrate our achievements and are proud of our partnership with the international community and the US, while also striving to become a more self-reliant nation.
Here, I would like to take the opportunity to pay tribute to one of Afghanistan’s greatest friends and partners, the late Senator John McCain. America lost a national hero, and Afghanistan lost one of its closest friends and allies. We will always remember and be grateful for his tireless efforts. May he rest in peace.
Despite continuous challenges and hardships, we are constantly moving forward, always re-defining progress and setting the bar higher, as a government but also as a society.
King Amanullah once famously said, “Pick up a pen instead of a gun, for an illiterate nation cannot be free.” Today, millions of children are in school, about 40% are girls. Today women are lawmakers, judges, ministers, and diplomats when not long ago many believed it was not possible.
We are a nation who has contributed hugely to the global war to combat terrorism, and we know we are not alone in this struggle. Over the past year, our brave Afghan National Defense and Security Forces have led the fight against terrorism and militant groups since 2014, and have performed to higher standards than most expected in defending our territory and our people
Today, we should celebrate the resilience of our fellow Afghans and Afghanistan’s National Defense Security Forces and honor their persistence and resolution to achieve a just and permanent peace. Our people, with utmost patience and in the face of threats and intimidation by terrorists, are our greatest allies in the pursuit of peace. Today due to the government’s exceptional efforts to reach out to the Taliban and to create conditions for peace talks, our hopes for peace are higher than ever before and we have made progress in this pursuit. Earlier this year, during Eid Al Fitr, a successful ceasefire, initiated by President Ashraf Ghani, took place across Afghanistan, which showed our consensus on peace.
By highlighting the positive outcomes of the South Asia Policy of the U.S in making the recent progress in Afghanistan, I should convey that Afghans are very grateful for the generosity of those friends who have helped us to develop our young democracy. We do not take for granted our right to vote, and it is a central part of our democracy that the government is committed to upholding.
In the coming October of this year, Afghans will go to the polls to vote for a new Parliament. And in April 2019, we will vote in the presidential elections.
Afghanistan today has one of the most thriving civil society and the most independent media in the region. We have built our democracy at the price of our blood, and we do not take it for granted. Just this year, we have lost 13 journalists who died upholding the pillar of our society that very much strengthens our democracy—a free press. Yesterday, we lost two more journalists in a terrorist attack. We remember their sacrifice and we honor them.
One day, hostilities will end and peace will return to Afghanistan. However, the post-conflict Afghanistan will be a very different country from that of ten years or even five years ago. We have gone past the point of no return in many regards. Ideas such as freedom, equality, and preservation of human rights have taken root in the Afghan society. We are committed to building this new Afghanistan.
Here I would like to thank all the ambassadors and diplomats present, representing countries who have contributed so much to Afghanistan in donor support and troops toward our shared security and development objectives. I would also like to extend a special thanks to all active military, veterans and Gold Star families who served or who had family members who served in Afghanistan.
Thank you all for joining us this evening, and please enjoy your evening.”