At Years End, Afghan and US Officials Review Progress in the Afghan-US Partnership

January 3, 2018

On December 26, 2017 at the Presidential Palace in Kabul, the President of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan Ashraf Ghani chaired the third meeting of the Executive Committee to review progress achieved in the Afghan-US partnership. American Ambassador to Afghanistan John Bass, along with General John Nicholson, commander of Resolute Support forces in Afghanistan, headed the US representation at the meeting.

“This is a double-compact, for our citizens and our foundational partner. Both sides of our partnership own it. The goal for Afghanistan is to bring irreversible change,” President Ashraf Ghani said in the meeting.

The four subcommittee chairs, covering security, peace, governance, and the economy, presented their progress reports in the meeting. All committees had achieved between 95 and 100 % of milestones set out in the Afghan-US Compact. The Compact lays the framework for the Afghan-US partnership moving forward since President Trump announced the new South Asian strategy in August 2017.

“The aim of the Afghan-US compact is consistent and in-line with President Trump’s new Afghanistan and South Asia strategy,” said Minister Hanif Atmar, Afghanistan’s National Security Advisor, in his opening remarks. “The US policy is to make the Afghan security forces stronger. As President Trump stated, ‘we want the Afghan security forces to succeed.’”

With the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF) now on the offensive across the country, security sector reforms are well underway. The Four-Year Security plan is being implemented to increase capability and capacity of the security forces, chart a path to self-sufficiency, and ensure forces are well-equipped. Focus has also been dedicated to eliminating corruption from the procurement process in the Ministries of Interior and Defense, to ensure that troops on the frontline receive quality weapons and food. More information on reforms underway in the Ministry of Interior can be found here.

The transfer of the Afghan National Civil Order Police (ANCOP) and the Border Guards from the Ministry of Interior to the Ministry of Defense was also completed, which will allow the Ministry of Interior to focus solely on its core function of rule of law, and allow the border control forces to receive the proper and training and equipment they need to effectively undertake counter-narcotics and counter-terrorism activities.

Increasing the number in the Air Force and Special Forces is well underway. The Special Forces unit has now been upgraded to an Army corps, and the Air Force has received the first batch of Black Hawk helicopters. Afghan pilots are being trained to operate the Black Hawks.  These are important steps in ensuring Afghan troops are able to maintain an offensive stance across the country.

The Peace subcommittee reported the completion of the new Peace and Reconciliation in Afghanistan (PRA) Strategic Plan to advance an effective national peace process over the next two years. A national consultation process is underway with stakeholders across the country. The High Peace Council appointed new members, including women, to all 34 provincial peace committees.

The Governance and Anti-Corruption Committee reported that the Afghanistan National Strategy for Combatting Corruption was finalized and is being implemented, and the High Council for the Rule of Law is established and meeting regularly. The prosecution of high-level corruption cases continues to be carried out via the newly established Anti-Corruption Justice Center.

One of the top achievements of the Economic Committee this review period was the opening of the second air corridor for trade between Afghanistan and India, vastly increasing the export of fruits and other products to India. Other milestones included the implementation of multiple legal and regulatory reforms which lower the cost of business and simplify business initiatives in the country; for example, visas are available on arrival at the airport now for business travelers. The Lapis Lazuli agreement was signed by five countries, paving the way for Afghanistan to export goods to Europe.  In December, President Ghani traveled to Badghis province to inaugurate the construction to complete the national ring road project, which has been unfinished for years. Further achievements included revenue collection, which surpassed expectations by 10%, largely due to the government’s efforts to cut corruption and increase transparency.

Ambassador Bass and General Nicholson thanked the committees and commended them on the “impressive progress.”

President Ghani closed the meeting by thanking the stakeholders present, but warned against distraction from the progress that has been made over the past few months. He encouraged the stakeholders to remain focused in the year ahead, and keep service-delivery to the Afghan people at the heart of government.

“There are challenging tasks ahead, and the current progress should not distract us. The centrality of 2018 needs to be recognized.  Short-term politics will not distract us from long-term reforms. I and Dr. Abdullah are committed to working hard to make positive changes in the lives of our people, who deserve it.”

President Ghani also looked forward to upcoming infrastructure projects, specifically mentioning the impending launch of the North-South Corridor road project from Yakawlang to Dara e Soof. “Upon completion of this project, the central regions will be freed from geographic isolation,” the President said. “We will see changes that will have a direct impact on peoples’ lives.”

In the month ahead, the committees will focus on preparing for the upcoming elections. President Ghani will be the first to receive his electronic national identification card to inaugurate the roll-out of the program nationally, an important step in ensuring opportunities for fraud are eliminated in the upcoming elections.

This was the third meeting held since the Compact was established in August 2017. The Afghan Minister of Economy, and Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs were also in attendance at the meeting, as well as senior officials from the US Embassy and USAID.