To download President Ghani’s remarks click here.
February 28, 2017
In the Name of God, the Passionate, the Merciful
Vice President Kalla [of Indenesia], thank you for honoring us;
Ustad Khalili, Chief Justice Halim, Muslimyar Sahib, the First Lady, distinguished guests, government colleagues, fellow citizens:
Welcome to Kabul. On behalf of the people of Afghanistan and the Government of National Unity, it is my honor to thank you for your empathy, friendship, and sympathy for our losses and suffering, and also for your solidarity and partnership as we stood to recover and forge a path ahead as a nation.
Your presence here is a visible reminder that we are an international community united not only by shared threats, but shared interests and shared opportunities. We stand determined to overcome those threats, expand our shared interests and grasp those opportunities.
The threat of our times is the Fifth Wave of Political Violence and Terrorism. The enemies we face are Transnational Terrorist Networks and Transnational Criminal Organizations. The threat is not only clear and present, but also increasing and without boundaries.
We, the international community, have analyzed the scale and scope of the threat, and we have drafted numerous UN resolutions and agreements to address the threat, but we have yet to develop a full consensus on taking coordinated action among states to counter this threat. We must have consensus on how to implement the UN strategy to counter global terrorism; we must develop a system to classify international terrorist networks and organizations; and we must develop criteria for dealing with states who rely on terrorist networks as instruments of foreign policy.
Having dealt with the topic of threats last year, I will leave the discussion of counter-terrorism to be discussed by our able national security advisor, Minister Atmar.
Today, I will devote my remarks to articulating a perspective, vision might be too grander word, to own the future and overcome the recent past through an agenda of hope, peace and cooperation.
But first, I want to pay tribute to those who are not here in this hall today; to those who have contributed to this fight against terrorism with their very lives. They are innocent Afghan children, women and men who have been murdered in terrorist attacks; they are our heroic Afghan national defense and security forces who sacrificed their lives for the future of their countrymen and women; they are our international partners who have fallen fighting side by side with us. They are not just numbers—they were valued members of our society and societies around this table, cherished loved ones and family members, and our brothers and sisters and friends. May they rest in peace, and may they be at the forefront of our thoughts over the course of this conference so that our efforts here may do justice to their sacrifice. Please join me in a moment of silence in their honor and memory.
[ONE MINUTE OF SILENCE]
In this age of virtual connectivity, it is easy to forget the centrality of Afghanistan’s location in shaping global history. One of the great scholars on Central Asia, Dr. Frederick Starr, is one of many who has written on the topic. I would like to share some facts here as a reminder, not because we have nostalgia for the past, but because it allows us to see the possibilities of the future:
- Afghanistan and Central Asia have the unique distinction that “all the great civilizations on the Eurasian landmass are accessible from Central Asia, and those same civilizations are accessible to one another by land only through Central Asia.”
- Insulated and protected by a natural barrier on the north-east and north, it has been Afghanistan “that has ever held the landward gates of the Indian subcontinent, allowing the flow of artists, merchants, pilgrims, scholars and soldiers of fortune from the north and west eastwards.”
- Over 2,500 years of history and archeology shows that we functioned not merely as a crossroad of civilizations but, indeed, as a cross-road civilization. The Asian roundabout, where ideas, people, and goods have freely flown and interacted, is another way to describe our place in history, as well as our future potential.
Contrary to the caricature of the land of “endless conflict”, our history is one of long periods of peace and prosperity, punctuated by foreign invasions and subsequent rebuilding. Both in the 19th and 20th centuries, our lives were ruptured by unwarranted and sudden imperial invasions. We earned our right as a nation at the crucible of history through immense sacrifice.
We are a people united by cross-cutting ties. Our identities are situational, ranging from the village and neighborhood to the national level. Our unity is rooted in our strong sense of equality and deep and abiding belief in justice and fair play. Every Afghan, regardless of the name group to which he or she belongs, feels equal to another. We will stand patiently in a line for hours but if one person is shifted to the front, we raise our voices to demand an explanation. This sense of equality is rooted in our past, as every major city and named group has served as a capital of an empire or leaders of empires or states in the past. Our sense of justice in derived from our Islamic faith, culture and civilization. As a 99.9% Muslim country, our faith has always united us in the face of adversities and allowed us to overcome the seemingly impossible.
I spent my childhood and youth in an environment of peace and security.
During that time, a single unarmed constable had the authority to summon all the elders of a village to the district headquarter; the King’s estates and farms were open to the public and he walked around with a single armed guard; President Daud drove himself, followed by a single vehicle at a distance of 2Km.
The First Lady and I – we got married in 1975 – walked for days in Badakhshan; rode horses for a week from Andarab to Panjsher; drove in numerous times through Ghazni, Paktyka, Paktia, Khost, Logar, Laghman, Nangarhar, Kunar, Nuristan, Bamian, Balkh, Baghlan, Kunduz and other cities and villages repeatedly during all hours of day and night. Hundreds of thousands of tourists travelled in complete safety by land from Iran on the great trail—tourist trail— to Pakistan, India, and Nepal. During Pakistan’s wars of 1965 and 1971, the King chose peace over conflict. We have not threatened our neighbors, nor allowed others to use our country to threaten the stability of others.
Women and girls, as you will see from this booklet, it is a 1960s booklet [the president is showing a book let to the participants] played a vital role in the fabric of society and an increasingly important role in the public sphere. They have worked hard to regain that role over the last 17 years and they have succeeded.
These very ordinary vignettes of peaceful life are ones you may take for granted each day in your home countries. But I recount them here as important examples of exactly what we strive for. Ordinary has escaped us, but it is what we desperately want.
The peace of my childhood and youth was shattered by the coup of 1978 and the invasion of 1979.
Our memory of peace, however, is what drives our current vision of peace and security. We are confident that we can, once again, resume our place as an Asian Roundabout. Great regional successes, such as the TAPI pipeline which we inaugurated in Herat last week, are proof of the leadership role Afghanistan is playing in regional and global prosperity and stability.
If we did not have the confidence and assurance that a peaceful and stable future is within our grasp, we might have lost the will to forge ahead in the face of such brutality that is being waged against our people.
How do we persist? Permit to shift to Dari and Pashtu.
As I reminded, one of the deep-rooted characteristics of the Afghan society is the ability to recover, regenerate and stand on its feet. Afghanistan is recovering the previous traumas of the four-decade calamitous conflicts; and Thanks God, sense of trust, unity and sympathy is being strengthened among Afghans by passing every day.
During the four days I spent in Herat, in addition to inaugurating TAPI project, I met with thousands of representatives from different strata of five provinces.
The perspective I got from these five provinces speaks for the entire Afghanistan. This perspective indicates uniformity and similarity of the Afghan society even in terms of problems, challenges, needs and ambitions.
Inaugurations of the TAPI project on the west of Afghanistan that resulted in the largest celebration on the east of Afghanistan shows the unity, sense of being compatriot and shared commitment of the Afghan people towards the national and regional prosperity.
Fortunately, Afghanistan geographic location highlights both important role of Afghanistan as the key to the regional prosperity and strengthens the fabric of the Afghan society through creation of nationwide opportunities for all Afghans.
In the past, some people believed that Afghanistan is an isolated and landlocked country requiring others assistance forever, but fortunately, new regional projects has turned the very location of Afghanistan, deemed to be a challenge, into a golden opportunity.
Here, I would like to thank the governments of Turkmenistan and Central Asian states that preferred this historical transformation to continuation of isolation status and extended the hand of cooperation to us. I also extend gratitude to our neighbor, Uzbekistan, for its extensive cooperation in significant projects such as railway and power transmission.
I am grateful to our friend countries Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan, Russia, Georgia and Turkey for their cooperation in transit areas.
Also, I acknowledge Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan and Pakistan for extending their cooperation in CASA-1000 project. Our economic ties with China and Russia are expanding and will expand further.
I express gratitude to our friends India and Iran for implementing the vital project of Chabahar.
I also thank India and Pakistan for taking part in large economic project of TAPI.
I hope that TAPI would turn to an illustration of cooperation between our southern, eastern, northern and western neighbors. We are honored that our northern neighbors are focusing on the south, and our eastern and western neighbors to the north and east.
Afghanistan is demographically changing. Youth constitute the absolute majority of our society and they are obviously our human force; it is clear that human force and production of a country ensure its social welfare. The concepts that youth have conceived and presented in different areas such as social, cultural are commendable.
Afghan women speak for themselves with an expressive voice and have important words for the government as well as people in the region and the world.
Another example of positive changes in our economic society is shifting the tendency of our traders from import to production, process and export. Of course, enhancement of production is one of the main factors of social and economic welfare in a country.
Fortunately, in spite of suffering countless pains, sense of confidence and self-reliance is at the high level among the majority of the Afghan people.
During the last three years, we witnessed that when news is spread over several millions of dollars increase in foreign aids to Afghanistan, it has been appreciated, but when an economic project worth several million dollars has been inaugurated in a part of Afghanistan, people in all corners of Afghanistan have celebrated that.
Strictness over implementing the rule of law as well as bringing reforms and supporting it are among the issues frequently raised by people of the five western and southern provinces of the country, with whom I met.
People across Afghanistan asked their Government of National Unity to establish multifaceted reforms with a unified and expressive voice, and we have no way, but to submit to this legitimate and frequent ambition of the people of Afghanistan.
Afghanistan is a democratic society, and commitment for transparent holding of parliamentary and presidential elections is one of the other crucial demands of the Afghan people, and the government of Afghanistan is determined to fulfill this commitment and to hold both elections on a timely manner.
Peace is a religious and national obligation because the prevention of innocent humans’ bloodshed is a religious and national obligation. The other day one of our elite scholars pointed out in his speech in Herat that as the prayer and fasting are obligations, peace is also considered as an obligation.
Fortunately, for the raising and implementing this obligation all Afghan sides, the government and the High Peace Council have reached to a joint consensus. This consensus relies upon protections of rights of all citizens including women and leaders from all strata, political and Jihadi leaders and participation of ethnicities. Today, I speak based on the conclusive consensus emerged in Afghanistan.
Our perspective in regards to peace is based on the 34th verse of 41st surah of Quran which states: “And not equal are the good deed and the bad. Repel [evil] by that [deed] which is better; and thereupon the one whom between you and him is enmity [will become] as though he was a devoted friend”.
We believe that the realization of peace requires tolerance and courage. We should be tolerant and courageous to listen to complaints and various recommendations in regards to seeking the roots of war. Luckily, today the means of peace are stronger than any other time.
First; the most significant point for having hope for peace is that Afghans strongly support peace and no one is the supporter of war here. Peace deal with Hezbi Islami was a successful experience which at least proved our commitment and will towards peace.
Second; at the global level the emphasis on peace talks will eventually influence on will and behavior of war supporters.
Third; on the regional level, consensus among people and region has been emerged for the importance of Afghanistan’s peace and stability for the purpose of bringing economic stability.
Fourth; most importantly at the global level is the emergence of mobilization among religious scholars against extremism which has denounced the religious legitimation of war and violence.
In such a sensitive time, where Afghans have single voice for the importance of peace, both region and world support peace, religious scholars consider peace as an obligation, the people of the region raise their voice for peace, and the successful experience of peace deal with Hezbi Islami has presented a successful practical example, the important question is, what is next step to take?
Offering Peace talks to Taliban
Prior to anything else, on behalf of the National Unity Government (NUG) we have presented a peace deal which guards the supreme interests of the country, protects every citizen’s, particularly women’s, rights and participation, and guarantees the prevention of global terrorism and criminal organizations from entering into the country’s soil.
The NUG seeks to strike a truthful and sustainable peace deal with conciliatory Taliban. We believe on peaceful and dignified life based on equality for all Afghans and those Taliban who refrain from violence. We propose the following items for reaching peace agreement without prior conditions and constraints.
- To ensure the rights and obligations of all citizens particularly women in accordance with the Constitution;
- To accept the Constitution and to amend it in accordance with its provisions;
- To carry out the activities of civil services, and defense and security forces in accordance with law;
- No armed groups together with foreign terrorist organizations will be permitted to seek infiltration in Afghanistan.
The NUG offers this recommendation to Taliban without prior condition and constraint.
The peace process will be carried out in three phases of talks, approval and implementation, in all these phases, women representatives will have participation and consultation will be held with them.
For such peace deal we propose following means:
- To lay out political framework for peace: ceasefire should be implemented, Taliban are recognized as a political party, trust building arrangements needs to be carried out and pave way for free and fair elections;
- To lay out legal framework for peace and in the case of demand review the Constitution through foreseen lawful process, and pursue legal means for release of prisoners and removal from sanction list;
- To officially recognize the state of Afghanistan, respect the rule of law, pave the path for reforms and arrangements should be taken into consideration for balanced development and repatriation of refugees;
- To take security measures for all citizens and reconciliatory Taliban;
- To implement programs for economic and social development, and provide space for the participation of refuges and ex-fighters in national program;
- To achieve global support and cooperation for peace, especially in regards to obtaining diplomatic financial support, deciding on foreign insurgents’ fate and removing from the black lists those Afghans who want peace negotiation;
- To set urgent, mid-term and long-term goals through a comprehensive implementation framework, therefore, in all these areas an effective mechanism appears for the supervision and assessment of progress.
The Taliban’s opinions and suggestion will definitely be taken into consideration, and, God willing, we will reach upon an agreement established upon an accepted agenda for negotiations and approve and implement it accordingly.
Recommendations for Achieving International Support
Since 2001, Afghanistan receives generous aids and we should appreciate them.
As the existing commitments are arranged through defined mechanisms in appropriate manner, we propose the international support for peace and stability in the following areas:
- To support international diplomatic coordination for the peace offer with the Taliban;
- To support the regional innovation for coordinating the endeavors of regional organizations and various countries with Kabul Process, and the peace offer with Taliban;
- To carry out serious talks with the Islamic world leadership to counter the usage of religious text interpretations for the purpose of justifying undefined wars.
- To initiate state-to-state negotiations for convincing Pakistan in regards to the privileges and benefits of a stable Afghanistan, and to pursue joint and coordination efforts to support peace offer with the Taliban;
- To support the implementation of peace agreement particularly the integration of refugees and ex-fighters;
To back any kind of innovation for ensuring peace in Afghanistan, and also to support 2018 parliamentary and 2019 presidential elections through transit, investment, trade, reforms, anti-corruption strategy.
The NUG agrees upon opening office for Taliban, providing them with passports and traveling freely, cooperating in lifting sanctions, providing them with access to media and the resettlement of Taliban’s families.
The High Peace Council, having support from professional government team, will introduce a delegation for negotiation that will include women and members of civil societies.
Kabul is considered the best location for holding talks, but also in any uninvolved Islamic countries, UN office or any other third country peace negotiation can be carried out.
Once again, we are prepared for comprehensive peace talks with Pakistan and ready for forgetting past bitter experiences and opening new chapter.
We stand ready to reach an agreement with Pakistan to devise a well-defined plan on repatriation of the Afghan refugees which expect to be implemented within 18 – 24 months. We want our refugees to repatriate their homeland, and we are committed to arranging all government and national facilities so that the returnees can again embrace their brothers and sisters in their own homeland.
We feel deep sense of responsibility for the hardship of our people and have bright prospect regarding our country, and our commitment towards peace is based on the very prospect and deep sense of responsibility
This stance of the NUG should not be interpreted as weakness and supplication. Praise to God, our trust on security forces and nation’s hope for future is stronger than ever.
Once again I appreciate our security forces, soldiers, respected scholars and people for their support and blessing that we ask for peace for Afghanistan from a strong stance.
To the Taliban leadership, and to every Talib member:
Today, it is up to you to decide. Accept peace; accept it with honor; let’s get together and restore peace and prosperity to our land which is existing as a result of our sacrifices, our Jihad and our blood.
Long Live Afghanistan.
May our hope for peace come true!