It is an honor and privilege to be here today representing my government at this important dialogue, the inaugural meeting of the Kabul process.
I want to begin by offering deepest condolences to the victims and the families of the violence in Kabul in recent days. These events are a sad reminder of the unacceptable toll that the conflict continues to take on innocent Afghans. The May 31 bombing also shows an effort to drive a wedge between the Afghan government and people and Afghanistan’s international partners.
We will not be shaken in our resolve to pursue and achieve peace in Afghanistan. All Afghans deserve to live in security and we will redouble our efforts to bring an end to the bloodshed.
I come to this conference with three main messages.
First, many of you know that the United States is engaged in a review of our policy toward Afghanistan. It is right and proper that the U.S. government, and in particular a new Presidential Administration, should take time and invest serious effort in making sure that we are carrying forward our commitment to Afghanistan in the most effective way possible. This is not a cause for uncertainty. The fact is that the United States remains wholly engaged in Afghanistan including by:
- supporting the development of the Afghan security forces;
- continuing the generous provision of civilian assistance, as evidenced by our President’s recent budget request to our Congress;
- doing our part diplomatically to strengthen the international and regional consensus; and
- working to advance an Afghan peace process.
Second, there can be no enduring peace and stability in Afghanistan without Afghanistan’s neighbors and near neighbors being committed to that goal. This requires, on the one hand, supporting the Afghan government, but just as important, on the other hand, denying the Taliban access to resources and freedom of movement that enables the insurgency, and taking all possible steps to make clear to the Taliban the necessity of entering into peace talks with the Afghan government.
My third message is that the United States is unquestionably committed to the goal of a political settlement of the conflict. Although that must be an Afghan-owned process, we recognize the role that the United States must play to help a peace process become a reality. You heard President Ghani’s eloquent affirmation of his government’s commitment this morning. The path toward a negotiated settlement is available; the Taliban must choose to take that path.
It is up to all of us, in whatever ways we are best able to contribute, to influence the Taliban’s choice. That must be our common aim. There is no hesitation on the part of the United States to take responsibility for doing our part – our necessary part – in this common endeavor.