July 12, 2016
Salaam Aleykum. Welcome to our Embassy. Out of respect for everyone observing the holy month of Ramazan, we moved the celebration of our Independence Day. My wife Fatima and I, and all our Mission staff, thank you for joining us today.
We gather here today to celebrate more than the signing of our Declaration of Independence and the formation of a new nation 240 years ago. We are here to reaffirm our belief in the ideas that fueled those events, and that a truly representative government has the greatest chance of delivering prosperity and security to a nation.
When American patriots launched their fight for independence from Britain, they could not foresee all the twists and turns their new nation would follow. America’s history is filled with both political conflict and moments of unity and inspiration. Our union was threatened by a bloody civil war, but out of this struggle the Union ultimately became stronger and our society has become more just. Our nation remains a work in progress; each generation has its own battles to fight and win.
In Afghanistan, we see a new generation determined to bring security and prosperity to this nation. The past year has been difficult: the economy continued to suffer; it was a challenging year on the battlefield; the political environment could be tense at times.
None of these challenges should be allowed to overshadow what has been achieved in that same time frame.
- Afghanistan remains one of the most vibrant democracies in the region; all cabinet members and nearly all provincial governors have been appointed;
- Rule of law has been strengthened with the appointment of the Attorney General and the launch of anti-corruption initiatives;
- The economic outlook is improving; revenue collection has increased and international financial cooperation is solidifying; and
- Major infrastructure projects like Salma dam have been completed, and implementation of the CASA-1000 project has begun.
On the vital security front, the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces have assumed responsibility for their country’s security and come through this past year with an improving performance on the battlefield, significant internal reforms, and new resolve to defend Afghanistan.
The United States and other partners are committed to supporting Afghanistan in this effort. Just this past week, President Obama announced that the United States would sustain a troop presence of 8,400 into next year as a signal of our enduring commitment to Afghanistan and its people. At Warsaw, 36 allies reaffirmed their commitment to supporting the ANDSF with additional financial support through 2020, and sustaining troop commitments to the Resolute Support Mission.
President Obama and NATO Secretary General Stoltenberg also made clear at Warsaw that our joint objective remains a national reconciliation process leading to a lasting political settlement and an end to conflict in Afghanistan. We will continue to strongly support an Afghan-led reconciliation process and call for an end to all safe havens in the region for militants and terrorists.
Security is one part of the picture. I need not repeat what you already know: there have also been tremendous achievements over the past fifteen years in education, health, the economy, infrastructure, gender rights. Afghanistan also continues to secure its place in the regional and world economy, joining the World Trade Organization this past year.
Afghanistan will have a chance to showcase its more recent achievements – and to discuss its plans for the future – at the development conference sponsored by the European Union this October in Brussels. We look forward to Afghanistan and the international community solidifying their commitments to our common development objectives through 2020. We are committed to these goals precisely because they can offer hope to the millions of young Afghan men and women who want a better future for both themselves and their nation.
When President Obama spoke about our commitment to Afghanistan earlier this year, he promised that “we’re going to be a steady partner.” The United States will remain the largest single donor to the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces through 2020. And the United States will be going to Brussels this October with a strong pledge of development assistance for Afghanistan through 2020.
In conclusion, this Fourth of July celebration, we can share a renewed sense of optimism and partnership. At Warsaw on July 9, Heads of State of NATO allies and Resolute Support Operational Partners stated “Afghanistan will not stand alone.” You will not: Together we can and will build the brighter future the Afghan people deserve.
Video footage of event: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BESdTbKGA6I