FACT SHEET: Strengthening the Strategic Partnership of the United States and Afghanistan (March 26, 2015)

March 23, 2015

During the historic visit to Washington of President of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan Ashraf Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah from March 22 to 25, 2015, U.S. and Afghan officials have reviewed the achievements of the last 13 years and discussed the actions each country needs to take to ensure that the social, economic, security, and human rights gains made over that period are sustained and advanced.  Secretary of State John Kerry — joined by Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter, Secretary of the Treasury Jacob Lew, and other senior U.S. officials — held strategic dialogue sessions at Camp David with President Ghani and the Afghan delegation on March 23 to discuss a broad range of bilateral issues.  Both sides renewed the commitments they made in the 2012 Strategic Partnership Agreement (SPA), which laid the framework for their long-term partnership, and announced the following:

Restart of the Bilateral Commission:  Secretary Kerry announced his intention to travel to Kabul later in 2015 to co-chair the next meeting of the U.S.-Afghanistan Bilateral Commission with his counterpart Foreign Minister Salahuddin Rabbani.  The SPA signed in May 2012 established the Bilateral Commission to provide a regular forum for talks between the two countries on bilateral issues and for monitoring progress toward implementation of the Agreement.  It has met twice, the last time in Kabul in May 2013.

New Development Partnership: Secretary Kerry and President Ghani announced their plan to initiate an $800 million “New Development Partnership” that signals a new era of development cooperation between both governments.  The New Development Partnership will help to maintain and build on the development gains made over the last decade and promote Afghanistan’s self-reliance by incentivizing Afghan solutions to specific development challenges.  It will significantly expand and enhance the strategic effects of the U.S. Government’s existing pilot incentivization program, which has been focused on short-term policy actions. This new partnership reaffirms the United States’ commitment to strengthening Afghanistan’s institutions, and to sustainability and fiscal transparency, while providing the Afghan government the opportunity to lead its own development trajectory. The U.S. Agency for International Development will oversee funding under the New Development Partnership, which will be disbursed only after agreed reforms or development results have been accomplished, as measured by clear and objective indicators of achievement.  This initiative supports the new government’s ambitious efforts to improve the effectiveness and accountability of its own systems for managing resources and delivering development results.

Intent to Sustain the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces at 352,000 through 2017:  The U.S. government confirmed at the Camp David strategic security session that it intends to seek funding to support the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces at the level of 352,000 personnel through at least 2017.

Capacity Building Project:  The U.S. Treasury Office of Technical Assistance (OTA) has committed to develop technical assistance and capacity building programs in partnership with the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan in order to strengthen Afghanistan’s public financial management systems and oversight of its financial sector.  Secretary Lew and Finance Minister Hakimi signed an agreement regarding this initiative at Camp David on March 23.

High-Level Side Meeting at UNGA:  The U.S. Government committed to holding a high-level event on Afghanistan on the margins of the opening of the 70th United Nations General Assembly meeting in New York in September.  The event will allow the Afghan government and the international community to reflect on the achievements of the unity government’s first year and discuss goals and challenges for the year to come.

U.S. Support for Electoral Reforms:  In continued support of the Afghan democratic process, and noting the announcement on March 20 of the establishment of the Special Commission on Electoral Reform, USAID intends to provide $30 million in support of electoral reform and operations.

Contribution to the Afghan Peace and Reintegration Program:  As noted in the Joint Statement, the U.S. Government will make available up to $10 million to support the Afghan Peace and Reintegration Program (APRP).  The APRP is an Afghan government program combining political, security and development dimensions of peace building to reintegrate former fighters into Afghan society through vocational training, alternative livelihood projects, and capacity building at national and provincial government institutions.  The program supports the efforts of the Afghan High Peace Council.

Restart the Security Consultative Forum:  Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter announced at the security session of the talks at Camp David that in 2015 the Department of Defense would resume the Security Consultative Forum (SCF) with Afghan Ministries of Defense and Interior.  The SCF is a strategic defense dialogue between DoD and Afghan security ministries that began in May 2010 as part of a broader U.S. government cabinet-level engagement with Afghan ministries.  The last round of the SCF was convened May 2012 in Washington. Its outcomes will be reported back to the full Bilateral Commission.

Reconfirmation of Cooperation to Establish the Joint Commission: The U.S. and Afghan governments reconfirmed their commitment to continue cooperation to form a bilateral Joint Commission to oversee implementation of the U.S.- Afghanistan Security and Defense Cooperation Agreement (also known as the Bilateral Security Agreement or BSA).  The Joint Commission, to be co-chaired by representatives from the Department of Defense and the Afghan Ministry of Defense, will oversee implementation of the terms of the BSA and coordinate and exchange information with the Working Group on Defense and Security Cooperation established under the SPA.  The BSA was signed on September 30, 2014.

Expansion of the Fulbright Program:  The Department of State expressed its intention to expand the Fulbright and Afghan Junior Faculty Development programs for the next five years, increasing the number of U.S.-based fellowships available for Afghans in fields critical to their country’s national development.  The expansion aims to increase the number of Fulbright participants by 50 percent from current levels, making the program one of the largest in the world and demonstrating the United States government’s continued and long-term commitment to Afghanistan.

Scholarships for Afghan Women:  The United States has also established a scholarship program to support women attending universities throughout Afghanistan.  USAID’s $18 million program begins this year in coordination with the Afghan Ministry of Higher Education.  In later years, it will be run by an Afghan organization funded by an endowment already authorized by Congress.

TIFA Talks:  The Office of the United States Trade Representative and the Government of Afghanistan expressed their intention to hold a Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) Council Meeting in 2015, following confirmation of an Afghan Minister of Commerce and Industries.  The meeting will provide a forum for the United States and Afghanistan to discuss issues of mutual interest at senior levels of government with the objective of improving cooperation and enhancing opportunities for trade and investment.

Smithsonian Exhibition of Afghan Handicrafts:  The Smithsonian Institution, in cooperation with USAID, looks forward to hosting in 2016 a major exhibition involving Afghanistan artisans, featuring the Turquoise Mountain Foundation.

Digital Connectivity:  The White House and USAID are co-hosting a high-level meeting with the Afghan delegation to advance collaboration on internet access, digital financial services, and e-government.

U.S.-Afghan Regional Energy Working Group:  The United States and Afghanistan agreed to establish a Joint Working Group charged with exploring ways to support Afghanistan’s integration into regional energy markets.  The Department of State, USAID, the Treasury Department, and other relevant U.S. agencies will participate in this initiative.