On-the-Record Remarks by U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan John Bass
at a Roundtable with Afghan Media
October 17, 2018
Ambassador Bass: Colleagues, Salaam Alaikum! Sha Raaghlast, Khosh Aamadin! I’m very pleased to have a chance to sit down and interact with you this morning, and I apologize for being a bit late myself.
I’m really pleased to see all of you, and I would say more importantly, I’ve been very pleased and impressed by the coverage that you and your colleagues have been dedicating to the upcoming parliamentary elections and the campaign because that is a really important part of what is happening today in Afghanistan. Whether it is here in Kabul when we are out and around the city, whether it was in Bamyan when I was there last week, or Kandahar where some of my colleagues were over the weekend, we see a lot of interest in the campaign. We certainly see a lot of candidates who are campaigning and making their case despite the challenges they face. So that tells me that the Afghan people very much want this opportunity to choose their leadership in parliament, and that they are looking forward to having that freedom to choose on Saturday.
Many of you have heard me say previously that the United States is committed to working with all those in Afghan society who are trying to build a future in which Afghans have the opportunity to live in peace, with dignity and freedom. And that includes the freedom to choose, to make choices about their own lives, but most importantly, to choose and make decisions about the leadership of their country. And we in the United States as a democratic society ourselves have profound respect for the will of the people and their ability to make those choices. That is why we have been strongly supporting the Electoral Management Commissions in their work to prepare for this election. We will continue to support the Electoral Management Commissions, and those parts of the government with responsibilities by law to support the Commissions, in preparing for presidential elections next April.
We believe it is very much in the interest of this country and of its citizens that the people of Afghanistan have an opportunity, again in April, to choose who should be president of this country for the next five years.
The Taliban says that it is committed to avoiding violence against civilians. We’ve seen them repeat that. And yet the Taliban is also saying that they are going to target elections. Those two statements are incompatible. If the Taliban are really serious about not targeting elections, or not targeting civilians, they should not target elections because elections are a central piece of what civilians in a democratic society participate in and they should be able to do so without fear of violence or intimidation or disruption.
So if the Taliban have as much respect for the Afghan people as the parts of society that are planning, conducting, and participating in preparations for these elections have, and if they have as much respect for fellow Afghans as Afghanistan’s international partners have for the people of this country, then they will demonstrate that by refraining from conducting attacks against the elections or against people who are working to enable the elections to occur.
So before we got to a bit of discussion about some of the other issues I wanted to make that clear on behalf of the United States. Thank you.