I’m honored to join you today.
I offer my thanks to His Excellency the Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Qatar, and my friend, Shaykh Mohamed, for Qatar’s longstanding support for this effort.
Today is a truly momentous occasion. Afghans have at long last chosen to sit together and chart a new course for your country. This is a moment to dare to hope.
As we look toward the light, we recall the darkness of four decades of war, and the lost lives and opportunities. But it is remarkable — and a testament to the human spirit — that the pain and patterns of destruction are no match for the enduring hopes for peace held by the Afghan people, and their many friends.
The United States will never forget the solidarity of our many allies and partners who have stood with us in the long struggle to end this war. Today we also remember and honor them.
Nor will the United States ever forget 9/11. We welcome the Taliban commitment not to host international terrorist groups, including al-Qaeda, nor to allow them to use Afghan territory to train, recruit, or fundraise.
We welcome the same commitments by the Government of the Islamic Republic. Afghanistan should never again serve as a base for international terrorists to threaten other countries.
It took hard work and sacrifice to reach this moment, and it will require hard work and sacrifice to keep it alive, and to take advantage of it so that the talks result in a durable peace.
You carry a great responsibility, but you are not alone. The entire world wants you to succeed.
On our part, the United States is a proponent of a sovereign, unified, and democratic Afghanistan that is at peace with itself and its neighbors.
I’d like to elaborate on those three words…what do we mean when we say sovereign…and unified…and democratic.
First, sovereign. We know that Afghans yearn to determine their own affairs, free from outside interference.
We hope you will enjoy cooperation and mutually respectful relations with your neighbors and other international partners, and that you will become self-reliant…liberated from the shackles of dependence on others.
Second, unified. We know the tremendously negative and divisive impact four decades of violence have had in Afghanistan. Through an inclusive negotiation process, you have an opportunity to overcome your divisions and reach agreement on a peaceful future for the benefit of all Afghans. If Afghans embrace their common interest in a united Afghanistan, while respecting the rich diversity of the country’s people, we believe a durable peace is possible.
I urge you to engage the representatives of all Afghan communities — including women, ethnic and religious minorities, and the victims of your country’s long war.
These historic negotiations should produce a political arrangement that accommodates competing views and rejects the use of violence to achieve political aims.
Third, democratic. The choice of your future political system is, of course, yours to make. In the United States, we have found that democracy – notably, the principle of the peaceful rotation of political power – works best.
Democratic systems reflect the choices of the majority while protecting the rights of the minority. This model has yielded great peace and prosperity for us and other democratic nations.
While there is no one-size-fits-all solution, and the United States does not seek to impose its system on others. We believe firmly that protecting the rights of all Afghans is the best way for you to break the cycle of violence.
Of course, I can only urge these courses of action. You will write the next chapter in the history of Afghanistan.
We hope this chapter is one of reconciliation and progress, not another chronicle of tears and bloodshed.
We urge you to make decisions that move you away from violence and corruption and toward peace and prosperity.
I urge you to preserve and build on the advancement of the social, economic and political gains Afghanistan has achieved in the past two decades.
To cite one bright example: the expansion of women’s participation in public life, as illustrated by the presence here today of four prominent women negotiators on the Islamic Republic team.
A landmark achievement of the U.S-Taliban agreement was setting the stage for these negotiations. We welcome your assumption of responsibility.
As you make your decisions, you should keep in mind that your choices and conduct will affect both the size and scope of future U.S. assistance. Our hope is that you reach a sustainable peace, and our goal is an enduring partnership.
Finally, I join you in savoring this moment of hope. You will undoubtedly encounter many challenges during the talks over the coming days, weeks, and months.
When you do, remember that you are acting not only for this generation of Afghans but for future generations.
So I urge you:
Seize this opportunity.
Protect this process.
Respect each other, be patient, and remain focused on the mission.
We are prepared to support your negotiations should you ask. But the time is yours. I pray you will seize the moment.
Thank you again for having me on this historic occasion.