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Transcript of H.E. President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani’s Remarks at the Heart of Asia 6th Ministerial Conference on Afghanistan
Amritsar, India

December 4, 2016

In the Name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful

Prime Minister Modi, distinguished foreign ministers and other ministers, heads of delegations, Ladies and Gentlemen.

Heart of Asia is meeting at a time of great opportunity and significant threats for Afghanistan, with Asia-wide and global implications.   Taking stock of the emerging patterns and trends of the year since our meeting in Islamabad last year will help us prepare for 2017 and beyond.   But, let me first begin by thanking you and the Indian people for hosting us today in the historic and beautiful city of Amritsar - a city that used to be the center of bills of exchange and commerce connecting India to Central Asia, Russia, the Middle East and beyond. And thank you for the visit to the Golden Temple. It was an exceptional and moving event.

Mr. Prime Minister,

You honored us by visiting Afghanistan twice this year to inaugurate two important iconic projects.   The Afghan parliament will stand as an enduing testament of the enduring relationship between the world’s largest democracy and a people and government committed to the realization of democratic rights and obligations of a free citizenry enshrined in our Constitution.    The Afghan-India Friendship Dam at Salma, generating 42 megawatts of power and storing 650 million cubic meters of water and finished after 40 years of waiting, will bring light and improved lives to the people of Herat.   No wonder, that your visit was greeted with spontaneous celebrations across Afghanistan.   Equally significant, the trilateral agreement signed in Tehran between India, Iran and Afghanistan on the port of Chabahar is a major step in transforming Afghanistan from a landlocked country to a land bridge. 

Your words, assuring the Afghan people of the support of 1.4 billion strong Indian people, have been quickly matched by deeds, as demonstrated by your pledge of $1 billion of new developmental assistance.   As we have welcomed nearly a million of our refugees, the new portfolio of programs and projects made possible by your assistance will reproduce, expand and consolidate the billions of historic bonds between the two nations dedicated to empowerment of their people and peace and prosperity through cooperation.   The agreed cargo air corridor to be soon launched will give Indian and Afghan consumers and producers unimpeded access to each other’s products and services.  Afghan students, over 20,000 of whom are currently enrolled in India, are marked for playing a significant role in leading and managing Afghanistan’s transition to prosperity and stability. 

India’s support is impressive, both in its scale and its system of delivery.  India’s assistance is state-to-state, aimed at improving people’s lives and wellbeing.   It is transparent and without strings attached.  There are no hidden agreements and secret conditions.   It is convergence of interests and values of two states inspired by the belief in cooperative advantage. Thank you!


Ladies and Gentlemen,

The renewal of international commitment to the people of Afghanistan during 2016 has been impressive.   President Obama’s historic decision in committing the US forces will be respected and remembered by us as a decision for securing our future.   We thank the President and his national security team for respecting the sacrifice of our defense and security forces and for trusting our resolve to fight corruption and putting our house in order.   Commitment of $15 billion to fund the 354,000 strong ANDSF, the renewal of the Resolute Support Mission, and commitments by the assembled countries to have their sons and daughters serve in the Resolute Support Mission during the NATO summit in Warsaw provided us with a medium-term horizon to strengthen the capacity and capabilities of our forces.  We thank President Obama, Chancellor Merkel, Prime Ministers Cameron and Renzi, President Erdoğan and other leaders for forging the summit’s consensus on Afghanistan.   

The $15.2 billion commitment at Brussels in support of our Peace and Development framework was even more impressive, for it took place against the backdrop of arguments regarding aid fatigue and competing global priorities.   Our intense focus on reforms and our productive dialogues with our developmental partners, however, resulted in a resounding success.   We take the pledges, as I said in the concluding press conference, as a line of credit to be translated into commitments and disbursements against substantial and sequential reforms.   We thank all of you for your participation and pledges, particularly the efforts by vice president Mogherini and her staff in the European Union and US’s advocacy efforts on our behalf.

Believing that deepening and broadening of partnerships requires constant work and investment in relation building, we neither took the Warsaw nor the Brussels pledges for granted.   Instead, we focused on making our case by our deeds in the arenas of the battlefield and in reform of governance, ranging from revenue collection to the overhauling of rule of law institutions. We thank you for the opportunity for engagement and your appreciation of the complexity of the challenges facing us.   With the medium-term horizons made possible by Warsaw and Brussels, we are now embarking on an earnest effort to ensure the stability and security of our country and the wellbeing of our people.   Momentum toward this objective, however, requires a framework and an action plan for addressing the distinctively Asian – or more accurately the Eurasian – dimensions of our potential, as Russia is a significant stakeholder and interlocutor, so that our potentials and our problems can be faced. Hence, the relevance of today’s deliberations and the Heart of Asia-Istanbul process and the relevance to Afghanistan’s and Asia’s linked destiny. Let me thank the Government of Turkey for having formulated the Istanbul Process, a dialogue that successively is becoming more productive and encompassing, and equally the Republic of Kazakhstan, the People’s Republic of China and the Islamic Republic of Pakistan for previously hosting this conference, and let me extend our thanks to Azerbaijan for agreeing to co-host next year’s meeting.


Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Asia’s transformation from a concept into a continental economy, on the one hand, and the terrible price wrought by the fifth wave of political violence and terrorism on our societies and polities on the other, define the stage for the realization of our potential and the setting for our problems.  

Connectivity, as the experience of North America and the first global surge in investment in transportation in the 19th century shows, is the key to weaving a landmass into an integrated economic system.   Independent states of Central Asia and the Caucuses have demonstrated the transformative impacts of investing in connectivity.  Turkmenistan articulated the concept of connectivity corridors in September 2014 and sustainable transportation last week.   Afghanistan is a major beneficiary of this approach, as our people are celebrating the inauguration of the dry port of Aqina on October 28 across our land.   Aqina’s impact is in its network effect, for it enables access to the enormous transportation network that links Turkmenistan to the system of its neighbors and their neighbors.  Kazakistan, Azerbaijan and Georgia on the one side, and of course Uzbekistan and Kazakhistan to Russia and beyond in Europe.   Equally the arrival of the first consignment of goods from China through Uzbekistan to the port of Hairatan is a demonstration of the flows to come.  We are very pleased with our intense dialogue with the leadership of Uzbekistan and China, and look forward to increasing the scale of our interactions.   Equally significant is the tripartite agreement between India, Iran and Afghanistan on the port of Chahbahar and the project under implementation to link the city of Herat to the Iranian railway and port systems.  The reduction in cost of transport and in predictability will enable us to increase the effectiveness and efficiency of our developmental efforts, thereby bringing visible changes to the lives of our people. 

When network and cluster-effect combine, the scale of change becomes irreversible.  Each new connection produces a network effect but when these points are connected to each other, it produces a combined developmental impact that can lift our people from poverty to prosperity.  TAPI is an illustration of cluster effect.   Initially conceived as a pipeline, the concept is now being broadened to a cluster of a pipeline, transmission line, fiber optic network, railway, roads, and airports, creating an integrated system of connectivity between Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India.  


Our location at the heart of Asia and the recent momentum gives us the confidence that investment in connectivity in Afghanistan can have Asia-wide impacts and implications.   A cluster approach to infrastructure development to integrate our dispersed spaces into an integrated system and open up the arteries of Heart of Asia is, therefore, our top development priority.   Imagine a railway system, reinforced by the rest of the cluster, linking China to Iran, Pakistan and India.  Our initial assessment shows that up to 15,000 megawatts of power from Central Asia can be transferred to South Asia and that within 5 years Afghanistan can be transformed from an importer of power to a transmission center and exporter of power.   Our ability to attract $900 million of private sector investment in the power sector in the last five months – of which $700 million is from Afghan entrepreneurs – demonstrates that we are beginning to gain the trust of the private sector.  We invite firms from all of your countries to make a difference while making a legitimate profit.   Making the railway happen, however, requires a combined effort of partner countries and developmental organizations and we hope to convince you of the wisdom of the investment.

Afghanistan must come out of dependency on aid and we can.   Our hydrocarbon and mineral wealth is estimated at trillions and we have the potential to harness around 26 billion cubic meters of water.   Timely, efficient, and effective support through global and Asian coordination to support our infrastructure system will enable us to achieve self-reliance rapidly, thereby enabling our people to lift themselves from poverty to prosperity.   Use of existing and development of new financing and risk guarantee instruments will be critical to the achievement of our common objective.   Even more significantly, we must confront the elephant in the room: the fifth wave of political violence and terrorism.  


Distinguished leaders, ladies and gentlemen,

A poor developing country in a normal regional and international context has the luxury to articulate a vision and develop an action program for its sequential realization.   We, unfortunately, do not have this luxury.  The challenges that we confront are chain-linked, complex, and highly interdependent, requiring alignment of actions at the Asian, global, Islamic, national and regional levels.   As the weak link in the chain defines the speed of movement, we have no choice but to focus on crisis management and change management simultaneously while paying close attention to building and deepening of our partnerships.  

At the heart of the problem are the nature, scale and scope of the fifth wave of political violence and terrorism.   As the frontline society and polity confronting this wave, we have paid and are paying a huge price in lost lives and denied opportunities.   Last year we suffered the highest number of civilian casualties and military related deaths in the world. This is unacceptable. It can be avoided. It is not unavoidable.

Judging by the previous four waves of violence, covering the period from the 1860s to 1990’s, confronting this wave requires a strategy of 10-20 years, as acknowledged by the Australian Defense Policy.

The fifth wave builds upon, incorporates, and amplifies the techniques of violence and destructiveness of the previous four waves, starting with anarchism.   Its network effect is, however, intensified as it exploits the huge potential of face to Facebook rather than face-to-face relationships of the past.   As the disrupting the social contract between the citizen and the state through an all out attack on freedoms embodied in the creation of the nation state and the international system is the core objective of the Fifth Wave, mobilization of the state system at all levels is crucial to defeating and destroying this wave of violence against citizens and states.  

We see five interrelated phenomena.   First, criminal economic networks, centered on drugs, smuggling, human trafficking and other illicit activities provide the platform for criminal politics.   Like the drug wars of Latin America, narcotics are a major driver of violence.   Second, close to 30 groups classified as terrorists by the United Nations are attempting to establish a base in our country in order to destabilize their countries of the origin, the region and the world.   Third, the military operations in Pakistan have brought a major but selective displacement of the Pakistani extremist networks and their allies on to Afghanistan.    Fourth, despite our intense engagement with Pakistan on bilateral and multilateral basis, the undeclared war – the name that I gave to the phenomenon in the winter 2014 – not only has not abated but also intensified during 2016, with special intensity right after the Brussels Conference.

Our highest rate of use of force and organized defense of our country took place between October 4th and November 20th. Fifth, the response of the states has been fragmented and some still provide sanctuary and support or tolerate these networks. As Mr. Kakazada, one of the key figures in the Taliban movement recently said, if they did not have sanctuary in Pakistan, they would not last a month. We need intense dialogue and engagement; I, therefore, conclude with proposing the following:

First, to tackle criminal economics, we need to convene at the Asian and regional way and document who benefits from producing, processing, trafficking and consuming; this requires an international effort without blame game to be able to uproot the basis of this phenomenon.

Second, we propose an Asian and international regime. Whatever is accepted, particularly, to our neighbor Pakistan to verify cross-frontier activities. We do not want blame game. We want verification.

Thirdly, there is need for a fund to combat extremism. Pakistan has generously pledged 500 million dollars for reconstruction of Afghanistan. This fund, Mr. Aziz, could very well be used for containing extremism because without peace any amount of assistance will not meet the needs of our people. We have to balance the opportunities and the threats. I am confident that focused, deliberate and systematic efforts can enable us to win a world and to make Afghanistan and Asia secure. Once again, thank you for your attention.
First Afghanistan Conference on Sanitation (AFCOSAN -I)
The First Afghanistan Conference on Sanitation (AFCOSAN-I) officially inaugurated today (22 November) at the Marble Palace, Kabul Afghanistan.
In this conference, the Afghan government's programmes for scaling up the current status of sanitation in Afghanistan were discussed, and it was stated that around 5 million Afghan populations lack improved latrines, and they practice defection in the open areas.
The conference was attended by representatives from sectorial ministries including Rural Rehabilitation and Development, Public Health, Education and Urban Development and Housing, UNICEF, national and international non-governmental organizations (I/NGOS), representatives of Kabul-based embassies, UN agencies and Civil Society Organizations (CSOs).
Highlighting the importance of urban sanitation and hygiene, especially in Kabul City, Her Excellency Rulal Ghani, The First Lady, stated that sanitation and drinking water were the top priorities in the programmes of Afghan government.
The Minister of Rural Rehabilitation, H.E. Eng. Nasir Ahmad Durrani, said, "According to the latest Afghan Living Conditions Survey (ALCS) of 2014, 81 per cent of the Afghan population use some kind of toilets. This is a higher proportion than some of our neighbors. Yet, 19 per cent of the population still practices open defecation. WHO and UNICEF estimated that since 2001, over five million Afghans gained access to an improved sanitation facility and that the number of people practicing open defecation fell by 1.6 million, to around 4.5 million people today".
By the same token, Minister of Public Health (MoPH) expressed that, "The latest Afghanistan mortality survey demonstrates that diarrheal dieses, which have a direct relation with lack of access to safe drinking water and improved sanitation, constitutes around 6.2 percent of mortality in children under 5 age". He added, "Ministry of Public Health (MoPH) as a key member of the Afghanistan Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) Sector, is committed to making efforts in provision of safe drinking water, improved sanitation facilities and hygiene promotions to all Afghans".
In addition, the Deputy Minister of Urban Development and Housing (MUDH) talked about the importance of water supply and waste management, affirming that, "MUDH is committed to solving the existing challenges in this respect".
Furthermore, UNICEF Representative, Adele Khodr, highlighted the importance of sanitation in public health, children education and women, calling all the partners to work jointly.
Similarly, Minister of Education (MoE) H.E. Assadullah Balkhi talked about sanitations facilities in schools and shed light on the needs in this sector.
###
National Unity Government Reiterates Support For Journalist Safety And Freedom Of Expression
The Chief advisor to the President on Public and Strategic Affairs, Ahmed Nadir Naderi, has reiterated the National Unity Government’s determination to safeguard freedom of speech and expression for journalists in Afghanistan. 
The Ambassador at Large for Freedom of Expression, addressed the heads of Afghan media outlets at a ceremony marking the ‘International Day to End Impunity Of Crimes Against Journalists’.  To date, 676 cases of violence have been filed up in Attorney General Office over the past 15 years, which includes 60 cases of murder, 480 cases of detention, and 24 cases of journalists being kidnapped.
Mr. Naderi made the distinction between organized criminal activities against journalists and the actions of rogue Government personnel.  Mr. Naderi stressed that neither cases are acceptable, but in the case of Taliban, the media and freedom of expression were under direct attack as part of a concerted strategy.  By attacking journalists – who seek to inform the public of the truth behind national events – the Taliban seek to control what people think.  By stopping the truth coming to the attention of the Afghan people, the Taliban leave a gap where they can report their own propaganda and lies without challenge by recognized media outlets and government officials.  It is an attack on the fundamental freedoms and rights of the Afghan people. 
Mr. Naderi acknowledged that in some cases, rogue government officials impeded the work of journalists and that this was contrary to the Government’s policy on interacting with the media.  He added that these actions were the work of individuals and that prosecutions would be raised against any officials acting outside of the law. Mr. Naderi stated that NUG will not stay silent neither toward organized crimes against journalists nor the individual acts.  The safety of Journalists should be ensured when ever possible. He highlighted freedom of speech as the major accomplishment of the Afghan Government over the past 15 years and that this should be preserved at any cost. 
Acknowledging that journalists are subject to greater levels of violence than other citizens, Mr. Naderi announced that the NUG has committed to building a shelter house for journalists in Kabul within the next few days. 
Najubullah Sharifi, head of the Journalist Safety Committee that organized the event said that the ratification of the Journalists’ Safety Code by the government is a big achievement for the media family in Afghanistan.  He praised the government for their efforts in safely moving journalists from Kunduz during the recent firefights. 
Prominent Afghan photojournalist Masoud Hussaini emphasized that the more that access to information is limited, the more space there is more rumor and conjecture to spread.
***
Taliban Brutality Causes 95,000 Families To Flee Their Homes
Over the last two months, 95,000 Afghan families have become internally displaced following the Taliban’s strategy to target innocent civilians.
Mr. Mohmammad Haroon Chakhansuri, spokesperson to the President of Islamic Republic of Afghanistan stated during a press conference at the Government Media and Information Center (GMIC) that the Taliban have redoubled their efforts against the people of Afghanistan.  The violence affecting 11 Provinces has caused people to leave their homes, their communities, and their kin.
This strategy is designed to separate the people from the public services that the Government has worked so hard to provide. Through intimidation and brutality, the Taliban seek to prize the people away from the foundations that will allow this country to stand on its own feet.  This strategy is also evidenced in the recent increase in attacks on journalists and civil society members.
The human cost of this policy cannot be underestimated.  Not only are people forced to leave their homes under the threat of death and torture; they must abandon their fields and their livestock – for many families, this is the sum of their life’s work.  Communities are torn apart, children are forced to leave their education, and the people are left impoverished.
This campaign against basic human rights has destroyed 302 schools, 41 health centers, 50 mosques, 5305 residential houses, 1818 grocery stores, 170 bridges and over 123km roads.  Each of these projects took several months or even years to complete. The enemies of the people of Afghanistan have destroyed these facilities at a fraction of the cost and time that it has taken the government to build them. This terrorist tactic has cost this country over two billion Afghanis.
Mr. Chakhansuri added that local people understand that the Taliban do not abide by any laws; killing innocent people, including children, women and elderly people, destroying public and private property and even using their own family members as human shields.   The recent incident in Kunduz is a clear example of the Taliban hiding behind women and children.  
Chakhansuri closed by stating that the National Unity Government is providing aid to the internally displaced people and will continue to provide services to all the people of Afghanistan.  

The Hidden Face of War in Afghanistan: The Relentless Assault on the Public Services and Infrastructure
The war in Afghanistan, which has entered its 14th year, has another ugly aspect that often goes unseen.   As well as the tragic deaths of countless innocent civilians, the enemies of peace and the people have waged an unremitting campaign of terror against the public services and infrastructure of Afghanistan.  Their aim is to hollow out the state and drag us back into the Stone Age. By destroying our future, they hope to control us.

This campaign against our basic human rights has destroyed 302 schools, 41 health centres, 50 mosques, 5305 residential houses, 1,818 grocery stores, 170 bridges and over 123 kilometres of roads in 11 provinces of Afghanistan in just the last two months, according to government statistics from October 2016. Each of these projects took months or even years to complete. This destruction has cost this country over two billion Afghanis.


Sadly, there has been very little reporting on this, and even less on the far-reaching effects it will have on our society.  And we should be clear that the Taliban is enacting a deliberate strategy.  Our enemies want the people to be poor, sick, and illiterate.  Their greatest fear is that Afghans will be able to stand on their own feet.  By depriving people of government services, the Taliban seeks to control them. They destroy with one hand, and offer an inadequate alternative with the other.  They devastate schools and offer extremist madrasas where they teach our children to kill for their cause.  They attack our courts and our judiciary, and offer barbarism and brutality in their place.  And they destroy our markets and force us to cultivate illegal and un-Islamic crops.   

Our brothers and sisters in outlying provinces will attest to the devastation that the destruction of a school or a clinic causes in a remote community.  It can mean the difference between life and death, between earning a living and being forced to relocate, or lead to a mother deciding not to eat so as to feed her children.

Hundreds of young people are deprived of an education when a school is destroyed.  This education represents the future of our nation, and by destroying bricks and mortar our enemies are also frustrating our hopes and our dreams for a better life.  They are kicking away the foundations of our future society. Who knows, a child in any of these schools could become a great leader, a brilliant doctor or a visionary engineer. When a health centre is destroyed in Kabul we can simply take our children to another clinic.  When a health centre is destroyed in Helmand, it can mean that a mother has to hold her child in her arms while something as basic as a fever kills them.


Additionally, this insidious strategy has caused the displacement of thousands of families. According to the ministry of refugees and repatriation, over 95,000 families have had to flee their homes in the past two months alone. The human costs cannot be underestimated.  Children must leave their homes, their friends and their education.  Mothers and fathers must leave their work, their mosques and their communities.

This particularly ugly aspect of the war has not received the attention that it deserves, neither at home nor amongst the international community.  The people who are carrying out the proxy war in Afghanistan destroy their own country and kill their own people.  As a society we must take action, we must resist.  We must understand that every time we allow our enemies to shelter in our homes and our villages we are hastening our own destruction. The famous Chinese dictator Mao said that the people are the sea in which the insurgents swim.  We must drain the sea and force these people from our lives.  Without us, our enemies cannot survive. We must starve them and bring them to the negotiating table.  We must make them understand the trauma they are causing their country.  They must see the light like our new friends HIA and lay down their arms for the sake of God, our people, and our families.


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