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U.S. Obligates USD 791Million in Development Assistance with Afghan Government
The U.S. government and Afghanistan’s Government of National Unity (GNU) announced the obligation of USD 791.16 million in assistance with the GNU to support programs that achieve Afghan-led, sustainable development. U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) Director Herbert Smith and Minister of Finance Eklil Hakimi signed the funding agreements.
“These agreements are a testament to the enduring partnership between the American and the Afghan people. Over the next 12-months, this funding will enable us to implement projects and deliver valued services to our citizens across Afghanistan,” said Afghanistan’s Minister of Finance Eklil Hakimi.
Mr. Hakimi went on to say, “These are some of the first practical steps we are taking to deliver on our commitments and the pledges that were made at the Brussels Conference to help Afghanistan achieve self-reliance.”
USAID Director Herbert Smith said the documents just signed begin to implement the multi-year pledge that the United States made at the recent Afghanistan donor’s conference in Brussels, where the U.S. underscored its enduring commitment to the people of Afghanistan and its National Unity Government.
“This document reaffirms U.S. determination to support the government of Afghanistan in efforts to strengthen Afghanistan’s institutions, maintain gains in education and health services achieved in recent years, and improve the welfare of the Afghan people,” Herbert said.
The funds obligated under the agreements will support programs that achieve strategic development objectives, including a thriving economy led by the private sector, a democratic government with broad citizen participation, and a better educated and healthier Afghan population.
Laying our own foundations for a more secure future: the Hizb-e- Islami Afghanistan peace deal
The recent peace deal signed by the National Unity Government (NUG) and Hizb-e-Islami Afghanistan (HIA) - the second largest insurgent group in Afghanistan - is a significant achievement.  The Afghan leadership has brought about a deal that takes Afghanistan one-step closer to lasting peace, that demonstrates Afghans are able to take control of our own destiny, and that security is the number one priority of the NUG. The deal binds both parties to the principles of Islam, the rule of law, and the democratic process.

The most significant success of the deal, ratified 29th September by President Ghani and the HIA leader Hekmatyar, is that it is an inta-Afghan process.  This deal successfully concluded after a series of hard Afghan led and Afghan owned negotiations for the past two years.  After fourteen years of total reliance on the International Community, this process has shown the strength of the Afghan people and the NUG to stand on our own feet. The NUG and delegates from HIA have carried out these talks without the intervention of international partners.  Given that 90% of world-wide conflicts in the 1990s were internal wars, and almost none of these conflicts were resolved without some form of international intervention, we can be proud of our achievements.  We have proved that as a nation we can build peace through consent, and the NUG has shown that it is committed to improving the security for the people of Afghanistan.  It might not always be obvious, but the work required to broker this deal has been painstaking and laborious.  In many ways this peace deal demonstrates the nature of the NUG. It is committed to delivering lasting results that will secure a peaceful future for our nation, rather than grabbing the easy and sensationalist headlines. 

Despite the obvious need for peace and security, organisations such as Human Rights Watch and other International Non-Governmental Organisations have criticised the deal.  They claim that the agreement proliferates a ‘culture of impunity’ for former warlords.  Such concerns are understandable; however the argument is unhelpful in our current situation.  If we denied such groups the chance to move forward without fear of recrimination, or banned them from holding political office, we would never see the blessing of peace. Furthermore, we would be betraying the Islamic, democratic, and lawful foundations of our nation. Why would any group lay down their arms, cut their insurgent ties, and make concessions to their former enemies if their voice was not going to be heard?  Afghans who are willing to accept peace must be given a stake in our future. 

Peace deals all over the world require forgiveness, humility, and desire to leave the past behind.  Even in Western countries such as the United Kingdom, concessions had to be made by both the British Government and the Irish Republican Army to ensure the success of the ‘Good Friday Agreement’.   Insurgents who had conducted bombing attacks against civilians were released from prison as part of the process of decommissioning the Provisional Irish Republican Army.  The desire for peace and normalcy in Northern Ireland won over, and the insurgent’s political wing entered the democratic process as they realised that they would not achieve their goals through violence.    

Understandably, the families of the dead may harbour resentment to this deal.  They might feel their loved ones have been forgotten and that injustices are going unanswered.  But we must ask our selves, which is greater, the cost of peace or the cost of continued war?  It will be difficult to forgive, but surely the best way to honour the dead is by ensuring that these tragedies of the past are not repeated in the future through continued conflict.  And we should remember that the release of political prisoners does not mean that HIA will be able to act with impunity; they will still be subject to the rule of law.   This deal by no mean will undermine rule of law, currently enforced laws, and criminal prosecution of anyone committing crimes.  This deal will only pave the way for HIA leader and members to reintegrate into Afghan society and live peacefully with their Afghan fellow citizens and pursue their goals through political means.  

This peace deal demonstrates the ability of Afghans to find solutions to our own problems and the power of the NUG’s active diplomacy.  Building on the successes of deals with our regional partners, the NUG has convinced the United Nations, the United States, and the wider International community to begin the process of removing HIA from their list of terrorist organisations and bring an end to sanctions.  It is this kind of cooperation and diplomatic effort that will secure Afghanistan the future that it deserves. 

This deal sends the message that the NUG will make accommodations for peace, contrary to what our neighbours may claim. Elements within Pakistan have told insurgent groups that the NUG is unwilling to seek peace and that any deals made will be false.  This agreement highlights the falsehoods spread by Pakistan, and the NUG is committed to finding peace.

This agreement is not a panacea, but it is a significant success. It should be seen as a milestone and an indication of progress for Afghanistan.  We should be proud of our accomplishments, our sacrifice, and our patience.  And to those who continue to use violence to solve political differences, the NUG has shown that it is willing to reconcile with any armed groups willing to denounce war, cut ties with terrorist groups and seek peaceful living. There is a way to honourably re-joining your families, and that the peace process is open to all.   It is also worth mentioning that Afghan National Defence and Security Forces are determined to protect the Afghan people, Afghan territorial integrity and sovereignty by all means and ready to make any sacrifices in this way. 

Brussels Conference on Afghanistan Main Event - Closing Speech by H.E. Dr. Abdullah Abdullah Chief Executive of the I.R. of Afghanistan
Friends of Afghanistan,
Ladies and gentlemen,
This international donors’ conference is titled “partnership for prosperity and peace”, and I am delighted to say that the result is highly encouraging as we embark on a new phase of Afghan development and progress aimed at paving the way for long-term self-sustenance.
On behalf of every peace and progress-loving Afghan man, woman and child, I thank all participating delegations, your governments and peoples, the United Nations and major international organization represented here for standing by the Afghan people at this crucial moment.
I want to express my deepest appreciation to the Government of Belgium for providing excellent facilitations in the vibrant city of Brussels and, in particular, to the leadership of the Europe Union for their warm hospitality and partnership during this conference, and their steadfast support provided to Afghanistan for more than 15 years.
As we saw, the Brussels Conference on Afghanistan would not have been complete without the active participation of many other stakeholders, regional representatives and non-government organizations, including women and youth, whose discussions and input enriched our deliberations and outlook into the future.
I am particularly struck by the quality of the preparatory work since London 2014. I welcome the ideas and recommendations shared by policy, technical and professional groups that have played a positive role in this regard, including civil society and the private sector.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Since President Ghani addressed our achievements this morning, as well as the challenges we are facing since we last met at the London Conference in 2014, I will dwell on a few key themes and priorities that need to guide our efforts over the next few years given the results derived from this conference.
I am heartened to see the international community and donor nations treat Afghanistan as a multi-year and long-term aid partner, knowing full well, that we are very much focused on self-reliance. This pragmatic approach makes sense, and will help us all with better planning, coordination and implementation.
The pledges made over the past few hours are very impressive and encouraging. They send a very clear message of hope and support to the Afghan people. At a time when many in our country worry about security threats, economic hardship, political challenges and regional uncertainty mixed with destructive meddling, this is very welcome news from our friends and allies who are also preoccupied by several other global hotspots and demands made on scarce resources.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Yesterday, we held two important side events. The one on women’s rights and empowerment highlighted our shared commitment in this area. The National Unity Government is determined to improve women’s participation in the legislative, judiciary and executive branches. Donor projects such as PROMOTE and others will help us empower thousands of Afghan women over the next decade in the public and private sectors.
However, we are fully sensitive to the plight of women and the challenges they face in society, especially in rural areas. We will do everything possible to protect women by addressing violence and high illiteracy rates.
As you may know we are a candidate to the UN Human Rights Council for 2018-2020. We hope your support of our candidacy will consolidate our human rights gains and allow us to share our experience with the rest of the world too.
Yesterday’s other side event, regional integration, is a top foreign policy objective for us, seeking to galvanize political will and support for better regional integration and cooperation. Projects such as CASA1000, TAPI, TUTAP, and Chabahar are examples of our commitment for regional cooperation, trust-building and prosperity.
I have just come from an important forum with civil society organizations. We are proud of the constructive role civil society has and continues to play, which we view as a bridge between our people and their elected government.
As an example, in the Chief Executive’s office, my colleagues, that I am proud to and I meet hundreds of people from all walks of life and every corner of Afghanistan on a weekly basis, including members of our civil society, to learn from them and to listen to their views and make use of them in policy decisions.
Distinguished friends,
The formation of Afghan National Unity Government was a landmark achievement in our political history. It derived its legitimacy from two rounds of voting. We are now aiming to broaden the scope of inclusivity and governance by stressing on competency and merit for the remainder of our term.
The political accord that established the National Unity Government is our “social contract”, as we are determined to uphold and implement it per our pledge to the Afghan people and the endorsement of the international community.
Ladies and gentlemen,
The end of the era of big spending and little oversight is behind us. As part of the new realities, the Afghan economy underwent major readjustments, combined with years of corrupt practices that have produced severe hardship for our people.
If you add the security risks and terrorist threats facing our people to the mix, many Afghans have been forced to leave. We are trying, with your understanding, to mitigate this challenge, and offer better prospects to our young and educated. We will work on fair and pragmatic repatriation schemes, but we expect and are aiming for the kind of planning that can prevent migration in the first place.
While we are talking of migration, I here draw your attention to the scale of humanitarian issues faced by Afghanistan as it is both receiving returning Afghans at a scale not seen in the last decade and having to better address needs of displaced people.

We cannot underestimate the burden this places on the Afghan economy, the brunt of which is borne by the Afghan people themselves who generously host displaced and returnees a like. I am concerned that this generosity and capacity to support should not be over extended. We need to ensure that they do not fall into poverty themselves and no longer can afford to host. We have to be aware of increasing levels of poverty and vulnerability of the displaced and returnees as well as the hosting communities.
We must avoid a situation where vulnerable groups continue to remain in unacceptable living condition.
We welcome that EU and all others have expressed the need for a systematic approach to these issues.
The President and I have recognized that this vulnerable population must be addressed as a matter of urgency and as part of an approach in dealing with poverty in Afghanistan.
Continuing on challenges, the illicit production and trafficking of narcotics still remains a national, regional and international challenge. It not only poses threat to individuals and societies but more importantly it funds terrorism. The government of Afghanistan is fully committed to fight this evil with all available means at its disposal. However, to succeed in this front quicker we must boost our joint efforts through relevant local and regional frameworks.
Distinguished Delegates,
As you are aware, Afghanistan’s National Peace and Development Framework which is in line with Agenda 2030 Sustainable Development Goals, is our development roadmap for the next five years. We will ensure that the framework provides equal development opportunity across all provinces through national priority programs that work and are result-oriented.
As far as our mutual commitments and deliverables through the Self-reliance through Mutual Accountability Framework (SMAF), I want to stress on electoral reforms – as I have for many years - and holding of fair and transparent elections as integral to our “social contract”, which can assure and preserve political stability in the country.
But I also believe that political stability is contingent upon improved economic performance, job creation, provision of services and fighting a corrupt system built over the years in an environment besieged by impunity and lack of accountability.
While we are resolved to fight all forms of terrorism and radicalism, to protect our nation, its values and our constitutional order by Our and Resolute Support brave and committed forces, we are also committed to keeping all viable doors open to enter into dialogue with those who continue to use violence against Afghans for their own narrow interests or at the behest of external powers. Peace is our people’s wish, but it has to be organic, just and in accordance to our nation’s wishes.
Dear friends,
The President and I will be going back to Afghanistan with very good news from the Brussels Conference. It’s not all about monetary pledges or technical assistances that are very much welcomed; It’s about a journey that started 15 years ago. A long and arduous journey where many have, and continue, to pay the ultimate price, at times painful and made difficult by destructive forces, at times full of hope and inspiration; at times experiencing missed opportunities, and at times grasping opportunities. All in all, a journey that has yet to reach its defining moment. The journey is not only ours. Its success will be historic and will reverberate globally. We believe that it is attainable, and we very much appreciate your contributions and commitments toward making this a worthwhile journey.
Thank you very much
New Railway to Connect Afghanistan with China “One Road One Belt”
Afghanistan’s Hairatan Port will soon host a Chinese cargo train, the first train carrying freight containers from China to Afghanistan. 
According to media reports, the first train carrying cargo containers from China to Afghanistan left the eastern Chinese city of Nantong on Thursday August 25, 2016.
The train will leave China through the Alataw Pass in Xinjiang.  It will then pass through Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan before arriving Hairatan Port. 
There are two trains scheduled for each month which will carry cargo from China to Afghanistan and vise versa.  Reportedly, the first cargo train carrying 84 containers will arrive in Hairatan port in 15 days.
The new railway route is part of a recent scheme designed by People’s Republic of China called “One Road One Belt” aiming to link nations in the region. 

The opening of this railway happened after Afghanistan and China vowed to boost businesses between the two countries.  This new railway will serve as a direct route to transport commercial goods between the two nations. 

In addition, this railway will be a new opportunity to restore direct business between China and Afghanistan which will decrease Afghanistan’s dependency on Pakistan. 

Afghan economic experts believe that major steps have been taken by National Unity Government to provide facilities for Afghan businesses to improve in the region.  The opening of Chabahar Port is a strong example of this. 

Furthermore, this new railway between the two countries will have positive impact on trade between China and Afghanistan.  Afghan businessmen, in less time and less money, will be able to carry their commercial goods from China to Afghanistan and from Afghanistan to China.  Previously, it took almost two months to get commercial goods from China to Afghanistan, while it only takes a couple of weeks now. 

This is a great improvement in regard to strengthening economic ties with countries of the region and providing facilities for business people in Afghanistan.  This is the first time Afghanistan gets its cargo through a railway linked to Hairatan Port in a shorter period of time. 

It is worth mentioning that the relationships between People’s Republic of China and Islamic Republic of Afghanistan have strengthened in many aspects in particular in trade since the establishment of National Unity Government.  

It is believed that the new railway will boost bilateral trade between China and Afghanistan which will also strengthen cultural ties between the two friend countries.  
Peace Through Intensified Military Operations: Is It Possible?
It is believed that there has been less attention to defeat the Taliban over the past decade.  Analysts believe that the international coalition did not do enough to defeat the Taliban militarily since the U.S. operations began in late 2001 and ended in December 2014. 
Military analysts believe that every war ends with peace, but it is important that one side of the conflict believed to be legitimate, changes the balance of the war.  It is believed that war will continue if it does not get intensified.
Before the end of U.S. combat mission in Afghanistan in 2014, reports by media indicate that U.S. and Afghan forces have exerted less pressure on the Taliban in the battlefields.  Due to this deficiency in the war strategy, the Taliban were not defeated and were hopeful to gain control of major cities in Afghanistan.  The Taliban lived with this false hope to return to power and once again isolate this country with their devastating and dark ideology.
It is believed that sufficient pressure on the Taliban on battlefields will make them weak enough to either surrender or say “yes” to peace talks.  Without enough military pressure, the Taliban will not become ready for peace. 
Recently, as reported by Afghan media, General Nicholson has said that the NATO/RS will increase its offensive operations against the Taliban to weaken them to eventually accept peace.  Reportedly, he believes that exerting enough pressure on the Taliban will make them weak in the battlefield.  The new U.S. military policy is giving enough authorities to General Nicholson and his commanders to support Afghan National Defense and Security Forces during offensive operations in Afghanistan. 
Afghans urge ANDSF to go after Taliban wherever they are in Afghanistan and target them.  This is the only way to make them accept peace and stop violence in Afghanistan.
It is clear that the Afghan Government will not make peace with the terrorists and is determined to fight them with support from the international community since terrorism is not an Afghan problem; it is an international problem and should be tackled with an international vision and action.
Afghans believe that with the new authorities given to General Nicholson to fight the Taliban and help Afghan forces to intensify combat operations across the country and target the Taliban and other terrorist groups, the shape of the war will change and the Taliban will have to lay down arms and join the peace process.  Exerting enough pressure on the Taliban in the battlefield will make them accept peace and stop violence.
Afghans want peace in the country and urge the ANDSF and U.S. to work together and press the Taliban hideouts and make them accept peace and stop violence in the country.  The Afghan Government has repeatedly called on the Taliban to accept peace and deny war, but the Taliban have not responded positively to the legitimate request of the Afghan Government.  Taliban and other terrorist groups still enjoy support and safe harbor in Pakistan.  The international community has now understood where the root of the problem is and will soon come up with an international consensus to dry up the roots of the terrorists and the Taliban.
Violence prevents Afghanistan growth and development and cost the lives of thousands of civilians including women and children on a monthly basis.  War brings devastation while peace brings welfare and prosperity.  It is believed that the new U.S. military policy to support Afghan forces will weaken the Taliban and will produce desired results in the future.  One of the ways to end this war is to intensify military operations against the Taliban and terrorist groups and make them weak enough to accept peace. 
Experts also believe that creation of employments, fighting corruption, good governance, bridging the gap between the public and the Government, bringing reforms in the government specially in the judicial system, focusing on development and welfare projects, paving the way for a volunteer repatriation of Afghan refugee and the rule of law, are the other major ways that can help to weaken the Taliban and badly affects their recruitment process. 



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