By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, March 26, 2013 – The United States is committed to an enduring partnership with Afghanistan, Secretary of State John F. Kerry said yesterday in the Afghan capital of Kabul.
The United States will remain a firm partner with the emerging democracy long after the December 2014 end of the International Security Assistance Force mission, Kerry said during a news conference with Afghan President Hamid Karzai. It was Kerry’s first visit to Afghanistan as Secretary of State.
“We mean it when we say that as Afghans stand up and take control of their country's future, they will not stand alone,” Kerry said. “America will stand with them.”
Afghanistan is transitioning in three areas -- security, governance and economic -- and the United States will aid the country as it moves forward, Kerry said. The United States also will aid Afghanistan as the government reaches out to Taliban members seeking reconciliation, he added. “Reconciliation is the best way to try to provide the surest end to violence and to secure a unified and a sovereign Afghanistan,” he said.
Karzai has committed to traveling to Doha, Qatar, to meet Taliban representatives. “We continue to join with President Karzai in calling on the Taliban to join a political process, to renounce the violence,” Kerry said.
U.S., NATO and partner nations have been working to train Afghan security forces and that effort is paying off, the secretary said. “The Afghan people ought to be proud that their security and their police force grow stronger and grow more capable by the day,” he said.
Security gains must translate to political and economic areas, Kerry said, and Afghanistan will go far if the elections next year are free and fair.
“We welcome the Afghan commitment, which is a reflection of the Afghan people’s desire to conduct a credible, safe, secure, all-inclusive, and transparent, and accountable election,” he said. “It’s our hope that this election is going to be a unifying moment for Afghanistan, and that it will represent, in a sense, the crowning achievement of the president’s vision for Afghanistan when he peacefully transfers power to a newly elected president.”
Kabul is one of the fastest growing cities in the world, and Afghanistan’s gross domestic product is five times what it was in 2001. Access for Afghans to hospitals and health clinics has climbed, and life expectancy in the country is up 50 percent. “A recent United Nations report showed that Afghanistan has made faster gains in human development over the last 10 years than any other country in the world,” Kerry said.
Roads, cell phones, buildings and businesses are increasing and pointing toward progress, and now it remains for Afghans to keep this on track, Kerry said.