Thank you very much, Minister Rashedi. Members of the Ministry of Counter-Narcotics, and distinguished ladies and gentlemen of the press and the media. It is indeed a great honor to be with you today to sign this agreement.
Minister, ladies and gentlemen, in the international media there has been a great deal of negative commentary recently on the matter of progress on countering poppy and the drug trade in Afghanistan.
I do not agree with that criticism. I believe that history has taught us over the past 50 years that efforts to combat the drug [trade] are long term in nature, and require years to take effect. They are flexible and must constantly change and adapt to the drug traffickers as the traffickers change their methods. They must be holistic and integrate all parts of the problem and not just one element. And they must integrate all parts of the government, whether the Afghan government or the United States government or any of the 190-plus governments of the world.
Ladies and gentlemen, years ago, the Ministry of Counter-Narcotics and the Afghan government and the INL Bureau and the government of the United States entered into a partnership - called the Good Performers Initiative or GPI. The purpose of this partnership was very simple. Together, the Afghan Ministry and INL said to each of the provinces, if you will reduce your poppy cultivation to zero or nearly zero, we will provide you benefits; projects in the value of millions of dollars.
When we designed this initiative, ladies and gentlemen, we designed it to be flexible because we knew even then that there would be changes in the provinces, that there would be new areas of growth, there would be new approaches by the drug trafficking industry.
Last year, the Ministry of Counter Narcotics and INL decided to review and redesign the GPI agreement. We decided that we would integrate into the agreement all the elements of drug production- eradication and cultivation, interdiction, demand reduction, and public information. In other words, all the parts of the problem that the individual provinces would have to address.
We also agreed that the GPI and its benefits should be visible to the farmers themselves. To offer a project that is 200 kilometers away does not provide motivation for the farmer to reduce his cultivation of opium poppy.
That, ladies and gentlemen is what the Minister and I propose to sign before you this afternoon.
Ladies and gentlemen, we know in Afghanistan, in the United States of America, and in every country in the world, drugs kill our communities. They kill them with corruption, they kill them by supporting the insurgencies or the terrorist organizations, and they kill them by producing millions and millions of addicts.
Today, ladies and gentlemen, we take one more step towards success in our efforts to control, reduce, and eliminate drug trafficking in this world. Today we take the GPI, a very good program, and commit to make it better. Today is a good day for Afghanistan, for the United States of America, and for all the countries of the world.
Thank you, Minister. I look forward to signing this agreement.
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