Below is the text of a joint statement issued following the inaugural meeting of the U.S.-Afghanistan Bilateral Commission.
On October 3, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Afghan Foreign Minister Zalmai Rassoul convened the inaugural meeting of the U.S.-Afghanistan Bilateral Commission, established by the U.S.-Afghanistan Enduring Strategic Partnership Agreement (SPA) President Obama and President Karzai signed earlier this year in Kabul.
Secretary Clinton and Foreign Minister Rassoul reaffirmed our joint commitment to a strong, broad, and enduring strategic partnership between our governments and the peoples of the United States and Afghanistan. That strategic partnership is based on shared interests and objectives, as well as mutual respect between two sovereign states. Secretary Clinton and Foreign Minister Rassoul recognized the important gains of the Afghan people, achieved with the support of the United States and other international partners. These successes, including in health and education, have been made possible through our shared sacrifices and investments.
Secretary Clinton and Foreign Minister Rassoul and their respective delegations, led by Special Representative Marc Grossman and Deputy Foreign Minister Jawed Ludin, engaged in a fruitful, comprehensive discussion on various dimensions of the strategic partnership.
Afghanistan and the United States confirm that an inclusive, open and transparent political transition is crucial to the long-term success, progress and stability of a democratic Afghanistan. Afghanistan reaffirmed its intention to create a comprehensive schedule for presidential, parliamentary and provincial council elections as stated in President Karzai’s July 26 decree. The United States is to continue to provide technical and financial assistance in support of Afghanistan’s elections.
Protecting and promoting democratic values and human rights is a fundamental aspect of our long-term partnership. The United States supports the Afghan government’s efforts as outlined in the Tokyo Mutual Accountability Framework and President Karzai’s July 26 decree, to strengthen governance and rule of law, and preserve the role of a strong and independent civil society.
Both sides reaffirmed the importance of working with relevant actors, including the justice sector and civil society, to advance human rights and strengthen implementation of relevant laws such as those dedicated to improving women’s access to justice.
Based on the principles outlined in the Istanbul Conference of November 2011 and reaffirmed during the “Heart of Asia” Ministerial Conference in June 2012, Afghanistan and the United States reiterated a commitment to continue building on regional initiatives to promote a peaceful and prosperous Afghanistan and enhance regional stability.
The United States and Afghanistan welcomed the progress already made in the Transition process, with 75 percent of the population living in areas where Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) are leading. As agreed in the Strategic Partnership Agreement, the United States reaffirmed its intention to support the training, equipping, advising, and sustaining of the ANSF. As agreed in the Strategic Partnership Agreement, both sides look forward to beginning negotiations towards a Bilateral Security Agreement in the near future. Deputy Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan James Warlick is to lead the negotiations for the United States. Afghan Ambassador to the United States Eklil Hakimi is to lead the negotiations for Afghanistan.
Experts from both sides are to develop a plan for medium- and long-term security cooperation under the designation of Afghanistan as a Major Non-NATO Ally of the United States.
The United States and Afghanistan emphasized support for an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace process, through which individuals and groups break ties with al-Qaeda, renounce violence, and abide by Afghanistan's Constitution, including its protections for the rights of all Afghan women and men. As the international community reaffirmed at Bonn and again at Tokyo, these are the necessary outcomes of any negotiation. Underscoring the significance of advancing Afghan peace efforts ahead of the 2014 political and security transitions, both sides reaffirmed the importance of pursuing multiple channels and contacts with the armed opposition. Welcoming regional support for Afghan peace efforts, both sides discussed enhanced cooperation and coordination with Pakistan through the Afghanistan-Pakistan-U.S. Core Group, which is to convene later this month in the region. We called on the international community to undertake additional tangible steps to support Afghan reconciliation.
The United States and Afghanistan reaffirmed a strong commitment to work together to promote regional transit, trade, and investment, and expand economic cooperation, trade liberalization, and people-to-people linkages throughout the region.
The United States and Afghanistan committed to promote job creation and economic growth through efforts to support small and medium-sized enterprises in Afghanistan, including those of women entrepreneurs. The United States is committed to work with Afghanistan to establish a program to further strengthen Afghan capacity to manage its extractive industry. Both sides recognized that developing Afghanistan’s natural resources transparently is crucial to Afghanistan’s success and regional stability.
As reaffirmed at the July 2012 Tokyo Conference, including in the mutual accountability framework, the United States continues to work with the Government of Afghanistan to provide at least 50 percent of development assistance on budget and align 80 percent of the assistance with Afghan national priorities, in accordance with the London and Kabul communiqués, and in concert with the Afghan government’s continuing reforms to strengthen its public financial management systems, improve budget execution, and increase revenue collection. Both sides are to report on progress toward these goals by the next meeting of the Bilateral Commission. Both sides also underscored the crucial importance of the fight against corruption.
The United States reaffirmed its pledge to encourage American companies, other private investors and regional and international financial institutions to invest in the development of Afghanistan’s natural resources and its agricultural and agro-business sectors. The Afghan government’s success in establishing a strong legal and regulatory framework will be critical for attracting foreign investment. Both sides are to report on progress toward these goals by the next meeting of the Bilateral Commission.
Our significant programs of educational and cultural exchange reflect the importance of people-to-people contacts and the breadth of our enduring strategic partnership. We are pleased that the Fulbright Program is to include Afghan doctoral candidates for the first time in the fall of 2013.
Both sides emphasized the commonality of interests underpinning relations between the United States and Afghanistan as reflected in the broad agenda of the Bilateral Commission, and expressed their determination to advance their cooperation for implementation of the Strategic Partnership Agreement through the Bilateral Commission in the months ahead.