Thank you, Foreign Minister Rassoul, for hosting us here in Kabul today and for your continued leadership of the U.S.-Afghanistan Bilateral Commission.
One year ago, President Obama flew to Kabul to sign the Strategic Partnership Agreement. He said the SPA “defines a new kind of relationship between our countries -- a future in which Afghans are responsible for the security of their nation, and we build an equal partnership between two sovereign states; a future in which war ends, and a new chapter begins.”
Since the signing of the Strategic Partnership Agreement and our inaugural Bilateral Commission meeting in Washington last October, we have made important progress implementing the security, political, and economic transitions underway in Afghanistan.
First, we remain on-track to fully transition security responsibility to Afghanistan by the end of 2014. Afghan forces are already in the lead in 90 percent of all combat operations in the country and we expect them to be in the lead 100 percent of the time later this year.
Second, a successful political transition is an essential prerequisite for sustainable security. It is vitally important that the elections next April be transparent, credible, and inclusive. This is why we continue to provide electoral assistance -- supporting the process without supporting any particular candidate. We hope that the elections renew the compact between the people of Afghanistan and their government and that they serve as a unifying moment for your country.
Afghan-led reconciliation is also central to the transition as the surest way to end violence and ensure lasting stability in Afghanistan and the region. We re-affirm our support for an office in Doha for the purpose of negotiations between the High Peace Council and the authorized representatives of the Taliban.
Third, to fully realize the aspiration of Afghans for a future of dignity and prosperity, Afghanistan’s transition away from donor dependency and toward increased self-sufficiency and private sector-led development must succeed. The framework of mutual commitments and mutual accountability agreed to in Tokyo last year should continue to guide our partnership.
As we deepen our bilateral partnership, we will expand our regional efforts as well. The third “Heart of Asia” Ministerial in Almaty, at which I led the U.S. delegation, was a key step in advancing our shared vision of a stable, secure, and prosperous Afghanistan in a stable, secure, and prosperous region.
As President Obama emphasized here one year ago, as the Afghan people stand up, you will not stand alone. America, and many others, will stand with you. We have come too far, sacrificed too much, and worked too hard to turn back now.
I look forward to today’s meeting and to continuing to work hard to assure the success of the next chapter in our relationship.