Let me welcome this wonderful group of men and women from across Afghanistan who are here as part of the Tokyo Conference. We are very pleased that we have the benefit of your experience and your views, and I look forward to our conversation. I want to thank Ambassador Marc Grossman for helping to organize this meeting. Ambassador Grossman is our Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, and he has been very focused on making sure that the voices of the people are heard, not just the government. Because we know that any lasting peace, any economic development, the opportunities that we have been discussing here at the Tokyo Conference, are only possible if civil society is there to advocate for them.
I also am pleased that Ambassador Ryan Crocker could join us from Kabul. Thank you, Ambassador Crocker. Also with us is Ambassador Melanne Verveer, our Special Ambassador for Global Women’s Issues, and Don Steinberg, Deputy Administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development. And I am particularly looking forward to hearing from our two representatives of Afghan civil society, Samira and Hiyatula, in a few minutes.
I want to hear how you believe we can do more to work with you to support open and accountable governance, economic opportunities, and social equality and inclusion. And I want particularly to hear about the challenges that you see ahead. The United States is committed to helping the Afghan people and the civil society groups that you represent, among others, to work toward a secure, independent, and democratic future.
But as we transition to Afghan-led security across your country, we want to make it clear that being strong, sovereign, and independent does not mean being alone. We want to continue to stand with you. The Strategic Partnership Agreement that our President signed in Kabul in early May that is now fully in effect provides a long-term framework for our relationship, sending a clear signal that America’s support will endure. And it outlines the basis for our extensive cooperation over the next decade in fighting violent extremism, strengthening democratic institutions, and protecting human rights.
We have also been very clear – and we just finished a meeting between the Afghan Government and the Pakistani Government – about Afghan-led reconciliation, that it can only happen with groups and individuals who sever ties to al-Qaida, renounce violence, and pledge to abide by the Afghan constitution, including its protections for women and minorities. Reconciliation cannot, must not, come at the expense of the gains you have made in the last 10 years. So we want to be sure your voices are heard. We want to stand up for your rights and we want to condemn extremism and any kind of abuses that affect people and particularly women in Afghanistan.
We also want to support a free press and journalists who hold governments accountable, report the facts about what is happening, and exchange ideas so that better decisions can be made. We also wish to support constitutional and transparent parliamentary and presidential elections. And for us, when we talk about Afghan-led, we don’t mean just the government. We mean the Afghan people.
So with that, let me ask you, please, to translate before we come and hear from our representatives, and then turn it over to all of you.