Remarks at 2018 Memorial Wall Dedication
Deputy Secretary of State
Assistant Secretary, Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs
Thank you. Everyone can please be seated. It is my deep honor-- sorry, I'm a little short for these mics, so let me just adjust. It is my deep honor-- a sad honor, but my deep honor-- to host this year's INL Memorial Wall Ceremony, which honors the memory and sacrifice of 100 individuals who have given their lives as part of the United States' efforts to combat transnational organized crime, drug trafficking, and corruption around the world.
Today, we commemorate the sacrifice of Leeda Mohmand, a citizen of Afghanistan. I very specifically would like to thank our Deputy Secretary Sullivan for being with us today, and I also want to recognize the Deputy Chief of Mission of the Afghan Embassy to the United States, our partners from across the State Department and the U.S. Federal law enforcement community as well as representatives from Congressman Goodlatte's office, the D.C. Metropolitan Police Department, the Virginia State Police, and other esteemed guests. Thank you very much for attending.
I want to extend a special welcome to the family members of this year's honoree, miss Leeda Mohmand. Joining us from Roanoke, Virginia are Leeda's sisters, Geeta and Behishta, her brother-in-law Mohammad Azami, and her niece Bahara, who is in the front row and is adorable. Your presence here reminds us of the great sacrifice Leeda and all of the individuals on this wall have made. You, along with the families of our other fallen heroes, are always in our thoughts as we recognize your loved ones and honor their service.
I also want to express our condolences to Leeda's mother and father, who were unfortunately unable to join us today. In 2013, the INL Memorial Wall was created to honor people like Leeda, who work in the fields of law enforcement, criminal justice, corrections, aviation, security, and as language assistants, as well as the families and loved ones who support them in their work. Every person listed on this wall was aware that their work as part of INL's mission was dangerous, and yet they continued to put the lives and well-being of others before their very own.
We honor their service, their sacrifice, and their dedication to our common goal of a safer, more secure, and more just world. And now, it is my pleasure and honor to introduce to you the Deputy Secretary of State of the United States of America, John J. Sullivan. Sir.
DEPUTY SECRETARY SULLIVAN: Thank you very much, Madam Secretary. It's an honor for me to be here today. I join Assistant Secretary Madison in welcoming you. We're privileged to have with us today the Deputy Chief of Mission of the Afghan Embassy to the United States, Medina Qasimi. Thank you very much, Your Excellency, for being with us today, as well as senior colleagues from the Departments of Justice and Defense, the Drug Enforcement Agency, the Federal Bureau of Prisons, and other distinguished guests both from the inner agency and from the United States. Thank you all for coming.
As the Assistant Secretary said, we're particularly honored by the presence of Leeda Mohmand's sisters, Geeta and Behishta, and her brother-in-law Mohammad Iqbal, who are here with us today, as the Assistant Secretary said, from Roanoke, Virginia. We are humbled by your presence with us today.
The Department of State honors the memory of those who have lost their lives in support of our mission. In the C street lobby of this Harry S. Truman building, you'll find the American Foreign Service Association memorial plaques which proudly honor our fallen Foreign Service officers. And here, in the 21st street lobby, we have the INL Memorial Wall, where we remember 101 courageous men and women who died while working on behalf of the State Department's Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, or as we know it, INL.
These men and women helped to promote justice and combat transnational crime and illicit drugs in a wide variety of missions abroad. They supported projects to fight the illicit drug trade in Colombia, to create more effective criminal justice systems in Iraq and Afghanistan, and to train law enforcement and corrections authorities in Kosovo, among many other missions. They each made a substantial contribution through their own individual area of expertise as a law enforcement or corrections professional, aviator, language assistant, or security specialist.
The INL Memorial Wall not only honors brave Americans who have worked on these missions, but also the courageous foreign national heroes who made the ultimate sacrifice in the service of INL's mission to build stronger partnerships and partners around the world. The INL Memorial Wall honors individuals from Afghanistan, Argentina, Colombia, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Fiji, Guatemala, Honduras, India, Jordan, Kenya, Nepal, Pakistan, South Africa, and Ukraine.
The individuals from all those nations-- their presence on this wall is a testament to the worldwide reach of the State Department's mission into our shared aspirations on behalf of a common humanity for a vision and partnership of peace and prosperity around the globe. Sadly, we're gathered here today to add a new name to the INL Memorial Wall this year, that of our colleague-- departed colleague-- Leeda Mohmand. Leeda was from Afghanistan with the United States partners with the Afghan government to disrupt criminal networks, combat corruption, fight terrorism, and end the illicit narcotics trade.
Afghanistan is the world's largest producer of poppy, and the drug trade there generates massive amounts of ill-gotten wealth for criminals, corrupt officials, and insurgents like the Taliban. It does not just undermine the rule of law, it sows tremendous suffering in Afghan families and communities, which are experiencing some of the highest drug use rates in the world. The United States is committed to helping Afghanistan address these problems.
Leeda Mohmand was part of the counter drug effort in Afghanistan. She worked for two years as a linguist supporting a U.S. interagency effort to train and mentor specialized units within the counter-narcotics police of Afghanistan. Contractors like Leeda operate independently, and often undertake hazardous trips to remote parts of Afghanistan as part of their duties.
Leeda's work made a significant difference in the Afghan government's ability to investigate and prosecute drug traffickers that funnel money to the Taliban and other insurgent groups. In 2017, the Afghan police, supported by Leeda's unit, conducted 84 joint operations and reported the destruction of more than 10 metric tons of heroin, over 70 metric tons of morphine, and over 200 metric tons of hashish. None of this would have been possible without the work of Leeda and her colleagues.
On October 31, 2017, Leeda was on her way home at the end of her shift when she was the victim of a suicide bombing attack. At only 26 years old, she had already accomplished many things in her life. She was a fluent English speaker and had earned a bachelor's degree in computer science.
She aspired to continue her education and eventually move to the United States to be closer to her sisters who are here with us today, Geeta and Behishta, and her brother-in-law Mohammad. Dreams that tragically will not be realized. Leeda is fondly remembered by her colleagues in Afghanistan who recall her smile, kind-heartedness, and willingness to help others. She sat near the office entrance and was always the first person to greet visitors. She supported the work of the U.S. government in Afghanistan, and her legacy is one of service to all Afghans.
She will live on in the hearts of her friends and colleagues, and especially her family, including her mother, father, and brother, who live in Afghanistan. And of course, we're joined today by her niece. And there should be no concern about her behavior and her vocalizing today. She's got a smile.
Leeda was doing work to help the future of her niece, so we are really honored to have her with us today. The work of the INL Bureau is unique, helping foreign countries develop effective and accountable criminal justice systems, fight corruption, and combat illicit narcotics, which is not easy work. It can be dangerous work, as this wall reminds us, but it is also vitally important work-- work that is inextricably linked to U.S. national security, international peace, and prosperity.
The heroic women and men honored on this memorial wall faced grave danger, but did not waver in their commitment to promote justice and combat transnational crime and the illicit drug trade. On this wall are the names of people who understood the importance of the INL mission, and they gave their lives in service to that mission. They made the ultimate sacrifice by committing to something much bigger than themselves.
In that spirit, we remember Leeda Mohmand and each person named on this wall. We honor each of them for their selfless sacrifice and commitment to this mission. It's now my honor to present the American flag to Leeda's family.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY MADISON: Ladies and gentlemen, we will now lay a wreath at the wall in memory of Leeda. Please join me in a moment of silence as we do so.
[BAGPIPES PLAYING "AMAZING GRACE"]
Ladies and gentlemen, please rise for the final changing of the watch.
Thank you. Please take your seats. The INL Memorial Wall will forever reflect the dedication of those whose names are inscribed here and the cause for which they served. They are now and forever remembered for their patriotism, heroism, and sacrifice. As we close, I would now like to invite the Deputy Secretary and Leeda's family to visit the wall and sign the condolence book as they wish, followed by all of our honored guests if you so choose. Thank you all very much for attending. It means a lot to INL, and I'm sure it means a lot to Leeda's family to have so many people here to remember her. Thank you.