The U.S.-Afghan Partnership
Building national and democratic institutions and enhancing the state-building process in Afghanistan are integrally linked to the security of Afghanistan, the United States and the entire world. The Afghan people are demanding sustainable partnership with the United States and the international community to build their security institutions, rehabilitate their economy and contribute to regional and global peace and stability.
President Hamid Karzai is visiting the United States to further strengthen the historic relations between Afghanistan and America. While our relations are rooted in half a century of cooperation and good relations, the United States became deeply engaged in Afghan politics during the last phase of the Cold War, when the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan in 1979.
After a decade of occupation, the Soviet Union was forced to withdraw its occupying forces from Afghanistan. The Geneva Accords of April 1988 effectively ended Soviet occupation in 1989. To help rebuild post-conflict Afghanistan, international donors gathered in New York in October 1988 and made pledges amounting to some $900 million. Afghans optimistically expected at the time that, after the withdrawal of the Soviet troops, a political settlement would soon be in place, refugees would return, and reconstruction could begin immediately afterwards.
However, the abrupt collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 and the end of the Cold War dramatically changed the equation. Afghanistan suddenly edged off the international community's radar screen, reflecting shortsightedness but justified by both declining strategic interest in the country and frustration with the continuing proxy conflict. Hence, Afghanistan became a victim of both the Cold War and the post-Cold War era. With multiple foreign policy priorities in the new world era, the United States and its allies neglected Afghanistan's post-conflict reconstruction and abandoned the country to the detriment of their long-term interest in international peace and security.
The bloody and destructive decade of the 1990s in Afghanistan saw internecine factional conflicts among former combatants and armed groups that ravaged Kabul, destroying state institutions and public facilities. The emergence in 1994 of the Taliban movement, with foreign assistance, enabled Al-Qaeda and its global network to first victimize and terrorize the Afghan people and then to target American assets in the Middle East and Africa from the Afghan territory.
The painful experiences of the 1990s in Afghanistan proved that some Afghan leaders such as Hamid Karzai were right in arguing that state failure in one country can affect peace and security in the entire world. We sadly witnessed the terrorist attacks of September 11 on the United States. More than 3,000 innocent American lives were lost in the attacks orchestrated by Al-Qaeda operatives. The United States government immediately responded with participation of the Afghan people and ended the terror and tyranny of the Taliban in Afghanistan and destroyed Al-Qaeda bases. The Afghan people welcomed President George W. Bush's decisive action against the Taliban and are grateful for the U.S. commitment to the long-term reconstruction of Afghanistan.
The Europeans and the entire international community unanimously backed Operation Enduring Freedom and joined the United States in the effort to help Afghanistan rebuild after over two decades of deadly and devastating conflicts. On November 14, 2001, five weeks into U.S.-led operations in Afghanistan, the Security Council endorsed an urgent meeting of Afghan political leaders to form an interim government for the country and to establish a framework for its physical, political and economic reconstruction.
As a clear sign of unity of purpose, the Bonn talks in Germany in early December 2001 brought together UN officials, Afghan leaders and members of the international community to discuss the country's future. Security Council Resolution 1386, approved unanimously on December 20, 2001, provided for the creation of International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) and its deployment to Kabul and the surrounding areas to help the Afghan Interim Authority create a secure environment in Kabul.
Initially, nineteen countries contributed troops and logistical supplies to ISAF in order to provide physical security in Kabul. This number has grown close to 30 countries now. The number of ISAF forces has increased from 4,500 to nearly 6,000 peacekeepers currently maintained by NATO.
Since the inauguration of the new government in Afghanistan, there has been strong bipartisan support for the long-term assistance to Afghanistan at both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue. The tragic day of September 11, 2001, marked a strong common interest between the American and Afghan peoples in jointly combating international terrorism that has harmed both nations.
Long before launching the massively destructive attacks on the United States, Al-Qaeda had been destroying and terrorizing Afghanistan and its people. Afghans were the prime victims of terror, as the tyrannical regime of the Taliban had invited Al-Qaeda to base its campaign in Afghanistan. President George W. Bush has repeatedly stressed in his remarks that "the United States and Afghanistan are united in our common effort to defeat terrorism and to build a more secure and prosperous future for both American and Afghan peoples."