Credible presidential vote a must: Cunningham
Testifying before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, James B Cunningham, designated as the country’s ambassador to Afghanistan, stressed the role of the international community in choosing the next Afghan leader.
“Key to Afghanistan’s future stability will be a credible and inclusive presidential election in 2014, followed by a constitutional transfer of power. President Karzai has repeatedly affirmed his commitment to a peaceful, constitutional transition of power at the end of his second term,” he said.
“All Afghans, whatever their gender, ethnicity or religion, have much to gain from a successful political transition, and the United States is committed to working with international partners to support the Afghans as they choose their next leader,” he added.
There was much more to do to strengthen Afghanistan’s institutions, ensure a smooth political transition in 2014 consistent with the country’s constitution and to build regional support for a prosperous Afghanistan in a stable and secure region, he remarked.
Acknowledging corruption as a major challenge being faced by Afghanistan, Cunningham promised, if confirmed, he would continue to urge the government, in its own vital interest, to aggressively pursue anti-graft policies.
“I will also continue to make every effort to ensure that the assistance which the American people have so generously provided is used wisely and effectively, with the maximum degree of confidence that it is serving the intended purpose,” he pledged.
He noted Afghanistan’s progress on key transparency reforms to facilitate economic growth, including significant progress toward Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative (EITI) compliance and World Trade Organisation accession.
The Afghans had taken steps toward holding accountable those responsible for the Kabul Bank crisis, permitting the IMF to restart its relationship with Afghanistan in November last year, a decision which was reaffirmed in late-June by the IMF Executive Board, he continued.
Cunningham said the pieces of a long-term, enduring support structure for Afghanistan’s continuing progress and development were in place. “We have made clear to Afghans, and to the region, that the security transition does not mean we are abandoning Afghanistan.”
The Taliban appeared to be taking notice, as for the first time in a decade they were debating and signaling openness to negotiations, the envoy said, renewing US supports for Afghan peace efforts, aimed at a responsible settlement of the conflict.
Cunningham said the US had been consistent about the necessary outcomes of any negotiation: insurgents must break ties with Al Qaida, renounce violence and abide by the Afghan constitution, including the rights afforded to women and minorities.
“And we have been clear about steps the Taliban should take to build confidence, and signal their interest in a peace process. So, the Taliban face a clear choice: they can dissociate from international terrorism and enter an Afghan peace process, or face increasingly capable Afghan National Security Forces supported by the US and our Allies,” Cunningham concluded.
Download “Pajhwok” mobile App, on your smartphone to read and access latest news, features, interviews, videos and photos about Afghanistan.