Kerry: New partnership with Afghans in sight
WASHINGTON: (PAN): US Secretary of State John Kerry on Friday said they were closer than ever to completing a new partnership agreement, which would define the long term relationship between Kabul and Washington.
"I'm pleased to report to you now that we are closer than ever to completing this task of defining our new partnership with Afghanistan, going well into the future," Kerry told a Washington audience at the Georgetown University Symposium on Advancing Afghan Women.
The Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA), when completed, would help both countries to fulfill the longstanding commitment that they made to a security partnership after 2014, the Obama administration's top diplomat said.
"But I want to underscore again that nothing -- neither this agreement when completed, nor the assistance that we provide -- will replace the role that the Afghan people themselves will play in determining the future of their country," he added.
Kerry explained the US had made a commitment along with its NATO partners to continue to advise, train and support Afghan forces beyond 2014, should Afghans approve in the next two weeks the security pact.
"And make no mistake -- bringing women into the force and supporting their safe and meaningful participation is going to be a key part of this transition," the secretary said, reiterating the American commitment to protecting the rights of Afghan women during the transition process.
The success of the political transition was essential, a prerequisite to the future stability of Afghanistan, he insisted. "But make no mistake -- it's not enough, it's not sufficient, it won’t do the job alone."
The United States would continue to firmly support an Afghan-led peace and reconciliation effort as the surest way to end the violence and bring lasting stability to Afghanistan and the region, the secretary maintained.
But peace was possible only if it respected the historic achievements that Afghanistan had made over the past decade, including all the protection of the rights of all Afghans -- both men and women, he continued.
"And as part of the outcome of any process, the Taliban and other armed opposition groups have to end the violence, break ties with al-Qaida, accept Afghanistan’s constitution, including its provisions on women’s rights. Those are the standards which will lead us in this effort," Kerry said.
There could be no compromise on these principles and there could be no peace without respecting the rights of all Afghans, and women had to have a seat at the table," he said. Afghan women are also at the forefront of security transition, he acknowledged.
“These folks in uniform – unprecedented. They’re joining the army and the police, and they’re serving as judges, prosecutors in some of the most conservative parts of the country. It’s an extraordinary transformation,” he said.
The event was also addressed by his predecessor Hillary Clinton and former first lady Laura Bush. “I think everybody here knows that nobody has done more to advance the cause of women and the cause of Afghan women, together with Laura Bush, in our foreign policy directly than Secretary Clinton," Kerry said.
In her speech, Clinton said that Afghanistan stood at "a serious turning point", asking students to discuss what they could do to support the young people of Afghanistan through virtual contacts and exchange programmes.
Laura Bush voiced he concern Afghanistan might be abandoned once international troops left that country at the end of 2014. "I0 want the people of Afghanistan to know that the people of the United States are with them and do support them."
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