US-Afghan panel stresses continued American security presence
KABUL (Pajhwok): Afghan Foreign Minister Salahuddin Rabbani and US Secretary of State John Kerry on Saturday convened the third meeting of the US-Afghanistan Bilateral Commission to review progress in bilateral relationship and chart a course for future cooperation.
A statement from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said the meeting reaffirmed the commitment of both governments to Afghanistan’s future as 'a strong, stable, democratic, and self-reliant state' under the Enduring Strategic Partnership Agreement (SPA) between the two countries.
The Bilateral Commission highlighted the continuation of US security presence beyond 2016 to carry out two important missions --- training, advising, and assisting the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF) in coordination with international partners and cooperating bilaterally on shared efforts to counter terrorism.
The Bilateral Commission welcomed the US commitment to provide continued financial support to the ANDSF via NATO’s Afghan National Army Trust Fund and the UN Development Program-managed Law and Order Trust Fund for Afghanistan (LOTFA) and to provide significant levels of development assistance during Afghanistan’s Transformation Decade.
The participants looked forward to the NATO Summit in Warsaw in July and the Brussels Ministerial Conference on Afghanistan in October.
The commission reaffirmed reform objectives in the New Development Partnership (NDP) decided in August 2015 and the joint commitments established in the Self-Reliance through Mutual Accountability Framework (SMAF) launched at the Senior Officials Meeting (SOM) in Kabul in September 2015.
The commission reiterated the important roles being played by civil society including women’s groups in helping to chart a democratic future for Afghanistan and ensuring respect for human rights and the rule of law.
Recognizing progress in the strategic partnership
The Bilateral Commission discussed cooperation in areas of defense and security; democracy and governance; and economic and social development.
Ahead of the Bilateral Commission meeting, US-Afghan working groups for these three areas met to review progress on the specific objectives set during the March 2015 visit of President Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah to Washington and to identify goals for the future.
Secretary Kerry and Minister Rabbani acknowledged the sacrifices and resolve of Afghan forces, the US, and coalition forces and called for an end to insecurity and violent attacks that resulted in over 11,000 civilian casualties in Afghanistan in 2015 alone.
To weaken and defeat terrorists, while denying them safe haven, both sides reaffirmed their commitment to strengthen the security and stability of Afghanistan.
As part of ongoing efforts to strengthen the Afghan security forces, the United States announced that 14 MD-530 attack helicopters and eight A-29 aircraft have been successfully integrated into the Afghan security forces.
The addition to 14 more MD-530s before August 2016 will further enhance the operational capabilities of the Afghan Air Force. US and Afghan officials also noted the completion of the semi-annual Program Management Review to validate long-term security cooperation partnership and to continue efforts to develop an effective, affordable, and sustainable ANDSF.
They noted the Afghan security institutions were building capacity in systems and processes to staff, equip, and sustain an ANDSF capable and combat-ready.
The challenges the ANDSF face are complex. Train, Advise, and Assist efforts continue to be required to develop the necessary capacity to build institutional knowledge and expertise in the areas of budgeting, force generation, personnel management, maintenance, logistics, and procurement.
The US participants commended Afghanistan’s participation in the Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism (GICNT) and its active cooperation in developing a strategic trade control system and associated border controls that help prevent the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.
Kerry and Rabbani noted a negotiated political settlement as the best and surest way to bring peace to Afghanistan. They welcomed the efforts of the Quadrilateral Coordination Group (QCG) in creating an environment conducive to bringing the Taliban and its affiliates to the negotiation table with the goal of creating a lasting peace in Afghanistan.
Rabbani appreciated the United States’ contribution of $5 million to the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) for supporting the Afghan Peace and Reintegration Program (APRP) in 2015, as well as the commitment to provide further support in 2016 for the implementation of the APRP reforms plan.
The United States welcomed Afghanistan’s membership in the 66-nation Global Coalition to Counter ISIL and Kabul’s commitment to counter violent extremism and terrorism in partnership with other like-minded countries around the world.
The ANDSF, working closely with the United States, has already made significant progress against the “Islamic State Khorasan Province” (ISKP), Daesh’s affiliate in Afghanistan.
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