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Transcript of His Excellency President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani’s Remarks at European Union Conference

Transcript of His Excellency President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani’s Remarks at European Union Conference

On

“The Way Ahead for Anti-Corruption in Afghanistan”

ARG, Kabul

May 5, 2016

 

In the name of Allah, the Merciful, the Compassionate

 

Ambassador Mellbin, Distinguished Ambassador of UK , Mr. Stanekzai, Members of Cabinet, Members of Parliament! Welcome.

Recognition of a problem is the first step toward generation of political will. I welcome you to the Presidential Palace Complex whose resident has been given a mandate to deal with corruption. The people of Afghanistan elected me because I promised them that I’ll tackle corruption seriously. I invited you here to make sure that both our people and your people understand that there is no disagreement between the international community and the government of Afghanistan regarding tackling this serious issue. The presidency, this palace complex, all of the government must be central to their efforts to understand and eliminate corruption.

I don’t want make the moral case because the case is well-made. The absolute majority of the Afghan people welcome reforms. The obstacle is the inherited system and the set of relationships that in the last fourteen years, particularly in the last fifteen years, we have jointly engendered. So instead of talking about generalities, let me address corruption in the coming months and the actions that we are willing to take. Two months ago, I provided an analytic framework to the ambassadors regarding what drives corruption. Simply put, there are the following drivers:

First, there is institutional capture. The system of appointments has been dominated by prevalence of relations over rules, and that in term is engendering rules of the game that vastly differ from the formal rules. We need to specify the core functions of each government organization and hold and create the mechanisms where the people of this country who are our masters hold the government responsible. This is a deep cultural change because we have inherited a culture of false hierarchy. That culture of false hierarchy makes an official dominate and disregard it. We brought a man from civil society made him deputy minister, and the first thing he did was to beat the police because the police was asking him not to use black film in his car. You see, the issue is not just changing the rules, it is changing behavior.

The second aspect of capture is security. We are extremely grateful for the assistance that we have received, but our security forces do not exercise the monopoly or the legitimate monopoly of force, and until we make sure that the security forces are able to function in that manner and first and foremost are accountable themselves as the largest contracts were in the security sector, our generals got diverted to seeing how they would handle contracts rather than how to manage the war. I want to congratulate Minister Stanekzai for the remarkable job he has done in cleaning Ministry of Defense. Over 80 senior generals have been retired and yesterday again I signed a new batch. But, particularly procurement, and I want to thank Minister Farooqi for his immense work in investigating the procurement. Just one example, Mr. Farooqi argued this on theoretical grounds. One contract for fuel just to supply electricity last year was 1.25 billion; this year the same contractor is bidding 100 – 200 million. You see what the margin is. General Davis to whom I’m grateful for attending to this and the CSTC-A’s partnership. We have saved literally tens of billions of Afs just from cleaning up the contracting of Ministry of Defense but the larger issue is that our citizens are threatened with constant use of illegitimate force. It is not only the terrorist, it is irresponsible armed groups, and the language of violence is a key driver of corruption. A judge who gets to be threatened in one district who refuse state-owned land illegally to a commander was beaten to a pulp. I had the man arrested and brought him to Kabul; he is now under trial. But, this is important that insecurity and our failure yet to consolidate legitimate monopoly of force and (eliminate) corruption within security institutions weakens us. Here, what is fundamental is narcotics as a key driver of corruption. Some of our core institutions that were entrusted with safeguarding citizens’ interests actually are being subverted and it is the networks, and these networks need to be understood.

The third form of capture is economy. Land grab is one illustration of it. Over one million Jeribs of land translating roughly to 300,000 hectares have been grabbed and core to this again was corruption of the courts, corruption of the Attorney General’s Office, Ministry of Interior and Ministry of Justice, because there are networks within these. The government lost tens of thousands hectares of land because of collusion, because the government’s case was always argued weakly while private collusion took place to transfer. It is land grab, it is not simply going and grabbing land, it is ensuring that the titles are transferred. Thanks to our reformist Supreme Court Judge, these cases are being reversed and we are going to get back.

And the other form is political capture. Politics has become a means of running the three other forms of capture and sets of relationships that prevail this, because the discourse gets to be subverted and directed towards false set of issues and debate rather than the core issues. Key point: the people of Afghanistan wanted a strong state. A strong state to the people of Afghanistan is the state that is their servant. A state that serves them, a state that provides services, a state that generates growth and jobs. There are certain interests in this country that want weak state institutions because weak state institutions are key to drivers’ survival, and unfortunately in the past, international contractors have been also key to desiring a weak state.

Why was this system created? Huge amounts of money came without the right accountabilities and the kind of advice that was provided was superficial. We dealt with the symptoms rather than with the root causes. Conclusion; we need to deal with the system at systemic level and we need to build. What is the good news? The good news is the people- the absolute majority of the citizens of this country, women, men, particularly the youth, and you do recall that we are the youngest country in terms of age, one of the oldest countries in terms of history, but young in terms of age. The young people don’t want corruption. The women don’t want corruption. Our scholars don’t want corruption. Therefore, we have a golden foundation, but we have to mobilize a systematic effort, because resistance, accusations and subversion need to be really taken seriously.

So, where is political will? Political will is at facing these problems; naming and acknowledging that corruption is our national shame, and we need to address it. Without addressing this, we are not going to have dignity and we will not be able to raise our flag in international meetings and take pride in it because there will always be the shadow.  If this diagnosis is correct, and I believe it is, then what do we do?

 First, we make the machinery of government function. This both has leadership issues and management issues. Infrastructure ministries. Not a single infrastructure ministry has been taught project and program management skills. Fifteen years of technical assistance, billions of dollars and technical assistance. Show me who has responsibility for which set of projects. I have to go back to my previous days as a facilitator and facilitate this. This is a joint failure. Why is it that people who are paid millions of dollars to design roads failed to design them from satellite imagery and failed to do the ground level reality? We are losing two years in construction because of failure of some of our core partners to do the right supervision. Why is it that eight million dollars are provided for supervision of schools that never got built and yet they were certified as being built? Core functions must be specified partnership, arrangement and accountability really need to be clarified because this is key. We have inherited a system, and some of the rules that are prevalent…We were never an Ottoman colony or from the Ottomans. We have a confusion of rules and regulations. This must be consolidated, and we are very proud that we have focused on consolidation of these rules.

Second, we must end the cycle of impunity. Until now, there has been a perception that anybody in high office has a license to do whatever they want. I am doubling the size of the special crimes task force and they are authorized to investigate both governors, ministers and high-ranking officials. They have a total mandate and right now based on my direct orders they are investigating and we will prosecute. Now they have a prosecutor who has the will to prosecute. Yesterday, a man paid him an enormous compliment, it was the spokesman of Attorney General’s Office; I had a meeting there with all our spokespeople both in the center and the provinces. He said, ‘Mr. Hamidi came alone without an entourage and that’s the type of man we want to come. Welcome Mr. Hamidi, we count on your reforms.

Justice sector is really crucial in this regard. I hope you have seen that now the building blocks of the reforms of the justice sector are in place. First, the Chief Justice, and a second reformist judge was approved by parliament. The third nominee, unfortunately, a brilliant woman, did not make it by votes, but the fourth nominee is the person who runs the narcotic criminal center with total integrity, and I will have a chance to nominate two more people on the Supreme Court and we can assure you that they will be people of integrity and judgment.

The other point that has been taken of course is approval – and I am grateful to parliament – 200 votes of approval for an Attorney General who doesn’t have money or connections. It is a good day for Afghanistan. We hope that this culture becomes more widespread.

Third is, we must stop predatory behavior. Fourth, we have received an inheritance of the past. There are hundreds of files that had been sent to the Attorney General’s Office that had not been acted. We cannot get so busy with the past to forget the now and forget our own accountability. So the Attorney General’s Office and the court system are authorized to classify and make decisions, so a balance between the past and the present and the future, but particularly we are going to be present-oriented. From the day the cabinet and the officials of the government of national unity have been selected, they are accountable and they are prosecutable. And, we must establish this culture, because without that, people will not believe us. I am also willing to submit the presidency to the creation of an ombudsman. If there are any accusations regarding the presidency, I ask the international community to join me to create the best ombudsman office. We do not believe in conflict of interest and because of it, if there are accusations and (these) accusations (are) of part of the anti-reform agenda, let’s have credible mechanisms for dealing with them because it’s important that accusations are dealt with. And, to make sure I invite civil society and the international community to nominate and select an ombudsman.

What have we done so far? I will not give you a laundry list but some key actions. First, we have jailed the two key culprits of the Kabul Bank and Governor Seddiqi who was doing a remarkable job in the bank will tell you not only have we recovered $250 million back the crisis in the banking sector is avoided. Sherlock Holmes; the dog that doesn’t bark needs attention. When I was swearing in, banking could have faced a serious repetition of the previous thing. I personally saw the balance sheet, the ratings, and interviewed every single CEO of the bank and gave them a reform program, and now the Central Bank is seeing this, we believe firmly in the independence of the Central Bank and it is important that the banking sector becomes viable. But, we have avoided crisis now making the banking sector function for the economy rather than for the informal sector is the challenge that governor Seddiqi will preside over.

Second, despite a severe recession bordering on depression, we increased our revenue twenty two percent; that indicates what was the toll that corruption was taking. Twenty five percent of Customs Officers have been fired. The next generation of reforms in the customs are underway, and we hope a series of fundamental changes will occur that will make having a job in customs so undesirable that no one influential would want their kids or their relatives to be placed there, only people with integrity and judgment and in a way to move forward.

Procurement. Mr. Yari has been heading our procurement, and I really want to thank him. He has lost 5 kilos since he took this job while it’s very good for its figure, this is the man who, with a remarkable team, changed the culture of procurement. I have presided over 53 sessions of procurement, I count so. I don’t think in history there is a session that a president and the CEO of a country would have taken this responsibility, seriously. For six months, there was not a single contract that we saw that complied with laws. Now, our sessions are becoming shorter, because compliance is taking place, and I’d like to acknowledge CSTC-A’s contribution and also SIGAR’s and members of parliament; the caucus for integrity are sitting there who are attending as representative, and there is also a representative of the parliament. Result of this; forty five companies have been already blacklisted with at least 11 more in the process of being banned. Interests that are behind these companies. Minister Farooqi did a remarkable job in his investigation of procurement in the Ministry of Defense showing that in most of the contracts, companies that bid actually did not exist. Literally, six companies would bid, four or five of them wouldn’t exist. He traced every single one of these companies, saying is there an office? Is there any establishment? They were (just) names. In other places, there would be post box addresses, but here, thank God, we don’t have post box addresses so they have to have some little room; maybe container.

Third, the Supreme Court. Over 600 judges have been changed. Every single provincial judge in this country was changed. Appellate court judges; 135 that required in the first round my approval, because the Constitution of Afghanistan has a peculiarity; two sets one, theoretically, I am the Chief Judge because it is an Islamic state. So ultimate responsibility comes, that responsibility I delegate to the Chief Judge, but in terms of appointment of top officials, my approval is required. And, secondly another batch came which again over hundred required my approval and three hundred fifty more that required the Chief Justice’s.

The first and second rounds of reforms of the Supreme Court have been completed. Now, we are going to deal with the district level; twenty percent of the prosecutors have been released from their duties. The overwhelming majority of them were graduates of twelfth grade. Can you imagine a country where a significant number of prosecutors who are supposed to know the law and enforce the law are graduates of high school? I interviewed every single judge on the appellate court, and their unanimous judgment was that 80 – 90% of the cases that are submitted to them by prosecutors are legally faulty. And, that’s the job that now Mr. Hamidi and the Chief Justice would deal with.

 

Public Procurement. I brought you the key in culture because this is the key area. Roughly, twenty percent of the GDP is in government procurement. So the implications of this are immense. We have cleared the top which is formal compliance with the law where in the middle Minister Stanekzai has taken the great step, he’s asked 600 mid-level officials in the Ministry of Defense to declare their assets and he has been focused laser sharp on them, but we need to do the same thing with others. Because the entrenched interest in collusions are at the level of implementation.

 Our next task. And, this is the failure of our private sector. We do not have functioning companies. It is not only that we have a weak state, we have a weak market. The weakness of the market institutions are a fundamental block to anti-corruption agenda because the culture previously in the infrastructure was that they would secure the contracts then subcontract them and subcontract them… There are as many as six layers of sub-contracting. And, people who had no business for instance (supplied) food; food business for universities. People who got the contracts specialized in their lines. Back and forth because they were selling contracts ….And we are dealing with it. 

Government Financial System; the government financial system is being restructured. Minister Hakimi really needs to be complimented not just for raising the revenue but now for the financial management roadmap. The financial management roadmap is one of the best, and I’d like to acknowledge Australian assistance. This is the best type of assistance that we have gotten, because they have no interest in consulting. Their facilitators; other type of people we have had including companies.

When we created the AFMIS, the first thing was you know; for six months, we had the best then the quality of people declined, because these companies have a number of lead people, they go get the business, start it and then it goes down. And unfortunately, supervision is very weak. But, the type of assistance that we have received from core functioning treasuries; Australia, US, UK and others is really an immense assistance. That is the type of assistance that becomes catalytic because what the financial roadmap is doing it is giving us a clear roadmap where our people own the problem and believe it. There was a culture that we needed to write our documents in English and we have to get out of this culture. If we want ownership, we really have to articulate and write in Uzbeki, Pashto and Dari because that’s a dynamic debate. The key model of this is the Citizen’s Charter. Minster Durrani, Minister Zamir, Minister Firoz and their colleagues have done a remarkable job of debating and discussing, and I was really moved to tears the other day with the conception of the Citizen’s Charter. The next generation of Afghan leaders is in front of you, the torture is being passed and I am delighted. The scope of our colleagues is deeply….of course, I need to acknowledge Minsiter Oriakhel and her colleagues, a culture of inter-ministerial collaboration is taking place. Yesterday, the counter-narcotics center, again as an example of this. So, we are going to reorganize the Auditing Office, we had neither auditing standards nor accounting standards literally. So every company that was giving us an audit did it on their own. I had the misfortune of reading all the audit reports of the telecom sector before my very able colleague Ajmal Ahmadi came and released me of all these things. It is a wonderful addition and his integrity and judgment again needs to be appreciated. Most governments hate their watchdogs. We love working with them, and give power to them and I will give them all the authority that they need to investigate us. But, you make a judgment on the effectiveness or otherwise of AO and let us know, and thereby we’ll decide. What is also important is civil society partnership; Afghan civil society needs to be mobilized and you know what the greatest part of Afghan civil society is? The mosque. Every Friday, there is a referendum across this country in the mosques. The mosques hate corruption, and please we need to mobilize them and Ulema of Afghanistan are going to be extraordinarily important asset in this regard as well.  

Now, in terms of moving forward. So, I’d like to make some announcements. First is the High Council on governance, rule of law and anti-corruption. This high council will have the same set of authorities similar to National Security Council, National Economic Council; entry of my very able colleagues, Mr. Roshan, Minister Farooqi, and Nargis Nehan whom you know will be assisting us to put this together and move forward.

What have we done to prepare for this? First is a set of investigations. The famous Farooqi report that you are all asking to be released will be decided upon to be released; the Roshan report that you don’t know about airport is going to be released, and we have investigated all the properties that have been rented by the government and it is a scandal. One illustration; one property was rented by a ministry for 35,000 Afs per month to a company, it turned around and rented the property for 35,000 dollars, and it has been going on for 14 years. We are now creating an inventory of all these assets, we have sufficient investigations to be able to make decisions and commission others, so it’d be important step in that regard.

Second, Chief Justice Halimi and Attorney General Hamidi have agreed that before October, each of them will have five key reforms that are going to be driven by them. We want a condition based contract with the donors to support the justice sector on the basis of these reforms. They will be fundamental in that regard.

Third, we have set up a number priority areas for cleanup. For 2016, Ministries of Interior, Transport, Mining, and Education are on top of our list. And, Ministry of Finance has already prepared a comprehensive action program to work with these Ministries. Why these ministries? And why the approach? We have an enormously long tradition of justice, so first we come to rule of law. We have a long tradition… the circle of justice I hope has been explained to you. Muslim theory of governance is based on the foundational notion of justice. Without justice, there cannot be agriculture. Without agriculture, there cannot be commerce. Without commerce and agriculture, there cannot be an army. Without an army there cannot be an administration, and without an army and administration, there cannot be ruling and governance. It is a simple elegant thing. This is what (it is). So the notions of justice in this country is overdeveloped not underdevelopment. It is delivery. Because of this, I am announcing the establishment of a specialized Anti-corruption Justice Center. The anti-narcotics center has been successful, the chief justice and attorney general have approved this in our first preliminary meeting of the high council, and therefore we would like to implement it and move on so that for Warsaw, it’s active. Not that we will announce by Warsaw, I am announcing it today, we need to make it functional by Warsaw.

Let me briefly focus on these ministries. Ministry of Interior is one of the five larger spenders in this country, but more than that, the Ministry of Interior is the face between citizens and the state, so accountability in this ministry in removal of corruption is critical. The other is, you know because of the imposed war and our need to focus all our energies on containing terrorist attacks, we have not done enough on counter-narcotics. Ministry of Interior is absolutely essential both to the counter-narcotics effort and among other things to ensuring urban growth…. (Inaudible) property rights….and the other (thing) is that constitution gives the responsibility for discovery of crimes to the police. No one else has a right to discover. In the past, the courts have been meddling in this, the Attorney General’s Office has been meddling in every anti-corruption organization. Discovery of the crime is the job of the Police. That’s why the special crimes task force needs to work organically with the anti-corruption center to be able to move this forward. But, the other is, it is also our accountability to your citizens and to your treasuries. The funds that come to the Ministry of Interior must be fully accountable. I cannot have imaginary policemen. Every policeperson, man and woman… we are proud that we have a lot of women now, has to be fully documented. Their payment has to be fully electronic etc.

Mining. As Ambassador Mellbin pointed out, we are at risk of the curse of plenty. Curse of resources, today the mining sector is a driver of terrorist networks. Corruption of the past needs to be investigated. I am willing to have a force by ATI, any international group to look at contracts, we will post every single contract in the mining sector on websites. And, we will be willing to examine all the contracts that have been granted. We invite Afghan Civil Society as it has contributed in the past to investigate the mining sector. Acting minister Habibyar will explain to you as well as the principle of the community consultation.

Education. I am particularly wild about the missing funds that were given to communities to build schools. This is not just stealing, this is a criminal offense against our children. My client is the Afghan child. The Ministry of Education is a means, teachers are a means; schools are a means. We cannot commit a crime against our children. So, fortunately, thanks Nargis Nehan and the colleagues from the Ministry of Education. We have looked at all 110 schools in addition to 150 other schools. We have classified them; now we have a system. But international supervision again was extremely weak. And, whoever hire those we call on those donors that funded these to do their duty, otherwise we need to have a mechanism to sue those people who fail to do their internationally provided resources. There has to be an ombudsman, business needs to have another partner. When firms hired by international donors fail to do their job, what do we do? This is an accountability, this is your resources. Do you want them to go ahead and keep designing false roads both or not supervising school construction and others are accepting certifications. So, it is really important in this regard that we move on education, because that quality will be important. Results of our findings will be made public. I believe in transparency, so it’s important to engage in mutual accountability in the sense that we have accepted it. And, as you see, there is no blame game on our part. We just want to make sure that repetition of the past patterns where Afghan government did not own the problem does not recur and that then we are given international advice that is relevant and pertains to the problem.

Public Campaign. I want to acknowledge that we have been very weak in public communication and my reasoning was very simple. I did not want to raise expectations. A war was imposed on us, we were dealing with a lot of crisis, and we were dealing with fundamental drivers. Now, our way has been clear to our future and our international partnerships are very solid. I want to thank all our international partners; people sitting around me and all of you for believing in us. Last year, we were working with total uncertainty. This year, we are having risks but not uncertainty, and it is an immense change so I want to thank all the ambassadors, all the representatives of international organizations, international financial institutions, the security sector partners for believing in us and for creating a medium-term horizon. This medium-term horizon colleagues will enable us to tackle fundamental changes. We will take actions on land, on contracts and particularly I want to acknowledge the immense work of Mr. Paikar, our very able director general of ARAZI and a member of the Cabinet. ARAZI is an organization that really represents the new generation of reform, a fundamental shift is underway to transfer registration of property from the court that was only transferred as temporary measure in 1960s back to ARAZI, and the Turkish system that we have found most relevant to us is being piloted in Herat and Kabul. This will be a very important point.

In conclusion, again let me thank you for holding this conference and particularly for holding … because it shows that we not only share diagnosis and share a problem, (but that) we’re also partners and working and solving this problem. The road ahead of us is difficult. But there will be forks in the road where difficult choices have to be made that that’s what is going to distinguish us in terms of historical actors. Will we make the easy choice or will we make the harder choice? When a fork comes, those who choose the hard road pave the way for generations to come to benefit from the suffering and the consequences of that decision. We’re willing to take the hard road. But, what is fundamental to taking this hard road is our mutual commitment to transparency and accountability. Corruption thrives in the dark. But here also the dilemma of the reforms. The more we talk about corruption and the more we expose it, people think that it is increased, and it’s fine, but let us understand that this is not fraud on a wave, it is deep structures that we are dealing with so we have to balance fundamental issues that will shift the culture of capture and the commitment unconsciously probably or consciously to a weak state system to a culture we believe in stock state system- bound to its citizens by the bond of rule of law- prevails and meet mid-level actions that experts and specialists will believe in, but also those addressing those symptoms where the public will welcome. So in this balancing act as I hope what your deliberation will be, but also the deliberation regarding dealing with the past and the present. I hope that it has been shown that we have not politicized our anti-corruption team. It is not that we’re using anti-corruption to target anyone, we believe deeply in public discourse and in freedom. But, those who talk must also know their records and we ask you as our partners to advise us on this.

How systematically, how deep do you want us to go to the past; advise us, don’t avoid the problem, because it is extremely important. In terms of today and tomorrow, I want to make sure that you understand that we have the full commitment. This is a fight that we have to win. There is no choice. And we are not waiting for tomorrow to begin, we began yesterday, today we are accelerating and every day we will accelerate the speed. I used to run the 10 mile race and also the 50 meters. In 50 meters it is all about strength in one effort; in 10 miles you have to be steady otherwise you drop or get exhausted in the course of it. So, please help us both achieve the strengths with certain targets particularly by Warsaw and Brussels and then in the longer run.

Very last point, Brussels is crucial to us, we do not want to go to Brussels with speeches. So, please come to understanding with our colleagues. What are those core actions that would create credibility among all our international partners that we have taken action and we have not just spoken. Thank you. Long Live Afghanistan (the president says in Pashto, Uzbeki and Dari)

اطلاعیه ماه مبارک رمضان

به اطلاع عموم هم وطنان عزیز مقیم استرالیا و زیلاند جدید رسانیده می شود که اوقات کاری سفارت ج.ا.ا در کنبرا در ایام مبارک رمضان از ساعت ۹:۳۰ صبح الی ۲:۰۰ بعد از ظهر است. اوقات کاری بخش قونسلی از ساعت ۱۰ الی ۱:۰۰ بعد از ظهر می باشد.

The working hours of the Embassy of Islamic Republic of Afghanistan in Canberra, during the holy month of Ramadhan is from 09:30 am to 02:00 pm.

Note: the counsellor section will be open every working day from 10:00 am to 1:00 pm.  

Statement by the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan on the 2015 UNAMA (United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan) Report on Civilian Protection


KABUL, 14 Feb. 2016 -- The Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan (GoIRA) has reviewed the 2015 “Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict Annual Report” by the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan and thanks UNAMA for providing an advance copy.

This important report once again confirms the horrifically high price Afghans are paying as a result of conflict, whereby Taliban groups and other terrorist groups are seeking to deny our citizens the right to live in peace and protect their families from harm.

UNAMA’s close monitoring and detailed analysis of the security situation in Afghanistan leaves no doubt as to the many ways Taliban groups and their affiliates are terrorizing and brutalizing our civilian population. These groups wreak havoc, in defiance of international humanitarian law and other applicable laws including the best Islamic practices established by the Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him), who established a code of conduct in war and condemned collateral damage.

The GoIRA is particularly saddened by the sharp increase in 2015 of loss of life of Afghan women and girls. Taliban and their affiliates increasingly trained their sights on Afghan women and girls -- maiming them, killing them, and snatching away their constitutional and human rights.

As the report notes, “Anti-Government Elements continued to target prominent women, human rights defenders and women working in public life…  Besides the increased number of women becoming direct casualties from the armed conflict, in most regions, Anti-Government Elements increasingly prevented the women and girls’ enjoyment of fundamental human rights in areas under their control. Throughout 2015, UNAMA documented instances of Anti-Government Elements deliberately restricting the freedom of movement of women and girls, preventing their access to medical care and forbidding girls’ education beyond primary levels.”

In 2015, the GoIRA documented the acceleration of deliberate and indiscriminate attacks on our civilian population and civilian institutions by Taliban and other terrorist groups, who seek to spread fear and gain fame through sensational media headlines.

In light of our findings, the government urges UNAMA’s monitoring team to pay particular attention to the increasing number of targeted attacks on civilian personal and institutions, including community elders throughout the country, and especially in the south and southeast. Our analysts have identified a pattern in the methods in which these violent attacks were carried out and concluded that there is a systematic effort underway to terrorize these communities and intimidate anyone who denounces violence against civilian populations.

These attacks are a clear breach of international humanitarian law and deserve UNAMA’s full attention.

While the statistics presented in UNAMA’s report cover incidents in high-conflict areas in 12 provinces, the GoIRA monitors and records civilian casualties across the entire country. That data shows how indiscriminate attacks by anti-government elements -- including suicide attacks targeting large numbers of civilians -- were carried out in more than 24 provinces across the country, mainly in cities, where Afghan security forces have not been involved in active combat engagement for obvious reasons. Because these incidents were not included in UNAMA’s report, this report does not present the whole picture, which we regret.

Further, the GoIRA respectfully disagrees with how the report characterizes the 42 percent decrease in civilian casualties from Taliban ground operation attacks. The government’s own analyses of data on ground engagement by Taliban shows that the main reason for this drop was not the group’s sudden concern for civilian lives, as the report implies, but rather the fact that many people living in areas of consistent indiscriminate shelling, attacks, and harassment by Taliban were displaced by the conflict.

The GoIRA also questions the decision by UNAMA to not attribute 13 percent of civilian casualties in 2015 to any party of the conflict. 

Field data collected by the government in the wake of ground engagements by anti-government forces strongly suggests that in almost every case, Taliban and their affiliates demonstrated zero concern for the protection of the civilian population. There has been a total absence of accountability or respect for international humanitarian law – including the Geneva Convention -- by these groups. Indeed, their so-called “spokespersons” waste no time claiming responsibility for direct attacks on civilian populations.

The rules of engagement for the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF) adhere strictly to Islamic dictate – which, as noted, abhors collateral damage -- and international humanitarian laws. Our forces are regularly trained on the protection of civilians and consistently held accountable whenever they fail, no matter how slightly; the guiding mission of the ANDSF is to protect and provide security to all Afghans.

The GoIRA is concerned that UNAMA’s decision to not attribute such a large number of civilian deaths misrepresents reality and could help Taliban and other terrorist groups avoid accountability and escape justice.

Finally, the GoIRA thanks UNAMA for its work in carefully monitoring protection of civilians in armed conflict and for its thoughtful and constructive recommendations. We would like to note the following:

  • http://president.gov.af/Content/Package/liarrow.gif); background-attachment: scroll; background-color: transparent; clear: both; background-position: 0% 7px; background-repeat: no-repeat no-repeat;">The ANDSF conducts military operations under clearly defined rules, where the use of certain weapons is only allowed under strict criteria involving “justifiability” and “proportionality” and there is full consideration of the civilian population’s safety. The government has many times postponed for days the launch of operations and counter-attacks because of concern for civilian lives and property. Our actions in support of clearing Kunduz City reflected this policy.
     
  • http://president.gov.af/Content/Package/liarrow.gif); background-attachment: scroll; background-color: transparent; clear: both; background-position: 0% 7px; background-repeat: no-repeat no-repeat;">Having said the above, the GoIRA agrees that further work can – and will -- be done to improve our rules of engagement and other tactical directives with regard to the use of explosive weapons and armed aircrafts.
     
  • http://president.gov.af/Content/Package/liarrow.gif); background-attachment: scroll; background-color: transparent; clear: both; background-position: 0% 7px; background-repeat: no-repeat no-repeat;">Under our national policy on civilian casualty mitigation and the accompanying action plan, a dedicated professional unit will be established to further investigate all conflict-related harm to civilians.
     
  • http://president.gov.af/Content/Package/liarrow.gif); background-attachment: scroll; background-color: transparent; clear: both; background-position: 0% 7px; background-repeat: no-repeat no-repeat;">The GoIRA will continue its policy of providing support to families of victims and those who have lost property as a result of the ongoing conflict and attacks by Taliban and affiliated terrorist groups. We are currently working with the Supreme Court of Afghanistan to determine the appropriate compensation for Afghans who suffer such losses.
     
  • http://president.gov.af/Content/Package/liarrow.gif); background-attachment: scroll; background-color: transparent; clear: both; background-position: 0% 7px; background-repeat: no-repeat no-repeat;">The GoIRA reiterates that it does not currently use any civilian facilities – including schools, hospitals or clinics -- for military purposes and in the event any local authority or military official did so, would promptly launch an investigation and provide an appropriate remedy.     

The GoIRA has no higher duty than the protection of the Afghan people. We will continue to welcome and support any and all efforts to aid us in this cause.

Abbas Farasoo’s Statement in Australian Afghan Business Council Conference

Abbas Farasoo’s Statement in Australian Afghan Business Council Conference

22 February 2016

Melbourne

 

Mr Bashir Keshtiar, President of Australia Afghan Business Council 

Honourable Robin Scott MP, Minister for Finance

Mr Atiqullah Nusrat, CEO-Afghanistan Chamber of Commerce and Industries

Mr Ali Akbar Zhawandai, Advisor to H.E. President of Afghanistan

H.E. Mr Matthew Anderson PSM, Australian Ambassador to Afghanistan

Ladies and Gentlemen

At the outset, I would like to express my gratitude to the Australian Afghan Business Council for organising this important event today, and thank you for your participation here today. Your presence is of significant importance and adds greatly to today’s gathering.

We all know that Afghanistan and Australia have a deep historical relationship and I would like to extent my gratitude to the Australian authorities for supporting Afghanistan and deepening Afghan-Australian relations. Together we have enjoyed people to people relationship building since 1860 and 1870 when Afghans with their camels came to Australia to participate in the development process of communication networks in this beautiful country. They played a vital part and very constructive role in Australian society and economic development. Their inspiring efforts are parts of Australian memory. I am very proud that we have such a deep historic relation and a broad people to people connection today.

Ladies and Gentlemen

It is also an opportunity for me to thank Australians for their sincere support in challenging times. Australia supports Afghans here in Australia and in Afghanistan during the time of war against international terrorism.

Australian troops have been fighting against terrorism shoulder to shoulder with Afghanistan security forces for more than one decade.

Of course Afghans will never forget Australian support during these challenging times and particularly of those who have lost their precious lives in Afghanistan. Afghans will honour and remember Australia’s support and contribution against terrorism, the support of human rights, the assistance for the reconstruction process and hosting of thousands of Afghan refugees in these difficult times.

We appreciate Australia’s ongoing commitment for a long term support of Afghanistan’s security forces. At the same time we have to remember that Afghanistan fights against terrorism on behalf of the international community. Furthermore, Afghanistan does need the long term support and commitment of the international community including Australia.  

Ladies and Gentlemen

Despite our significant achievements in our bilateral relationships in term of people to people relations and Australia’s strategic commitments and support of Afghanistan, our business communities interaction and cooperation, is still not that strong as Afghanistan wishes it to be. It is the job of the Embassy and the Australian Afghan Business Council to work together to enhance the relationship and to take it forward to reach desired outcomes. In order to successfully enhance bilateral business relations a substantive and inclusive plan should be developed.

Such plan can improve relations between companies, and will serve as a vehicle to encourage Australian companies to invest in Afghanistan and to work together with their Afghan counterparts.

Moreover, Australia has a rich historical experience on mining industry, law and regulation and mining investments. Therefore, we need Australia’s cooperation and support in these fields. However, it requires dynamic multi-level efforts from Afghanistan’s side to work with our Australian friends in the business community.

As such, we can enhance our private sector relations such as mineral and mining companies, small and medium size enterprises and trade. But it requires substantial work and follow up from initial introductions, and inclusive strategy to mobilize our all resources to bridge among our businesses and economic communities.

Therefore, in Afghanistan, our business community, the environment for developing business to business relationships, and right conditions for investment should be ready, and it is ready. As my colleague from Afghanistan provided more details, and I am sure they will provide you with more other details in this regard.

In relation to the Embassy’s role for this process, the Afghanistan Embassy in Australia is ready to support and provide consular services to the Business Council and for Australian companies to go to Afghanistan for investment and to enable them to work with the Afghan business community.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Once again, thank you for your participation; I appreciate your focus on Afghanistan in this critical time. Also my special thanks go to the President of the Australian Afghan Business Council and the CEO of the Council and members for supporting Afghanistan and Australia together, and the Council encouraging business to business interaction and cooperation. It is a crucial effort at the right time.

Thank you! 

Joint Press Release: The Second Meeting of the Quadrilateral Coordination Group (QCG) of Afghanistan, Pakistan, the United States and China

The second meeting of the Quadrilateral Coordination Group (QCG) of Afghanistan, Pakistan, the United States and China on the Afghan Peace and Reconciliation process was held in Kabul on January 18, 2016. The delegations were led by Afghan Deputy Foreign Minister Hekmat Khalil Karzai, Pakistan’s Foreign Secretary Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhry, the US Ambassador to Afghanistan Michael McKinley and China’s Special Envoy for Afghanistan Ambassador Deng Xijun.

Taking note of the joint statement of January 11, 2016 and building on the outcome of the first meeting of the QCG, the group discussed and made progress on a roadmap towards initiating peace talks with Taliban groups that reflects the shared commitments of the QCG member countries. The roadmap aims to set specific measures that are necessary for creating a conducive environment for the commencement of Afghan led, Afghan owned peace talks between representatives of the Government of Afghanistan and representatives of Taliban groups aimed at reduction of violence and establishing lasting peace in Afghanistan and the region. To this end, the QCG called on all Taliban groups to enter into early talks with the Afghan government to resolve all differences politically in accordance with the will and aspirations of the entire Afghan nation and the desire and support of the QCG member countries for lasting peace in Afghanistan.

The participants of the QCG once again emphasized the need for an end to the senseless violence against the Afghan people. The QCG countries agree that all forms of terrorism presents a grave threat to countries, the region and the world. The members indicated their commitment to a robust effort to eliminate all forms of terrorist groups, regardless of their national origin, operating in their respective territories.

The QCG member countries agreed that friendly, mutually respectful and cooperative relations between the member states of QCG are necessary to create an enabling environment for the peace process in Afghanistan, which will help ensure the security, stability, prosperity, and interests of the region.

The QCG agreed to continue regular meetings to advance the Peace and Reconciliation process in Afghanistan. The group will hold its next meeting on February 6, 2016 in Islamabad.

Kabul,

January 18, 2016