KABUL - The Afghanistan-US Bilateral Commission, created under the Enduring Strategic Partnership Agreement (SPA), on Saturday met in Kabul to review progress in implementing the vision of a secure, democratic and prosperous Afghanistan.
Foreign Minister Zalmai Rassoul and US Deputy Secretary of State William Joseph Burns, who led their respective delegations, agreed on intensifying efforts to conclude the Bilateral Security and Defense Cooperation Agreement negotiations as soon as possible.
Cooperation between the allies continued to be based on mutual respect and shared interests, they said, promising to continue high-level bilateral consultations to further deepen their partnership on the basis of the SPA.
The two sides discussed steps to strengthen their enduring partnership as sovereign nations, reaffirming the role of the agreement in consolidating the historic gains in Afghanistan made over the past decade and cementing their relationship through the security transition up to the end of 2014 and into the transformation decade.
During the session, Afghanistan and the US reviewed the progress achieved since President Obama and President Karzai signed the SPA on May 2, 2012 in Kabul and since the October 3, 2012 inaugural commission meeting in Washington, the foreign ministry said.
Consultations held by chairs of the commission working groups on the work plan also figured at the meeting, a statement from the ministry said. Rassoul and Burns welcomed the following specific accomplishments:
- The transfer on March 25 of the Detention Facility in Parwan to Afghanistan’s sovereign control;
- The Independent Election Commission’s announcement of a comprehensive elections timeline, including April 5, 2014 as the date for presidential and provincial council elections;
- The January 11 Joint Statement by President Obama and President Karzai in support of the possible opening of an office in Doha for the purpose of direct contacts and negotiations between the High Peace Council and authorized representatives of the Taliban;
- The efforts made during the April 29, 2013 Istanbul Process Conference in Almaty to promote confidence and result-oriented cooperation in the Heart of Asia region, greatly contributing to peace, security and prosperity in Afghanistan and the broader region;
- Progress made by Afghanistan and the international community toward meeting the goals of the Tokyo Mutual Accountability Framework, which will be reviewed at the July 3, 2013 meeting in Kabul;
- The United States’ commitment in January to increasingly place funding for major electrical infrastructure projects on the Afghan government budget in line with the commitment to channel 50 percent of development assistance through the Afghan government.
- The advancement of the security transition process, as evidenced by nearly 90 percent of Afghan men and women living in areas where the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) have the lead in security;
- The outline of the US contribution to the NATO-led Train, Advise, and Assist mission as part of our enduring commitment to strengthen the ANSF as it takes on growing responsibility;
- Official negotiations over a Bilateral Security and Defense Cooperation Agreement as agreed in the Strategic Partnership Agreement, to provide a framework for future security and defense cooperation, including to facilitate training, sustaining, and equipping the ANSF, to continue counterterrorism efforts to defeat al-Qaeda and its affiliates, and to clarify the scope, nature, and related obligations of both countries with regards to a possible United States military presence in Afghanistan post-2014.
In order to strengthen their partnership, they emphasized the continued convergence of interests and vision as we move through security transition in 2014 and into the Transformation Decade and decided on concrete steps in the coming months.
Rassoul referred to preparations for credible, inclusive, and transparent elections as part of democratic transition in 2014. Both sides recognized that independent Afghan institutions were essential to electoral credibility as were stakeholders such as civil society and women’s groups in the democratic process.
He reiterated the government’s strong determination to undertake all that is necessary for the holding of credible elections in 2014. Afghanistan also committed to accelerate election security planning with -- support from the international community -- to improve access to polls for all eligible voters, including efforts to facilitate voting by women.
Rassoul and Burns underlined the importance of the elections being free from any external interference. They reaffirmed their commitment to strengthening democratic governance, including respect for human rights, the rule of law, and the rights of women under the Afghan Constitution.
Also underscored was the ongoing bilateral commitment to supporting the rights of Afghan women and girls and encouraged the further development of Afghanistan’s National Action Plan on Women, Peace, and Security, as well as strengthened implementation of laws protecting women and girls.
They reiterated the continued need for an inclusive political process of negotiations with the armed opposition, including the Taliban, which maintains the rights enshrined in the constitution.
To help Afghanistan sustain the economic gains of the last 12 years, they pledged to make progress toward specific Tokyo Mutual Accountability Framework milestones by the July 3, 2013 meeting in Kabul.
Both countries remained committed to accelerating Afghanistan’s economic integration within its region as a means to bolster job creation, economic growth, and regional stability, the statement added.
The Afghan government, with the US as a supporting country, is working to implement the Istanbul Process Confidence-Building Measure Implementation Plans on “Trade, Commerce and Investment and Regional Infrastructure.
Rassoul and Burns emphasized the importance of the announcement of the fifth and final tranche of security transition, which marks ISAF’s shift from a combat to an advisory and support mission, placing the ANSF in full operational lead across Afghanistan.
The US renewed its pledge to continue training, advising and assisting Afghan forces under the Bilateral Security and Defense Cooperation Agreement currently under negotiation. Afghanistan. (Pajhwok)