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The US, Pakistan, and Afghanistan: Now and Beyond 2014

By Richard Olson

Richard Olson, Ambassador of USA to Pakistan delivered this speech on January 30 at the ISSI in which he specifically talked about recent Afghan situation; Pakistan’s role and situation which may emerge after allied forces pull-out from Afghanistan. Here are some excerpts from the detailed speech, while full text of the speech.

Thank you Ambassador Qazi for the introduction, and to the Institute for Strategic Studies Islamabad (ISSI) for hosting me today. To the many distinguished guests in attendance, thank you for coming.
I am fortunate to have begun my tenure in Pakistan at a time of renewal and refocus in the U.S.-Pakistan relationship. Over the past several months, our governments have worked to put the difficulties of the recent past behind us, and to instead focus – with increased pragmatism – on the common challenges we both must face together. As we’ve proven throughout the long history of our partnership, when our two countries pull in the same direction, our joint resolve can overcome huge obstacles.
My core message today is that the United State is committed to a cooperative and long-term partnership with Pakistan – far broader than any one issue, and centered on areas of mutual interest. This relationship is not transient, nor one of convenience. It cannot be.
It is not dictated solely by the requirements of today, but rooted in the joint realization that the security and prosperity of our peoples is better served when we remain engaged, and cooperate.
We have indeed been through difficult times. However, the relationship between the United States and Pakistan has endured. It has endured despite negative public opinion polls and unhelpful waves of political rhetoric – because the realities of this region, of the world, and of our partnership, have not changed. Most importantly, on the principles fundamental to the prosperous, peaceful, and democratic future we both want for our citizens. We agree far more than we disagree.
The United States was one of the first countries to recognize and welcome an independent Pakistan. We have collaborated and cooperated since 1947. And I am confident that we will continue to pursue a principled relationship based on common interests and mutual respect – and one that is beneficial for both of our nations – long into the future.
Let me be direct in dismissing a common, but mistaken refrain. The U.S. relationship with Pakistan is not informed solely by our commitments and responsibilities in Afghanistan.
The future of Afghanistan is important to the United States, as it is to Pakistan. In fact, this is a source of considerable convergence between Washington and Islamabad. But it is too simplistic to reduce our nations’ strategic partnership to this narrow construct.
Even as we work with Pakistan to ensure that 2014 is not a repeat of 1989, we are not myopically focused on December 2014. Instead, we continue to look over the horizon. a Pakistan and a region that will continue to grow in importance. By 2050, Pakistan will likely become the fourth-most populous country in the world. Pakistan’s global influence, regional weight, and role in the Islamic world will increase. We see a future in which the importance of open cooperation between the United States and Pakistan will become even more critical. We want to remain a close partner through this period of evolution and beyond, to assist Pakistan in reaching its potential economically, socially, and politically. And that is why we have invested in Pakistan and will continue to do so over the long-term.
I would like to tell you briefly about what the United States is doing to support Pakistan. In 2009, the United States tripled its authorized civilian development assistance to Pakistan under the Kerry-Lugar-Berman Act. Since 2009, we have so far disbursed more than $3 billion dollars in projects and humanitarian assistance. We remain committed to substantial investment over the near term, despite the economic challenges the United States continues to face. One point of explanation — given the time it takes to translate allocated funding into on-the-ground programs, it is only relatively recently that this inflow of investment has become visible in the form of active projects. And I expect that a range of the programs funded by Kerry-Lugar-Berman will continue to come on line, even after the Act’s five-year authorization expires.
We have set our development priorities in consultation with the Pakistani government, in a sincere effort to help address areas where the Pakistani people could most benefit from our support. U.S. assistance programs primarily focus on energy, economic growth, education, and health. Allow me to provide a few examples.
Energy Energy is an urgent need in Pakistan – the lack of which not only reduces productivity and stifles economic growth – but presents everyday challenges to families without heat, workers furloughed from shuttered factories, and taxis queued at petrol stations. Recognizing this reality, the United States has made increasing Pakistan’s domestic energy production the foremost pillar of our assistance portfolio. And we have an active dialogue in our bilateral Energy Working Group on issues such as energy reform. In addition, Secretary Clinton launched the U.S.-Pakistan Women’s Council with Foreign Minister Khar in September of last year. The Council’s mission is to promote economic opportunities for women in Pakistan.
Empowering women – investing in, and enabling their full contribution to society – is the only way Pakistan can reach its full potential. The United States is dedicated to promoting educational and economic opportunity for women.
We conduct these initiatives because we recognize that Pakistan’s economic prosperity is the foundation for a sustainable, lasting partnership. Economic opportunity is a keystone for prosperity and social stability in Pakistan and the region. This is the guiding principle of our initiatives in support of economic growth.
Agriculture is central to Pakistan’s economy. U.S. irrigation projects have already created more than 200,000 acres of new farm land. The United States is working with farmers to increase crop yields, and conducting joint research on plant diseases that threaten wheat and cotton – crops very important to Pakistan’s economy.
We are working to improve the dairy industry by modernizing dairy farms in Punjab. We are teaching skills to the women who most often care for their families’ milk cows. The result is higher-quality and more plentiful milk production, and increased income for rural farmers. And we are improving the health and output of livestock by training veterinarians and administering vaccines against deadly diseases.
Roads are vital for Pakistan’s growth, and represent a lasting investment in Pakistan’s economic future. The United States has built over 650 kilometers of roads, primarily in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, to increase mobility and opportunity in some of the most underserved areas of Pakistan.
We are also helping to construct the Peshawar Ring Road, which speeds up transport and keep trucks from clogging downtown Peshawar, and we have repaired more than a dozen major bridges damaged after the 2010 floods. In addition, we are currently funding the reconstruction of the Peshawar-Torkham Highway – a vital and historic trade route that will support regional commerce for generations to come, as it has for centuries past.
We strongly believe that education is the key to future opportunity. At present, more than 50 percent of Pakistani third graders cannot read a simple sentence in Urdu. This is a shortfall that The United States is modernizing Pakistani power plants, increasing transmission efficiency, and upgrading and expanding Pakistan’s hydroelectric output. This is represented by the Tarbela, Satpara, and Gomal Zam dam projects. As a result of these programs we have added 400 megawatts to Pakistan’s energy grid. By the end of 2013, U.S.-funded energy projects alone will add about 900 megawatts to Pakistan’s power grid. This is enough power to supply electricity to two million Pakistani households. In addition, we remain committed to helping Pakistan build momentum to access multi-donor funding for the Diamer Basha Dam. If built, Diamer Basha would greatly expand Pakistan’s electricity production. It would also provide a million acres of newly productive land for Pakistan’s farmers. Economic Growth
Pakistan is a nation of entrepreneurs – and with improved governance, and reduced barriers to regional trade, Pakistan’s exceptional economic potential can be achieved.
Not only can you compete with anyone in the international marketplace, your domestic market is very large and capable of supporting its own business boom.
The United States truly believes that with investment and commitment to reform, a Pakistan that is open for business to the region – and to the world – can be a hub for commerce, and an engine for growth. And if this region embraces economic cooperation, it can become a global economic force.
We are committed to working in partnership with Pakistan to see this goal realized. The United States is the largest single export market for Pakistan, and two-way trade between Pakistan and the United States totaled over $5 billion dollars in 2011. Pakistan has a positive trade balance with the United States – more Pakistani goods flow to U.S. markets than U.S. products to Pakistan. Some 3,500 Pakistani products currently enter the United States duty free.
More than 90 U.S. companies have a permanent presence, pay taxes, and employ thousands of workers in Pakistan. These include giants like General Electric, Proctor and Gamble, Coca-Cola, Pepsi, and Kraft. These companies have a strong commitment to the Pakistani market, and many have plans to increase their presence here.
Companies like these have proven that they can earn healthy profits in Pakistan and help both our countries achieve our mutual goal of “trade, not just aid.”
Our signature U.S. assistance commitment in the economic sector is to facilitate the flow of investment dollars into Pakistan’s under-funded but dynamic small-to-medium-sized business community.
We believe that by supporting Pakistan’s private equity industry by creating venture capital and private equity funds, we will attract additional local and foreign investment directly into Pakistani businesses. To that end, we have made an initial investment of $44 million dollars to start two funds – and local and foreign investors have made commitments to match at least that amount.
We believe that stimulating private sector expansion in Pakistan is the best way to promote sustainable economic growth, and the only way create the vast number of jobs that Pakistan’s young and growing population demands. will handicap not only the underserved students, but hobble Pakistan’s prospects for growth and prosperity. For this reason we continue to focus on increasing literacy by improving the quality of teaching.
On top of plans to build or refurbish 800 primary schools, the United States is spending millions of dollars on teacher training. Our expectation is that this will lead to more than three million new readers in the next five years.
To help the most talented minds, we have provided 10,000 scholarships to students so they can attend universities in Pakistan. And the U.S. Fulbright program in Pakistan, the highest-funded in the world, sends more than a hundred promising Pakistanis to pursue graduate degrees in the United States every year.
In addition, more than 1,000 Pakistanis visit the United States each year on Embassy-funded exchange programs. We invest in these programs because the future of our relationship with Pakistan is not government-to-government, but people-to-people.
The United States is committed to helping the government of Pakistan improve access to quality health care – particularly for mothers and children, and for people in remote areas.
In December, I went to Karachi to inaugurate the construction of a new $4.5 million dollar obstetrics and gynecology ward at the Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Center. About 15,000 women per year will receive life-saving treatment at this U.S.-funded facility.
We have also built a new training institute that will upgrade the Jinnah Medical Center’s capacity as a first-rate center for medical education in Pakistan. This new institute will make state-of-the-art training available to more than 1,300 medical students.
In addition, the United States will also fund construction this year of a new, $10 million dollar public hospital in Jacobabad to improve health services for more than one million people in northern Sindh.
We will continue to renovate and equip many health units throughout the FATA, and other rural parts of Pakistan. And at the request of the Government of Pakistan, the United States will also continue its assistance to federal, provincial, and local health departments, moving forward on the goal of making the health services all Pakistanis need, available to all communities. Security Assistance
Opportunity, development, potential – all are undercut by insecurity and violence. In view of Pakistan’s continued struggle against militancy, I would particularly highlight the importance of U.S. support to Pakistan’s efforts to counter violent extremism.
The United States recognizes the enormous sacrifices made by the people of Pakistan, especially your security forces. I have heard estimates that your nation has suffered 40,000 casualties since 2001 due to terrorist activity on your own soil. We honor these sacrifices, and share your resolve to fight against militancy and terror.
We share common enemies. In the spirit of cooperation, we continue to invest close to $1 billion dollars a year in security assistance, providing advanced equipment and training to maximize your effectiveness and resilience on the battlefield.
In addition, the United States disbursed over $1.8 billion dollars in Coalition Support Funds this past year, and $10 billion dollars in Coalition Support Funds since 2001, to help defray the monetary costs of shared cooperation on national security priorities, including support for the international mission in Afghanistan.
We look to your upcoming election as a historic and defining moment for Pakistan, when, for the first time, one civilian government transfers power to the next in accordance with the constitution, and reflecting the will of the Pakistani people. We do not support any one political party, or any one candidate. But we will continue to help strengthen the institutions that work to ensure a free and fair process that gives a voice to all Pakistanis.
Framework of Bilateral Engagement
All of these efforts underpin a framework of bilateral engagement that is designed to foster open communication and lead to focused cooperation between the United States and Pakistan. This framework includes working groups in areas that our two countries have jointly identified as high-priority: energy, economic issues, water, counter-terrorism and law enforcement, nonproliferation, and defense cooperation. These working groups show the breadth and depth of the U.S.-Pakistani bilateral relationship and the degree to which we have successfully identified areas of mutual interest in which we can work together.
I do not deny that some distrust still lingers on both sides between the United States and Pakistan. But it is through regular discussion, such as during these working groups, and meetings between our leaders, that we can work together carefully to prevent miscommunication and misunderstanding. It is through open channels of dialogue that we can manage the inevitable disagreements that have in the past pushed us into cycles of recrimination. The unconstructive lows in our relationship have distracted us from advancing the longer-term goals on which we both continue to agree: peace, stability, prosperity, and a brighter future for our children.
While the nature of U.S. partnership with Pakistan is long-term, this does not diminish the urgency of the need to work together during this critical time of transition in Afghanistan. We have a shared interest in a secure and prosperous region. Afghanistan is the principal challenge we must address in the near-term to achieve that long-term vision.
To begin our discussion of the future of Afghanistan, I must unequivocally dispel what I fear is a widespread, but wildly incorrect analogy: 2014 is not 1989. We recognize the mistakes of the past. The United States will not disengage from the region.
Deputy Secretary of State Bill Burns underlined this point in a September 2011 speech in Washington, when he said: “As the United States draws down our forces and transfers responsibility for security to the Afghan people, we are ever mindful of Afghanistan’s recent history and the terrible cost of neglect. None of us can afford to make that mistake again.”
Secretary Clinton clearly reiterated this understanding in Kabul last summer, when she said: “We are not even imagining abandoning Afghanistan; quite the opposite. We are building a partnership with Afghanistan that will endure far into the future.”
It is also important to note that Afghanistan is not the country it was a decade ago. We should not diminish the vast challenges this very poor and under-developed country continues to face, nor should we oversell what the international community has been able to accomplish. Yet, neither should we deny the advancement that has been achieved.
Afghanistan is an increasingly urban, substantially more connected country than ever before in its long history. Over two-thirds of Afghans now have access to mobile phones, up from almost none 12 years ago. Most now have access to television and radio. Eight times as many children are enrolled in school, one-third of them girls, and more than 10 times as many students attend university.
In the past 10 years, average life expectancy has increased by 16 years, from 44 to 60. This is in part due to the fact that 60% of Afghans now have access to basic health care, up from 9% in 2001. The maternal mortality rate has declined 80%.
Challenges remain, but I reiterate this is not the Afghanistan of thirty years ago, nor will the international community disengage and leave the Afghans alone to hold the ground claimed with such exertion, cost, and sacrifice.
During the past two years, the United States and our international partners – including Pakistan – have made tangible commitments to the Afghanistan’s future.
At the Istanbul Conference, the international community agreed to a vision of an Afghanistan at peace and integrated with the region. At Bonn, 85 countries and 15 international organizations announced firm commitment to a “Transformation Decade” in Afghanistan through 2024. At the Chicago Summit, NATO and ISAF allies committed to provide $3.6 billion dollars a year to sustain the Afghan National Security Forces, in addition to the $500 million dollars budgeted annually by the Afghan government, to help the ANSF continue the fight against armed insurgency and terrorism.
And in Tokyo, the international community pledged an additional $16 billion dollars in civilian assistance to help rebuild a country ravished by war. This is among the most substantial levels of aid ever committed to any country.
The international community’s financial and political commitment stands out as a defining difference between 2014 and 1989. The United States, and nations across the globe, have unambiguously committed to Afghanistan’s future.
In terms of our bilateral relationship with Afghanistan, President Obama flew to Kabul last May to sign a Strategic Partnership Agreement between the United States and Afghanistan to “build an equal partnership between two sovereign states.” We designated Afghanistan a Major Non-NATO Ally, like Pakistan, further codifying our strong bilateral defense relationship and helping support aligned defense planning, procurement, and training. In addition, the United States is currently working on a Bilateral Strategic Agreement to establish a framework for our continued support for the Afghan National Security Forces as they assume increasing responsibility.
President Karzai just completed an important trip to Washington, during which he and President Obama went over plans for the transition through the end of 2014, and U.S. support for years to come. The Bilateral Security Agreement featured prominently in those discussions. Both leaders agreed that any U.S. military presence in Afghanistan post-2014 would be at the invitation of the Afghan Government, and would have two specific missions: to train, advise, and assist Afghan forces, and target the remnants of al Qaeda. President Obama will now draw on his discussions with President Karzai as he makes decisions about the U.S. military presence in Afghanistan.
In his speech last May at Bagram, President Obama laid out the core steps necessary to complete the transition in Afghanistan.
The first step, the transition to Afghan responsibility for security, is well under way. Afghans are now leading roughly 85 percent of all operations. International troops continue to train, advise, and assist the Afghans, and fight alongside them when needed. But we have shifted significantly to a support role as the Afghans have demonstrated their increasing capability to lead combat operations across the country. In fact, during President Karzai’s visit, President Obama welcomed the Afghans’ desire to be in the lead for security across Afghanistan this spring.
Second, the United States and ISAF continue a robust training effort that has resulted in a surge in the number of ANSF troops available to take on security responsibilities.
As of November 2012, Afghan National Army strength was about 175,000, representing a growth of about 78,000 since November 2009. The commitments made by the international community in Chicago in May 2012 will support a strong and sustainable long-term Afghan force.
Third, we are building an enduring partnership with Afghanistan – one codified in strategic agreements and underpinned by joint commitments to combat terrorism, strengthen democratic institutions, and advance the development, dignity, and rights of all Afghans. Quoting President Obama, “As (Afghanistan) stands up, (it) will not stand alone.” We greatly appreciate the steps Pakistan has taken in recent months to strengthen its relationship with Kabul and support a more secure, stable and prosperous Afghanistan within a secure, stable and prosperous region.
Fourth, we are building a global consensus to support peace and stability in South Asia. As President Obama has stated, we believe Pakistan can and should be an equal partner in this process in a way that respects Pakistan’s sovereignty, interests, and democratic institutions.
Fifth, and most salient at this moment, we must work together with purpose to facilitate a negotiated peace in Afghanistan. As President Obama and President Karzai agreed in Washington, Afghan-led peace and reconciliation is the surest way to end violence and ensure the lasting stability of Afghanistan and the region. The U.S. role is to help open the door for talks between Afghans, including support for a new office in Qatar, where negotiations can take place between the Afghan High Peace Council and authorized representatives of the Taliban.
The end result of any process must be that the Taliban ends violence, breaks ties with Al Qaeda, and accepts Afghanistan’s constitution, including provisions that protect the rights of all citizens including women and minorities. If this happens, we believe the Taliban can be a part of Afghanistan’s future.
This must be an Afghan-led peace process, with Afghans talking to Afghans to find a way forward for their country. But there is much that the United States and Pakistan can do to support this effort. For Pakistan, supporting progress toward peace in Afghanistan is not a matter of altruism, but is instead a critical sovereign interest. I need only cite your civilian and military leaders who have stated clearly and repeatedly that continued violence and increased instability in Afghanistan equates to increased instability and violence in Pakistan. We agree. We are acutely aware of that nexus and believe the U.S. effort to create the conditions for lasting peace in Afghanistan reflects a broad commitment to the stability of the region as a whole.
We are encouraged by the growing scope of engagement on this issue. At the center of our work together on the peace process is the Core Group, which includes Pakistan, Afghanistan, and the United States. Two years ago, no systematic mechanism existed for Pakistan, Afghanistan, and the United States to talk about the Afghan peace process.
Since then, the Core Group has met nine times, most recently January 18 in Abu Dhabi, and at the ministerial level on the margins of the Tokyo Conference last July. Under the auspices of the Core Group, we have made progress in putting in place the mechanics to facilitate peace talks. Our joint efforts ensure safe passage – through the Safe Passage and UNSCR 1988 Delisting working groups – for representatives of the armed opposition who support the peace process to participate in negotiations. This should be seen as a strong signal of the seriousness of our intentions.
The increase in direct bilateral cooperation between Afghanistan and Pakistan is among the most important and hopeful recent developments. We are heartened that a Pakistan-Afghanistan strategic partnership agreement is also now being pursued, and on an aggressive timeline. We were encouraged by the constructive visits to Islamabad by the head of the Afghan High Peace Council, Salahuddin Rabbani, Foreign Minister Rassoul, senior Afghan army officers, and most recently, Defense Minister Bismillah Khan Muhammadi. A pragmatic, cooperative relationship between Pakistan and Afghanistan can contribute more to stability and peace in both countries than almost any measure pursued by the United States or the international community.
Pakistan’s deep cross-border tribal and cultural connections, including with Afghan communities most embroiled in the continued violence, makes Pakistan an influential and potentially positive force for peace.
We hope the still emerging, but promising, effort by Foreign Minister Khar and the rest of Pakistan’s leadership, to re-forge a relationship with the broad spectrum of Afghanistan’s political players will continue. If sustained, this initiative could transform Pakistan’s relationship with its neighbor – a neighbor whose future is intertwined with its own – and advance the hard-work of achieving a peaceful political transition. In the end, there is common cause in finding respite from the cycle of violence and unrest. A political agreement at the core of an Afghan-led, Afghan-owned peace process will likely take some time to conclude in full. However, an initial understanding – a start to the complicated but essential process – must commence soon. If we are to make serious progress toward peace, we must together put our shoulders to the wheel and act with urgency. For the sake of Afghanistan, Pakistan, and the region, your full support is needed now – without caveat, hedge, or reservation.
Regional Ties – Redux
Sustainable peace in Afghanistan is not only good for Afghanistan, but offers the promise of significant dividends for regional development. These benefits will redouble if greater regional economic integration can break away from old ways of thinking. Pakistan is quite literally central to the vision of an interconnected region – it is the geostrategic bridge.
Expanding regional links is also critical for Pakistan’s economic future. The reality is that Pakistan is positioned at a great crossroads – between large producers of energy and mineral resources in Central Asia and alongside another large market in India. Pakistan itself stands to benefit from expanded ties with its region.
I hope we can work together to advance a common vision for peace, stability, and prosperity in Pakistan and across the region.
Conclusion – Here to Stay
In conclusion, let me reiterate that the United States will remain engaged in what we hope will be an increasingly integrated – and prosperous – region. And we will continue to view the U.S.-Pakistan partnership as one of critical and growing importance. Our assistance to Pakistan – working toward a sufficient energy supply, promoting economic opportunity, helping improve health and education, supporting democratic institutions, and strengthening the protection of human rights – is a tangible sign of our long-term investment in the future of this country. We will also maintain cooperation with Pakistan in our joint efforts to counter extremism, combat terrorism, and protect both our peoples from the scourge of senseless violence.
There is much more to be said about all that we can do together. We have a chance to decide together how to capitalize on the opportunities before us. But at this point, I’d like to stop and hear your thoughts about the future of this partnership. I look forward to your comments and questions.
Thank you for your attention.
The writer is Ambassador of United States of America to Pakistan. He delivered this speech at Institute for Strategic Studies Islamabad (ISSI) on January 30, 2013


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