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Karzai's statement at Tokyo Conference

Madam Ogata,

Excellencies,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is such a great pleasure to be back in Japan. I thank the Government of Japan for organizing this important Conference, and for receiving us so warmly and hospitably here in Tokyo. I am also very pleased to see representatives from many nations and international institutions attending this Conference.

I begin by taking the opportunity to express, on behalf of the people of Afghanistan, my profound gratitude to the people of Japan for their friendship and support, and in particular for the generous assistance provided to Afghanistan over the past four and half years. Since hosting the landmark donor conference in January 2002, which was a major first step towards mobilisation of direly needed humanitarian and reconstruction assistance, Japan has been at the forefront of the international community's effort to help rebuild Afghanistan. From the reconstruction of infrastructure to rural development to education and health, Japan’s assistance has been a noticeable factor in the steady betterment of life for the Afghan people. Above all, Japan’s contribution to the Security Sector Reform programme, mainly focusing on the disarmament, demobilization and re-integration of armed groups, has been crucial to restoring Afghanistan to a secure and peaceful country desired by the Afghan people.

Therefore, part of the aim of my coming to Japan was to say to the Japanese people: Thank you for your support! Your support has been yet another testimony to the true friendship that has historically existed between our two countries, and we Afghans are proud of and will always cherish that friendship.

This Conference, which follows in the path of the 1st Conference on Consolidation of Peace hosted by Japan in early 2003, is another valuable initiative that will help refocus the ongoing efforts of Afghanistan and our international partners on the priorities of the Security Sector Reform in general, and of the disarmament and demobilisation process in particular.

Taking the privilege of opening and addressing this important conference, I reiterate the importance of the shared commitment of Afghanistan and our partners from the international community to the security sector reform process, as a strategy to establish and deepen security in our war-torn country. I also believe it is timely that we review our progress, not only in the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration field, but also other aspects of the security sector, evaluate the present security environment and to explore ways that our remaining and present security challenges could be addressed in an effective manner.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I trust that most of you who have gathered here today are closely connected with developments in Afghanistan so I do not need to speak to you about the progress that Afghanistan has achieved in political, security and economic fields over the past four and half years. I will take the time to dwell specifically on the security sector, and in particular on the challenges that are still ahead of us as we continue to work for a stable, democratic and prosperous Afghanistan.

It goes without saying that progress in all other sectors in Afghanistan would not have been possible without improvement in the security situation and without our achievements in the various areas of security sector reform. When I came to Tokyo in January 2006, Afghanistan had just toppled a terrorist regime and driven out Al Qaida’s alien network, but the security of our people was still perilously threatened by lawlessness, localised militias and a spread on a massive scale of weapons and armaments. My vision then for the new Afghanistan was clear and simple – as I then shared it with representatives of the international community – but deep in my conscience that vision was overshadowed by a sense of anxiety about how would my country manage to move out of the grip of violence; how would we disband the militias; and above all, how would we create the legitimate institutions of state to take charge of securing the lives of our people. Today, that shadow of uncertainty has been cleared. Over the past four and half years, I have seen us working together with our partner in the international community, removing the obstacles one by one, and taking steady steps towards rebuilding institutions and providing security to our people.

As a result, today the Afghan National Army, with its thirty thousand strong force, and the National Police with its 45000 strong force, have regained their status and power as the sole legitimate dispensers of force in the country. A lot of effort has gone into reviving and strengthening our justice system and we are seeing these efforts coming to fruition. We have also made significant progress in dismantling many of the militia groups that dominated Afghanistan since the early 1990s. Through the disarmament, demobilization and re-integration programme, over sixty thousands combatants have been disarmed and several hundred units decommissioned. The DDR programme, as it is famously known in Afghanistan, has been a fitting response to the aspirations of the Afghan people in their eagerness to move away from war and violence towards a secure and peaceful society.

After successful completion of the DDR process, it was important to review the achievements and lessons learned from this experience and move towards initiating nationwide disarmament. I am pleased that with leadership from the Government of Japan and collaboration from other international partners, we have began, since June 2005, the Disbandment of Illegal Armed Groups (DIAG) programme to disband the several hundred illegal armed groups that are still believed to be in existence in Afghanistan. These groups not only present a challenge to the authority of the Government, but are also a means often exploited by terrorist groups, drug traffickers, and other criminal groups that need an environment of lawlessness to operate in. Through a combination of law enforcement and development activities, the DIAG programme will help remove some of the underlying causes of insecurity and instability in Afghanistan. We have made a commitment in the Afghanistan Compact to complete the DIAG process by the end of 2007, and together we will meet this commitment.

Although the road ahead of us is long and arduous, I am confident that with continued commitment and cooperation we will meet the goals we have set ourselves, which are also the aspirations of the Afghan people.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Make no mistake, however, that some of the most sinister threats to the security and wellbeing of our people come from the continuation of terrorism in Afghanistan and the region at large. Weak institutions, absence of law and order and bad governance may be taking its toll on the lives of the Afghan people, but as we speak many Afghans are losing their lives also to acts of sheer brutality and murder that are perpetrated by terrorists who come mainly from outside our borders. These terrorists are burning our schools, killing our community elders and attacking the foreign soldiers who have come to help secure Afghanistan. While there is currently a mighty struggle against terrorism going on in Afghanistan, this menace cannot be defeated by military means alone. We must redouble our efforts on all dimensions of the war against terrorism, go after terrorists and their sources of training, inspiration and financing, and rid Afghanistan and the region from this threat.

Terrorism is also deeply intertwined with drug trade which represents another major source of insecurity and potential instability in Afghanistan and the region. We know now, perhaps more so than we did in the past, that terrorism and narcotics go hand-in-hand and that narcotics money, among other sources, feeds terrorism. The counter narcotics drive we have undertaken in Afghanistan, with cooperation from the international community, is strong and multi-faceted. This fight must be sustained and expanded to address both the associated law and order challenge, and the needs for real measurable alternative livelihoods for the farmers.

Today, I reiterate Afghanistan’s solemn commitment to continue to fight alongside the international community against the menaces of terrorism and narcotics. The Afghan people are with you in this war, and they are with you for their own sake because they have suffered enormously and continue to suffer at the hands of these two evils.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Over the past four years, Afghanistan has gone through a remarkable transformation and as a result the Afghan people live lives that are more secure, marked by historical opportunities and full of promise for the future. The Afghan people are determined to realize the vision of a stable, democratic and prosperous Afghanistan. With your help, we aspire to stand on our own feet, to determines our own destiny and live peaceably with the world as a member of the family of nations. We realize that there many challenges and obstacles to overcome before we can realize our vision, but we are determined to keep the course that we have chosen. We are confident that our friends in the international community share our vision and will continue to support us to achieve this goal.

Thank you.

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