Remarks at the Brussels Conference on Afghanistan - John Kerry, Secretary of State
SECRETARY KERRY: Well, Federica, thank you. Thank you very much and thank you for your personal leadership.
President Tusk and President Ghani, Secretary-General Ban, Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah, Your Highness, Your Excellencies all, and friends all, I’m personally really delighted to be here with everybody today. And I want to begin just by thanking our hosts, the combination of the EU and Afghanistan, particularly High Representative Federica Mogherini and Foreign Minister Rabbani for their deep commitment, their close collaboration in organizing today’s landmark conference. The European Union has been an absolutely essential partner to the Afghan Government, to the United States, to the broader international community. And we have all worked together. I look around this room, I look at the numbers of flags, the numbers of people here, ministers, the numbers of organizations, and it is genuinely, in the context of the challenges we face in the world today, an extraordinary gathering with enormous potential, and I’ll speak about that in a moment.
Like others in the room, I feel very personally invested in this journey in Afghanistan and in Afghanistan’s future. I have visited many, many times, first as a senator, then as Secretary of State. I’ve spent countless hours with President Ghani originally on status of forces and on other issues, as well as now with President Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah. And I thank them for their personal courage and their personal efforts to put political issues, ambition, other things aside in order to embrace the full measure of the hopes of the Afghan people and the challenges that they face
Despite the many challenges – and we’ve heard about them from each of the distinguished speakers thus far – I want – I am genuine when I say that I come here with an enormous sense of confidence about the future. And the reason is partly because year by year, our shared effort – one of the largest international coalitions ever assembled and maintained over a sustained period of time – is, in fact, yielding encouraging dividends. And I ask everybody here to measure that. Each speaker has focused on one component or another of the changes in Afghanistan, but I just want to highlight a few others.
Since we joined forces 15 years ago – it’s hard to believe, 15 years ago – but since 2001, maternal mortality in childbirth in Afghanistan has gone down by 75 percent. Average life expectancy has risen from 42 years to 62 years. Access to basic health care has skyrocketed from 9 percent to 67 percent. In 2001, there was only one television station and it was owned by the government. Now, there are 75 stations and all but two are privately owned. Back then, there were virtually no cell phones, zero. Today, there are 18 million cell phones covering about 90 percent of residential areas connecting Afghans to the world.
Now, everybody here understands the violence that has plagued Afghanistan for decades. And it has left very deep wounds and those wounds will take time to heal, particularly when new attacks by the Taliban and other armed opposition reopen those wounds or simply refuse to let them heal.
This conference today is another both remarkable and important demonstration of our strong commitment to the people of Afghanistan. And it is, frankly, further evidence of our conviction that the progress made thus far is only the beginning. We know that Afghanistan is going to continue to develop socially and economically. We know the Afghan people are, broadly writ, committed to peace and security, and that is something that they have been denied for too long by a small group of armed insurgents. We all know they deserve a brighter future and we’re all here because we’re committed to that. - Read More
Remarks at the Brussels Conference on Afghanistan