NATO determined to assist Afghanistan towards lasting peace

Ambassador Stefano Pontecorvo

This is a historic moment for Afghanistan as Afghans prepare to determine the future of their country through intra-Afghan negotiations. The Afghan people and the world are watching with hope and expectation that, after decades of conflict, peace is within reach.

The path to peace was never going to be easy. We commend the role that Afghan leaders and the Afghan security forces have played in reaching this point. They have demonstrated their commitment to protect the Afghan people and to move towards a peaceful settlement. There have been many obstacles along the way and there will be many more to come. But the moment for peace is now and it must be seized, for the benefit of all Afghans and for Afghanistan’s long-term stability.
Afghans have more to gain from unity than from division. A united Republic is a strong Republic, able to defend hard-earned gains. Popular support is essential. Inclusive and transparent negotiations will give the Afghan population a voice in the process, ensuring a sustainable peace.

In any negotiations, compromise will be inevitable. Both sides will have to show flexibility and resilience and to negotiate in good faith. The Afghan people demand a dignified peace. Putting the interests of the nation above personal interests is key.
A significant reduction of violence will be at the top of the agenda in negotiations to give the Afghan people confidence in the process and its outcome. The Afghan people have suffered for too long. Without the fear of violence, they will get a chance to embrace the opportunities that peace will bring. A stable and peaceful Afghanistan will allow Afghans to rebuild their country, offering a prosperous future to all.

Over the last two decades Afghanistan has come a long way. These gains have been made with the help of NATO and the rest of the international community. Afghans have made progress in life expectancy, child mortality, education (including girls), freedom of expression and female participation in all areas of public life.

Afghans have sacrificed a lot. They do not wish to see these achievements reversed. And nor do we. The international community wants to continue supporting an Afghanistan that protects and sustains these developments. This can only be achieved if fundamental human rights, including of those of women and minorities, as well as civil rights, are preserved. In the end lasting peace can only be guaranteed through a comprehensive peace agreement that puts an end to violence, safeguards the human rights of all Afghans, upholds the rule of law, and ensures that Afghanistan never again serves as a safe haven for terrorists. We stand firmly committed to support all efforts to this end.

As NATO, we have a particular interest in sustaining the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces. NATO Allies and partners are proud to have trained and funded the Afghan National Army and Police. The security forces have become the backbone of the Afghan nation, exemplifying national unity and professionalism. Viable security institutions and capable security forces will continue to be a crucial pillar for long-term stability and security, preventing international terrorist groups from gaining a foothold in Afghanistan.

We remain determined to assist Afghanistan towards a peaceful and secure future. Our Resolute Support mission to train, advise and assist the security forces continues, alongside financial support to the security sector. Maintaining a sustainable security apparatus is in everyone’s interest and it is key for Afghanistan’s security, regional stability and for the security of all NATO Allies and partners. We stand united, strong and firm in our commitment to support the Afghan people and their security forces to achieve peace and security. We look forward to a successful resolution to the peace talks.

The writer is NATO Senior Civilian Representative in Afghanistan.