After 10 years of international military presence in Afghanistan, we have moved into a new phase. The military presence will gradually be scaled down as the Afghans take over the responsibility for their own security. Norwegian combat troops will be withdrawn by 2013. But Norway will not withdraw from Afghanistan. Our engagement and support will not end in 2014. We will remain a partner and friend of Afghanistan during the transition years as well as during the transformation decade- and beyond.
The Bonn Conference focused on civilian aspects and delivered certainty and clarity with respect to the international long-term commitments for Afghanistan. The partnership between Afghanistan and the international community is now based on firm mutual commitments. We foresee a substantial shift from military and security aspects to the political process and long-term development. In this respect we need a constructive dialogue with Afghanistan on civilian support and civilian presence up to and after 2014.
We note with satisfaction that the Kabul process seems to be back on track and that a three year IMF-program for Afghanistan has been confirmed.
Only a political process can solve the conflict. It must involve all parties to the conflict, ethnic and political groups, civil society and in particular women. Arms must be replaced by politics.
The Afghan government is facing overwhelming challenges and needs further support from the international community. The terrorism threat is serious and the security situation volatile, but years of training and gradual increased responsibility for Afghan security forces have produced results.
Afghan security forces is one key to a stable society, another, and equally important is the ability of the government to properly perform its functions.
We have stated this again and again: Measures must be taken to improve effective and good governance in all parts of Afghanistan. The fight against corruption must be intensified, and credible democratic institutions established.
It is imperative that the Afghan constitution be respected. Women’s rights and empowerment must be honoured. Afghanistan must infallibly respect the country’s international obligations, above all universal and basic human rights.
We find the Istanbul-process promising, with its increased focus on regional cooperation. Such focus can improve stability and economic development also in the wider region.
At repeated occasions over the years, we have stressed that the responsibility for governing and securing Afghanistan lies with the Afghan government. We will continue to support its efforts to build a stable Afghanistan. International support must be supportive of the priorities of the Afghan government.
Norway has pledged USD 125 million annually for civilian purposes. We will provide this sum until 2013, and are prepared to continue the support at a high level also in the future.
Finally, our profound gratitude goes to Special Representative de Mistura for his untiring efforts. We welcome the appointment of Mr. Jan Kubis as new SRSG and look forward to continuing the excellent cooperation with him. The leading role of the United Nations in Afghanistan is indispensable. Again, In 2011 several civilians and soldiers, including a Norwegian officer, were regrettably killed. We honour their memory and pledge to work with the UN to provide safety and security for our personell.