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President Ghani’s remarks at Tashkent Conference

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President Ghani’s remarks at  Tashkent Conference
 Your Excellency President Mirziyoyev, Madam Mogherini, distinguished heads of delegations, ladies and gentlemen.
I welcome you all. I am grateful to President Mirziyoyev for graciously co-hosting this conference here in Tashkent. I have immensely enjoyed my trips to Uzbekistan during my time in office, and working with you, Mr. President, to further connect our two countries for mutual benefit has been greatly rewarding. I thank you for turning the Kabul process into the central forum of cooperation and coordination and for your incisive analysis and constructive remarks this morning.
I would like to express our sympathies to the Russian people and foreign minister Lavrov for the tragic loss of lives and I would like to start with a moment of silent reflection in honor of those Afghan civilians and international partners who have been killed in terror attacks.
—-10 seconds of silence—-
Thank you. Those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice in this war must always be at the forefront of our minds as we forge a path to peace and stability. If the aim of these terrorist attacks at the beginning of our new year time of joy was to divert us from our pursuit of peace they will not be successful. Judge the strength of our national consensus on peace making by the response of citizens of Helmand, building a monument to our martyrs with a slogan of peace and their dedication to the pursuit of peace. The suicide attacks, however, compound urgency and importance of the purpose of our meeting here today—we must exhaust every means available to us to achieve a peaceful solution.
Thanks to all of the distinguished leaders from the international community who are here as we take the next steps forward in this peace process. Your leadership and your commitment is absolutely essential to achieving shared solutions to our shared problems.
The Kabul conference of February 28, 2018 demonstrated that there is full alignment between the Government of the National Unity and our international partners on finding a political solution to the war in Afghanistan. We thank our partners, particularly the United States and ISAF and Resolute Mission contributors for their sacrifice in blood and treasure and for their support for our comprehensive peace offer to the Taliban. We are here today to build the second phase in our journey toward a peaceful solution to regional insecurity and the conflict over Afghanistan—that is, to build a regional consensus for peace.
While the shared threat of terrorism unites us, so do the shared opportunities availed through regional cooperation and connectivity.
Today, I will speak to both—our economic and political futures are mutually reinforcing components of a sustainable peace, security, stability and prosperity in our region.
 Let me dwell on Connectivity.
This region—Asia or more accurately Euro-Asia —is experiencing one of those rare “open moments” of history. We have a chance to change the course of history in our favor. These moments are rare because oftentimes when they have occurred, leaders have overlooked their significance and haven’t utilized the opportunity.
What makes this moment particularly poignant is that one can visibly see the emergence of an Asian continental economy. Asia historically has been a sphere of connectivity, but more a concept than an integrated economy. Today it is the opportunity to become a continental economy it is in our ability to make it so other than ocean-oriented trade passages, Asia presents the greatest opportunity for in-land trading connectivity.
I call this the ‘gift of geography.’ Central Asia, including Afghanistan, and we are very proud now to be an inherent part of Central Asia, thanks to your efforts and other leaders of Central Asia, is the shortest inland way to get through and from anywhere east, north, south and west in Asia. Equally important, for millennia Afghanistan formed the gateway to the Indian subcontinent. The global energy situation of today’s world enhances the importance of this historical gift of geography: Central Asia is rich in the energy supply which South Asia is in need of, and Afghanistan is the bridge which connects these two areas.
In the words of Pakistan’s poet Allamah Iqbal, “Asia is a body of water and earth, of which the Afghan nation forms the heart.” Placed at the heart of Asia, Afghanistan naturally has the potential to be a connector, a realizing factor that allows our region to either grasp this moment of opportunity, or become a burned bridge, further dividing these two spheres of South and Central Asia. With 71% of our population being under 30, we, the Afghan people and the government, are determined to secure our future through cooperation. We are dedicated to overcoming the past and ask all our regional partners and neighbors to join us in a mutual quest for security and prosperity.
We have to make a choice today as to the direction to lead the region.
Luckily, our heritage gives us a guide for the vision of the future. There is a heritage that our region shares from the days of the Silk Road and before that, that makes it possible to think of renewal as a way forward.
We must create an agenda for owning our future. Will we become a prisoner of the past, or will we embrace the potential of the future? If we choose the latter, the outcomes will be a win-win situation for us all. But in order for us to get there, we need vision, leadership and management, something that President Mirzaziyoyev just offered. The vision is one where national interests can be accommodated for mutual benefit, where we create a set of regional rules for connectivity and collaboration, and where national, global and regional goals can be aligned.
I am confident that leaders here in the room share this vision and are playing a role everyday in realizing it. The task at hand is to manage the shared vision to fruition.
In Afghanistan, the vision is swiftly becoming reality. Afghans can literally see it happening. Last month, we celebrated the construction of the TAPI pipeline as a developmental corridor commencing at our border in Herat province. New air corridors and railways have opened connecting Afghanistan with the region. The Chabahar port was inaugurated earlier this year. The CASA 1000 energy project is underway. Last night, we made significant progress with President Mirzayev on transmission lines, railways, and other programs of connectivity. It has been one of our national priorities over the past few years to realize this vision, for the economic vitality of not only Afghanistan but the region. We are proving that regional connectivity and cooperation is not a theory or a myth, but a reality that translates into immense mutual benefit.
But again, this has happened because of the joint realization that a stable Afghanistan is the platform for regional and global prosperity. And regional energy and transport connectivity is just the beginning, for development of our immense natural capital will further enhance and expand cooperation. Our tragedy is that we are one of the richest countries in natural capital inhibited by one of the poorest people on earth. This is not fair, it is not just, it is not tolerable.
These are the prospects for the future—but the constraints and realities of the present must be addressed if we are to get there.
The imminent realities of the present are the threats we face as a region, and indeed, as an international community.
The threats facing the international community today are from transnational terrorist networks and transnational criminal organizations. Both are deeply interconnected, do not respect borders, and our global in reach and influence.
The global criminal economy alone is now estimated, it close to $2.8 trillion a year. The UN’s Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy as well as the UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime defines these networks as being interrelated and complex. I believe there are four layers of complexity at hand.
The first layer is the response of states to these threats—these are long-term, generational threats that must be confronted with medium and long-term strategies outlasting our respective short-term political cycles and mandates.
The second layer of complexity is the inherent interconnectivity between transnational terrorist networks, and transnational criminal organizations. No terrorist organization in history has been as well financed as current the terrorist networks. Drug smuggling, human trafficking and general mafia criminality are lucrative activities which provide funding for terrorist agendas, thus forcing these networks to link themselves to one another for financial sustenance. We will not make peace until we address these dependencies and linkages between these two threats on a global scale. International and regional cooperation regarding this driver of conflict is unfortunately not yet fully in place. The third layer of complexity derive from ambiguity and the attitude of the states towards these networks and organizations ranging from tolerance to as instruments of policy. Given the demonstrated benefits of connectivity, forging consensus on a regional strategy against the combined threats of terrorism and criminality will enhance the security of our interconnected world. The fourth layer of complexity is a local enabling environment, without a local base that can connect the three elements I just mentioned, transnational terrorist and criminal networks will not be able to create hubs. This fourth layer in the Afghan context is manifest in Taliban who provide the platform for the operation of the transnational terrorist networks and transnational criminal organizations.
We are the frontline state in the global fight against terrorism and the first line of defense of regional and global security. Because there has been a lot of rumors regarding the extend of Daesh and other activities, let me just bring some facts to your attention. The total number of Daesh Khorasan or ISISK is fewer than 2000. We have been relentless carrying operations with our international partners across the board our forces have killed over 1300 of these fighters, they are today can find to small of number of valleys in Nangarhar and Kunar and in northern Afghanistan and we again in the past two weeks we have carried massive series of operation that will disrupt and destroy these networks. There is neither shortage of will or capacity to attack this challenge and we are relentlessly pursuing. And for the first time in 2018, we also carried attacks against narcotics labs inflicting more than $130 million of damage and we will continue with this. I bring this to say again that the threats are common and the frameworks need to be enhanced not questioned.
Afghans are contributing life and limb to contain the threat of global terrorism. We may be on the front lines, but the threat, and thus the effort to combat it, belongs to everyone around this table.
The war has changed in brutal and unimaginable ways. Historical rules of war are completely ignored by the enemy and they brazenly and strategically are targeting civilians. Women and children are among the victims. The enemy is waging a war against our hospitals, our schools, our public squares, indeed, against our public life.
The threats are immense but so is our collective interest and will to overcome. We live in a historical moment where there is a monumental contest over the location of our country as a platform for global terror and criminality, or a platform for regional and global connectivity and cooperation. And as President Mirziyoyiv argued we need to opt for the platform of connectivity and cooperation.
We are here today to come together in the face of these threats in pursuit of the latter.
Peace and Regional Cooperation
In order to effectively confront these threats, it is essential that we take away the platform inside Afghanistan that the Taliban provides to transnational terrorist and criminal networks. Inclusion of Taliban through a political process in the fabric of society and polity will enable national, international and regional energies to focus on the threats of terror and criminality.
To ensure our collective security and prosperity, I suggest the following principles for your consideration:
1. Please extend the practice adopted by some countries of treating Afghanistan as an area of cooperation while agreeing to disagree on other issues between major powers and into a general principle of regional cooperation. Cooperative advantage will outweigh competitive advantage.
2. Support the intra-Afghan peace process through influence and power to persuade and their supporters to join the peace process;
3. Enhance mechanisms of regional cooperation against TNTS and TCOs through assigning priority to state –to-state relations.
4. Launch a process for creating a framework of cooperation for investing in and sustaining large-scale programs and projects of regional connectivity.
5. Engage with Afghanistan on issues that will be critical to building sustainable peace, such as reintegration of ex-combatants and refugees, inclusive and sustained growth, cultural and education cooperation and a range of other issues.
Peace and free, fair, and inclusive elections for parliament and district councils in 2018 and presidential elections in 2019 are our political priorities. Let ballots replace bullets as the central mechanism of determining our direction and destiny.
We have had empathy, sympathy, thoughts, and prayers, for which we are grateful. We will not have the solutions, however, until we have cooperation. I implore you to stand with the Afghan people, the United States, and those who have committed to peace, to join with us in committing to a regional consensus to combat terrorism and earnestly pursue peace.
Cooperation is a trust-building exercise requiring transparency. Political and economic trust exists when not only the leadership of countries, but also the citizens, can trust that the power channeled through a regional connectivity project will actually turn on when they flip their electric switch, or turn on their gas. Trust comes after the regional connectivity projects deliver what we promised each other, and our people, they will deliver. This is not only how we gain social trust and political capital with one another, but also, more importantly, with our respective citizens.
To achieve cooperation and trust, we must remove the antagonistic and confrontational politics out of the equation. We must put ourselves to the test of leadership, to make the extraordinary become ordinary, on our watch. Today it is a vision; tomorrow it has to be a daily reality.
This means a very serious examination of roles, regulations and policies to ensure we don’t act on impulse and anger but rather, coherently and deliberately. Political leadership in such moments is essential to opening this opportunity.
And at this moment in time in our region, the socioeconomic security of our citizens is directly linked to their physical security. If we act together to build a regional consensus to combat terrorism, achieve peace, and realize regional connectivity and cooperation, then we will be able to contain the threat to not only our people but our political systems. And in the process we will be doing something greater—creating an integrated Asian economy, which could be a massive area for global stability and prosperity.
It is with this end goal in focus that the Kabul process has been launched to successively move from problems to solutions. We must grasp the opportunity.
I want to thank you once again, president Mirziyoyiv, for your leadership, foreign minister of Uzbekistan has been a steadfast steward with our colleagues and I would like to thank all of your around the table for your leadership, participation, vision and commitment. 
 Thank you.