A decade ago Afghanistan was under serious sanctions of the US and the international community. It was a safe haven for terrorists and Al-Qaeda. But today it is a strong ally of the world community against terrorism and Al-Qaeda. It’s not any more under sanctions, but a strategic partner of the US and major western states. Afghanistan is not yet perfect. But it’s come a long way and it’s not Afghanistan of 1990s.
It was October 2001, when the US and its allies engaged in a military campaign in Afghanistan. 12 years ago in the same month. I have witnessed that the US-led and Afghan-backed mission succeeded in removing the Taliban, Al-Qaeda and their foreign allies within six weeks from their strongest base, know as Tora Bora. It was located only 35 miles southwest of the provincial capital of Jalalabad city, where I was living among thousands of other Afghan citizens, who were suffering under the Taliban regime.
Many citizens were worried that after overthrowing the Taliban regime the coalition forces will go back to their countries. And I personally never thought of their long-term support and contributions to Afghanistan. So their contribution for reconstruction and development of Afghanistan was surprising for many Afghans. The mission has evolved from counterterrorism to counter insurgency and reconstruction of Afghanistan. As results over a decade, more than 4,500 school buildings have constructed, nearly 8,000 kilometers of national highways and roads have been built and thousands of reconstruction projects have been implemented across the country.
Of course we cannot depend on the US and the international aids forever. Like every other country we have to be self-sustaining and take responsibility as the owners of our future. So in order to be self-sustaining we have to work hard. But still it will require years for Afghanistan and we will not be able to do it, without the support of the US and the international community.
We are living in the era of globalization, so we have to establish a solid relationship with the neighboring countries and with the region and countries outside the region. Besides the trade passageways, Afghanistan offers unique opportunities for investment. It has enormous explored and unexploited natural resources including minerals, gas, oil, hydrocarbons and other materials that worth trillions of USD. These resources are crucially needed within the region and across the world. So in order to explore, extract and use these treasures, we need to maintain our relationship and cooperation with the developing countries.
There are still many challenges; corruption, unemployment and insecurity are major issues of concerns for the Afghan people. But they are optimistic about their future and they understand that state building and reform is a long-term process. Appreciating the commitments and contributions of the US government and its people, Afghans are gradually taking more responsibilities in every aspect. Successful security transition is a perfect example.
12 years presence of the US military and civilians in Afghanistan has built an unprecedented relationship between the US and the Afghan government. In this period citizens of both counties has also built a close relationship. The joint sacrifice and efforts of the Afghans and Americans has enabled Afghanistan to regain its sovereignty and international recognition. In last one decade we have created sufficient political, economic and social forces. Many Afghans believe that a swift political transition will safeguard this country against the return of Afghanistan to the miseries of the past. And they also believe that a bilateral security agreement with the US will secure mutual interests of the both countries.
There are diverse views about the Afghan-US relationship. But the majority of the Afghan people is strongly supporting continuity of this relationship. Endorsement of Strategic Partnership Agreement with the US by over 2500 representatives of the Afghan people from across the country at the Consultative Loya Jirga in 2011 and its approval by the mass majority of the Afghan parliamentarians, are clear examples.
During the last one decade the relationship between Afghanistan and the United States has grown stronger. It is not only between the governments, but also between the citizens of these two countries. A recently established bipartisan collation of the Afghan and the US civil society leaders, senior former officials and diplomats, The Alliance in Support of the Afghan People (ASAP), is another strong step in protecting the progress made by the Afghan people over the last 12 years.
Mohammad Shafiq Hamdam is the Founder and Chairman of the Afghan Anti-Corruption Network. The Afghan Anti-Corruption Network is the leading and the largest network of civil society organizations fighting corruption in Afghanistan. He is a fellow of the Asia 21 Young Leaders Initiative and also a signatory to the Alliance in Support of the Afghan People, a bipartisan coalition dedicated to preserving and protecting the progress made by the Afghan people since 2001.