Three Good Events in Afghanistan
Afghanistan is always challenging. We continue to focus on the ongoing insurgency, the presence of terrorists across the border in Pakistan, and a persistent level of corruption. Yet over the past few days, we've had a string of fairly positive developments.
Afghan National Army Special Operations Command (ANASOC) competition team competed in the 4th Annual Warrior Competition in Amman, Jordan May 2-6.
3 photos: Afghan National Army Special Operations Command (ANASOC) competition team competed in the 4th Annual Warrior Competition in Amman, Jordan May 2-6.
Photo 1 of 3: Afghan National Army Special Operations Command (ANASOC) competition team competed in the 4th Annual Warrior Competition in Amman, Jordan May 2-6. Download full-resolution version
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton participates in the Tokyo Conference on Afghanistan in Tokyo, Japan, on July 8, 2012.
3 photos: U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton participates in the Tokyo Conference on Afghanistan in Tokyo, Japan, on July 8, 2012.
Photo 2 of 3: U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton participates in the Tokyo Conference on Afghanistan in Tokyo, Japan, on July 8, 2012. Download full-resolution version
Local community leaders and hundreds of spectators turned out for a new school dedication in the town of Pawat, June 2. They celebrated the completion of the new secondary school, a year-long construction project facilitated by the Panjshir Provincial Reconstruction Team.
3 photos: Local community leaders and hundreds of spectators turned out for a new school dedication in the town of Pawat, June 2.
Photo 3 of 3: Local community leaders and hundreds of spectators turned out for a new school dedication in the town of Pawat, June 2. They celebrated the completion of the new secondary school, a year-long construction project facilitated by the Panjshir Provincial Reconstruction Team. Download full-resolution version
Afghan National Army Special Operations Command (ANASOC) competition team competed in the 4th Annual Warrior Competition in Amman, Jordan May 2-6.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton participates in the Tokyo Conference on Afghanistan in Tokyo, Japan, on July 8, 2012.
Local community leaders and hundreds of spectators turned out for a new school dedication in the town of Pawat, June 2. They celebrated the completion of the new secondary school, a year-long construction project facilitated by the Panjshir Provincial Reconstruction Team.

Afghanistan is always challenging. We continue to focus on the ongoing insurgency, the presence of terrorists across the border in Pakistan, and a persistent level of corruption.

Yet over the past few days, we've had a string of fairly positive developments.

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Local community leaders and hundreds of spectators turned out for a new school dedication in the town of Pawat, June 2.

First, and most importantly, the international community at the Tokyo Afghanistan Conference pledged 16 billion dollars over the next four years for development and economic growth. This is, of course, crucial to defeating the insurgency as it will fund continued improvements in education, health, infrastructure, and governance.

These contributions build on the striking progress over the past decade: 8 million children in school, over 3 million of them girls, up from well under 1 million under the Taliban; access to health care for nearly 70% of the population, up from under 10% during Taliban times; construction of thousands of miles of roads; and economic growth over 8% annually.
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U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton participates in the Tokyo Conference on Afghanistan in Tokyo, Japan, on July 8, 2012.

Second, the United States has declared Afghanistan a Major Non-NATO Ally. This is a sign of the long-term commitment of the U.S. to security in Afghanistan. It nests with the progress in the security sector that today has over 70% of the Afghan population under AFGHAN security protection.  I had the chance a month ago to see a well-developed and professional briefing by an Afghan General of his campaign program for the Afghan Corps he commands.

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Afghan National Army Special Operations Command (ANASOC) competition team competed in the 4th Annual Warrior Competition in Amman, Jordan May 2-6.

It was no surprise to me to see Afghan Special Forces place relatively high in the annual Warrior Competition last May, and to see Afghan forces respond to attacks in Kabul. The quality, as well as the quantity -- which now stands at over 330,000 -- is improving. This is why Secretary Clinton was happy to announce the important designation as a Non-NATO Ally for Afghanistan, standing as they do with the 50-nation coalition with troops on the ground today.

And speaking of contributions, the international community at the NATO/ISAF Chicago Summit pledged to continue to support the Afghan security forces post-2014 with trainers, mentors, assistance, and funding—for another decade at least.  This is in addition to the Tokyo pledges I mentioned above.

Third, it was a good thing to see the re-opening of the ground lines of communication through Pakistan.  After a difficult period of disagreement following the tragic cross-border incident last fall, the U.S. and Pakistan have reached agreement on a way forward that includes access to important logistics for the U.S. and other members of the ISAF coalition. Trucks are rolling again, and that is very positive.

Are there challenges ahead? Of course, and hard ones. But it was a pretty good week overall, and it is worth noting the progress.

Best,
Jim

Admiral, USN
Supreme Allied Commander, Europe
Commander, US European Command
"Stronger Together"

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