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.
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.
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.
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.
Supreme Allied Commander, Europe
Commander, US European Command