Afghanistan’s ambassador to the United States says his country is grateful for the support that NATO allies have pledged at their summit in Chicago.
Eklil Hakimi told RFE/RL’s Heather Maher that the agreements reached between President Hamid Karzai and the United States and its NATO partners will send a strong message to the region, and assure the Afghan people that Kabul will not be left on its own after NATO ends its combat mission in the country in 2014.
Hakimi also said that Afghan forces will be ready by the time NATO hands over the lead on fighting by mid-2013.
RFE/RL: Is President Karzai satisfied with the commitments he's gotten from NATO allies about their post-2014 commitment?
Eklil Hakimi: Well, the support that we received from our allies is something that we are grateful [for], and also the support that we have received for the last decades is something that we cherish, and the Afghan people are grateful for that.
So that assurance is there and we are looking forward to an enduring partnership for years to come between Afghanistan and our NATO allies.
RFE/RL: Did you hear anything new about NATO's position here in Chicago that you didn’t know before? Were there any surprises?
Hakimi: We have been consulting with each other as an ally for quite some time and this declaration has been based on a consensus on both sides and not something [that has come as a] surprise.
RFE/RL: Can you talk about what happened during the closed-door meeting this morning [May 21] to discuss the partnership agreement?
Hakimi: We had a very constructive discussion with [NATO and its partners]. As you know, this [is a] partnership that we have agreed with those allies and those countries that have committed [to] an enduring partnership with Afghanistan for years to come.
That gives an assurance to our people, a strong signal to our people, and also countries in the region that Afghanistan’s partnership with our allies will remain intact for years to come.
RFE/RL: What has President Karzai told the allies they can expect in return for their commitments? Did he make any specific pledges?
Hakimi: This is a journey that we have all started together – a democratic society with the values that we both cherish. Common values, a democratic society with the rule of law, good governance, human rights -- particularly women's rights. These are things that we have committed to do through our constitution and this is what we are going to do for years to come.
RFE/RL: Were you asked specifically by the allies about improving transparency and good governance, or did you any hear concerns about whether the money NATO allies will be contributing will be channeled in the right way?
Hakimi: This is a process. We have to have strong institutions in order to be more transparent and this is something that we have been insisting [on] for quite some time -- that the money should be channeled through the Afghan government, [which] will enable us to give information and share information with our own people, and also to build our own capacity to deliver things that our own people and also our partners anticipate from us.
So, as we have done before, we have started it, but it's not something that we are satisfied with. As I said, it's a process. We should continue to build on things that we have already laid a strong foundation [for] -- strong institutions that will be responsible to our own people and also be transparent enough so that we can satisfy our donors and our partners as well.
RFE/RL: Will Afghan forces be ready to take over the lead in fighting by mid-2013, as NATO has decided here to do?
Hakimi: The transition will be completed by the end of 2014 and our security forces should be in the lead by mid-2013, which we are ready [to do].
This is according to the schedule that we have laid out with our partners in Lisbon in 2010. The transition, as we said, is irreversible and it's based on the reality on the ground, and [it's] also gradual. So based on that, we have made that time frame, and we will meet that time frame.
Our security forces -- yes, they are ready, and also yes we need support: support for training, support for political and financial assistance for years to come until we rely on our own resources.