Karzai's address to Canadian Parliament
بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم
The Right Honourable Prime Minister,
Honourable Speaker of the Senate,
Honourable Speaker of the House of Commons,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Merci beaucoup pour ce grand honneur, et merci pour m’acceuillir dans la maison du people du Canada.
I stand before you today with deep emotions. It is a pleasure to be among friends in Canada today, and to be visiting a great nation that is a model to the rest of us for all that is good. Yet, I know my visit comes at a time of sadness for a number of families across Canada, who have lost loved ones, in my country Afghanistan. I also know that it is a time when many in Canada are pondering their country’s role in Afghanistan.
Therefore, in addition to the honourable members, it is to those families – and to the Canadian public – that I wish to address myself today.
If the greatness of a life is measured in deeds done for others, then Canada’s sons and daughters who have made the ultimate sacrifice in Afghanistan stand among the greatest of their generation. Within the next day, four of your fallen soldiers will return home to their final resting place. They have sacrificed so that we in Afghanistan may have security, and they have sacrificed to ensure the continued safety of their fellow Canadians from terrorism. I know that there are many others who also feel the emptiness and loss of their loved ones. My heart goes to the families, the friends and the Canadian people at this time of reflection and sorrow. More than anyone else, Afghans very much understand that these sacrifices are for a great cause and peace.
The people of Afghanistan have suffered from over two decades of invasions, wars and destruction.
The miseries of the Afghan people began with invasion of our country in 1979 and continued until the tragedy of September 11 brought the world to our rescue. The freedom-loving Afghan people, backed by supporters from what was then referred to as the Free World, fought and defeated the invasion, facilitating the disintegration of the Soviet Union and the fall of the Berlin Wall. These were indeed significant accomplishments of our time, for which Afghans paid dearly. Over one million Afghans lost lives, another million were disabled, more than a quarter of our population was forced into exile, and our country’s infrastructure was razed to the ground.
Whereas Afghans had fought and won the world’s war against communism, the reward that Afghanistan received was abandonment by the international community. We were left with a world of destruction to rebuild, and at the mercy of a predatory neighbourhood and the bellicose extremist forces that had been brought to Afghanistan.
Few cared about the dismal plight of the Afghan people; and even fewer thought about the consequences of leaving a country so dangerously vulnerable to foreign extremists.
It was in this environment that Al Qaida, with supporters in the region and beyond, set up its deadly campaign of terror against Afghans and the whole world. While the Afghan people continued to suffer, and while we continued to warn the international community about the danger of international terrorism that was brewing in Afghanistan, the world remained unmoved. Both our sufferings and our warnings were ignored. As if Afghanistan did not exist. Perhaps, by the standards of today’s world, we indeed did not exist. Afghanistan was a very poor country. It could not buy anything from world, nor did it have anything to sell to the world.
The tragedy of September 11th showed in a terrible way the flaws of the arguments against helping Afghanistan.
For one thing, it showed that, in fact, the cost of ignoring Afghanistan was far higher than the cost of helping it. The terrorist attacks of 9/11 brought home to many in the West the pain of terror and the fear that we in Afghanistan had been feeling at the hands of the foreign-sponsored Taliban and Al Qaida for years before. And when the international forces, including Canadians, came to Afghanistan later that year as partners under the banner of a United Nations Security Council Resolution to liberate the country from the extremist forces which had seized control of our nation.
The arrival of the international community to our rescue after 9/11, however, was not a partnership solely of military might. Over the last five years, Afghanistan and the international community have developed a remarkable partnership and as I call it cooperation of civilization – a partnership that extends from enhancing security to developing the rural areas of Afghanistan to providing education and health services to our needy people. Canada, in all respects, has been among the leaders of this partnership.
Thanks to Canada’s contributions, Afghanistan today is profoundly different from the terrified and exhausted country it was five years ago. Today, Afghanistan has the most progressive constitution in our region, which enables the Afghan people to choose their leadership for the first time in their history. Over the past five years, our people have voted in two elections, one for the President and another for the Parliament. With the inauguration of the Parliament, 27 percent of whose membership is made up of women, all the three branches of state have now been established. More than six million children, about forty percent of them girls, have returned to school. Over four million refugees have returned to their homes. We have disarmed tens of thousands of former combatants, and have begun the vital task of building up Afghanistan’s security institution – the Police and Army. We have also achieved fiscal stability and substantial economic growth. In short, we in Afghanistan have embraced the vision of a prosperous and pluralistic society which Canada so richly embodies.
A democratic nation is not built overnight, nor in one or two elections. A democratic state draws its strength not only from strong state institutions, but from the confidence of the people in these institutions and in the democratic process. Afghanistan’s democracy will continue to grow, will continue to develop, will continue to gain the confidence of its people – but only with patience and with the continued support of Canada and other members of the international community. As we move forward, we will continue to look to Canadian institutions like this great Parliament, and to Canada’s pluralistic traditions, to help to move forward.
Despite our phenomenal progress ladies and gentlemen, our new democracy faces serious threats. Insecurity in parts of our country, as a result of the rise of terrorist activities, is our greatest challenge. Five years ago, Afghan and international forces defeated terrorists within two months. While some terrorists were removed, most of the others took refuge outside our borders. Unfortunately, it was in those sanctuaries beyond our borders where they were re-organised, trained, financed and provided with the ideological motivation to cross into Afghanistan and kill and maim our people, women, men and children, as well as your sons and daughters. During this year, we have seen a dramatic rise in terrorist attacks along the southern and eastern border provinces of Afghanistan, targeting mostly civilians. Terrorists have bombed our schools and mosques; killed our teachers and students; killed our religious and tribal leaders; and killed foreign aid and construction workers who are there to help Afghanistan.
Terrorism sees its ultimate defeat in the prosperity of the Afghan people. That is why, 200,000 of our students, who went to school two years ago, are no longer able to do so. That is why polio, the children’s disease, increased from 4 cases in 2005 to 27 cases this year almost entirely in the southern provinces of Afghanistan where terrorists are preventing children from access to vaccination.
Terrorists are prepared to cross any boundaries, and commit horrific acts of violence to try to derail Afghanistan from its path to success; they want the international community to fail in its collective endeavour to help Afghanistan rebuild. That is why they decapitate elderly women, blow up mosques full of worshipers, and kill school-going children in indiscriminate bombings of civilian areas. And that is why they are killing international soldiers and civilians who have to come to help the Afghan people. Clearly, unless we confront them more decisively, terrorists will continue to take lives and to inflict greater damage.
We will not fully succeed in eliminating terrorism, unless we seek and fight the sources of terrorism, wherever they might be, and dry its roots. Our strategy of fighting terrorism in Afghanistan has so far been mainly focused on addressing the symptoms of terrorism – that is on killing terrorists who come from across our borders. This strategy is bound to fail unless we move beyond the military-alone approach in Afghanistan to address terrorism’s political, ideological and financial basis.
We must also ensure that extremism is not used, by any country or entity, as an instrument of policy.
Globally, the same is true. If terrorists continue to harm innocent people around the world, which is what we have seen happen from New York to Bali to Madrid to London, then it is our collective duty to stop them at the point of origin, at their breeding grounds, before they can reach far and wide.
Fighting terrorism effectively is also tied to our fighting against narcotics. The menace of narcotics feeds terrorism and threatens the foundation of legitimate economic development in Afghanistan. A combination of factors, mainly lack of a conducive security environment for our counter-narcotics effort, absence of a comprehensive alternative livelihoods programme, and clandestine credit flows to poppy farmers, are behind the narcotics trade. Afghanistan is committed to fighting narcotics, alongside terrorism, with strength and determination and through a combination of law enforcement and economic measures.
We expect that the international community will continue to support us in this fight by enabling us to provide meaningful alternative livelihoods to our farmers.
Today, under a United Nations mandate, and consistent with the wishes of the Afghan people, your sons and daughters together with citizens of more than 35 other nations have committed security forces to Afghanistan, while more than 60 nations, along with multilateral organisations, have pledged generously to help rebuild the war-torn Afghanistan in a stable, prosperous and democratic country.
Canada has made a tremendous difference in the lives of millions of Afghans already. Afghanistan is proud to be the largest recipient of your overseas development assistance. That assistance has gone a long way in addressing the needs of a population that admires you for your generosity.
I want to take this opportunity to thank Prime Minister Harper for his strong commitment to Canada’s role in Afghanistan – not only with the NATO forces in the south of Afghanistan, but with the development efforts which continue across the country. I know that Afghanistan was your first stop abroad as Prime Minister, and we are deeply grateful for the personal interest you have taken in the support that Canada is offering to Afghanistan. I would also like to take this occasion to express my deep appreciation to Prime Ministers Chretien and Martin, who showed tremendous courage and leadership earlier on in supporting the creation of a United Nations mandate for the international community to support Afghanistan. And to all the Honourable Members of the Senate and the House who have visited Afghanistan or who have continued to seek ways to support our efforts, a warm and heartfelt merci beaucoup! You have helped us regain our freedom and dignity, and we in Afghanistan will never forget that.
There is much that Afghanistan can learn from Canada. We admire the multi-cultural society have created where the diversity of your country is seen as one of your greatest strengths. We admire the respect for the rule of law, for justice, and for human dignity that pervades you nation. And most importantly, we admire you determination to help people far from your shore because it is the right thing to do, for us and for you.
Thank you very much. Merci beaucoup!
- In the name of God, Most Gracious, Most Merciful
- Thank you very much for this great honour, and thank you for inviting me into the house of the Canadian people
- Thank you very much!