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tv   Afghan National Security Adviser  CSPAN  March 27, 2018 3:16am-4:15am EDT

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critically acclaimed books and mysteries. our special series, in-depth fiction and dish and with author walter mosley sunday from noon .ntil 3 p.m. on c-span2 next, a look at security and politics in afghanistan. that country's national security advisers spoke at the u.s. institute of peace on counterterrorism efforts and relations with pakistan. the event was moderated by the formal national security advisor for president george w. bush. >> good morning everyone. i am the president of the u.s. institute of peace. i'm pleased to be able to
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welcome everybody for a special program. i'm glad the weather cooperated. welcome to everyone who has braved the pseudo-weather event this morning. we are pleased to see the members of our international advisory council, and welcome to those who are joining us by webcast. as many of you know, usip was founded by congress, dedicated to the proposition that peace is a practical undertaking, that it is essential for our global security, and that it is eminently possible. usip works with countries around the world, governments and society leaders, to equip them with the kind of tools and learning and information that enables them to work to prevent conflict from becoming violent and to resolve it when it does.
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as i think everyone in this world is aware, afghanistan remains one of the most important policy priorities for the united states. i am pleased usip is able to host the national security adviser. we are very honored you chose to accept our invitation to come here and have a conversation with washington policymakers on critical events that are occurring in afghanistan. usip has been deeply involved in afghanistan since 2002. we have had an office there since 2008. our afghan team works with governments, religious leaders, civil society organizations, to address the underlying causes of instability and to create the conditions for peace.
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this is a really important moment for a conversation on the afghan peace process. last month, the afghan government hosted the peace conference and made a very forward leaning offer to the taliban to find a political solution to the conflict. also last month, the taliban indicated their willingness to talk to the united states about peace. next week, the president will open a conversation with the president of uzbekistan about regional support for a peace process. earlier this month, usip hosted ambassador wells from the u.s. department of state, who joined us to shed
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light on the u.s. response to recent developments. this is an important opportunity to hear directly the afghan perspective with the national security adviser, mohammed atmar and we appreciate your coming today to give us an update on how the afghan government is approaching this process, especially as it deals with multiple security threats from within the country. i want to extend a special welcome to the afghanistan ambassador here in the united states. atmaral security adviser been a critical leader. he has been a minister of rural rehabilitation and development in his efforts through the years
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have led to remarkable gains, particularly in the education of girls, but also in governance and much more and he was a driving force in the creation of the first afghan national development strategy and he has been an important partner in peace efforts. today he will discuss the security challenges that afghanistan faces in a potential path for peace. he will make opening remarks and then he will be joined on stage by our board chair here at usip and the national security advisor for president george w. bush. we will have a great opportunity of listening to a conversation between former and current national security adviser's, followed by questions from the audience. please join me in welcoming afghan national security adviser atmar. [applause]
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adviser atmar: hello there. excellency hadley. and others. ladies and gentlemen, good morning. it is such a privilege to talk to such a distinguished audience. it is an honor to be invited by the famous institute with its remarkable achievements worldwide, but particularly in afghanistan. let me first take this opportunity to thank usip for not just inviting me and my delegation, but for the excellent work it has undertaken in afghanistan and elsewhere. colleagues, i am here to
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represent the president of afghanistan and our people in thanking you all. to pay our respect and appreciation to be sacrifices of your brave men and women in uniform. your dedicated diplomats, aid workers, researchers, and politicians and policymakers. afghanistan will continue to appreciate your service. afghanistan will remain indebted forever for what you have achieved through our joint partnership. some of you have personally
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served in afghanistan or together with us on afghanistan. i am personally grateful to each one of you for your dedicated service. i often argue that if you compare my country, our country, to what we were 15 years ago, despite all the security challenges that we have now, we are certainly a totally different place for our citizens than we were 17 years ago. from every perspective. from the way we govern our country, the way we give voice to our people, to the education of our girls and boys, to health care that we provide to our citizens, and to economic uplift for millions of our people. i used to be a humanitarian worker in the 1990's and late 1980's.
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so i understand where we were 17 years ago and where we are today. in this remarkable achievement of the people of afghanistan, you have had a great contribution. i am particularly grateful to the generosity of your taxpayers. whose generosity actually meant more school, or health care, and better living conditions for afghans. thank you for all of that. in today's opportunity, i was thinking of offering a few opening remarks on where we are with security and bps strategy,
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then we will have the opportunity of working with mr. hadley on responding to some of your questions. to understand the peace offer the president made last month, let me first provide the context. three things are important. number one, the draft we are commonly faced with. this threat to enemies from -- it comes actually from an excess of violent extremism and transnational criminalize networks. and from covert state sponsorship of terrorism. it is not just a threat against afghanistan.
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it is a threat against the region and the entire global community. the starting point of our discussion, when we analyze the situation in the region, you must understand this is a common threat from a common enemy, which calls for a shared responsibility. it's not just the taliban that we are fighting. increasingly, we see foreign fighters associated with at least three categories of terrorist networks. a global terrorist network such as al qaeda, daesh, the regional terrorists such as epim and pakistani terrorists such as the
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taliban in pakistan. all these categories, the afghans, the global, the regional and the pakistanis, have a relationship among themselves. they are all throwing -- drawing on the criminalized economy, chief of all drugs. the drug networks need them and they need a drug income. unfortunately there has been a growth in the number of foreign fighters in the country, primarily because four years ago there were 352,000 afghan troops plus 140,000 international
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troops in afghanistan with all the sophisticated weaponry humanity has ever produced. four years ago, a decision was made to transition the combat, and security responsibility to the afghans. four years ago, there was a young army that stood not developed, including its air force. the transition has taken place successfully. four years ago, there was a
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young army that stood not developed, including its air force. the transition has taken place successfully. the has been setbacks, especially in rural areas. but no major population center has been under control of taliban. so what we have achieved, number one, i often hear this that, when is the timeline to bring this to an end? well, our enemies unfortunately do not have any timeline in pursuit of their hostility towards all of us. one thing you have achieved, 17 years ago you had to intervene yourself. the international community. to dismantle the terrorist network supposing the threat to all of us. now that responsibility is shouldered by the afghans. we do the fight, we do the combat with support we very much appreciate from u.s. and nato
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partners. so one of the most significant achievements in addition to the fact that afghanistan is no longer a safe haven for these terrorists is the creation of the afghan national security forces, which does the job. we will continue to require support from our international partners. if you look at how much of the sacrifice in blood the afghans do and how much of it international partners do, it is clear afghanistan has begun to stand on its own feet.
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in this process, the south asia strategy of president trump's administration has played a key role. we welcome the strategy. it has already a significant impact on the reduction of violence and capabilities of the terrorists. and to create an enabling -- for our peace and reconciliation strategy. the response from the region has been mixed. first, unfortunately, we have not had any positive response from pakistan. not any change in the policy they are pursuing. response from the region, the way the region is slightly mixed. while there is a regional consensus on reconciliation in afghanistan, but the consensus on how to fight the terrorists has broken slightly.
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unfortunately, there are actors in the region that draw a distinction between good and bad terrorists. unfortunately, another sign of that breakdown of consensus is that we all agreed to have the state to state relations for counterterrorist. there are those now who look at state to nonstate actors relations for counterterrorism with serious implications for all of us. there are those who say they work with the taliban against daesh. we say, not only this is unethical, but in terms of policy, this is self-defeating.
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without going into details, in where in an environment while we have a significant progress, but we also have challenges associated to the growth of the foreign fighters and the weakening of regional cooperation. in this context, based on the that was shaped by the salvation strategy, afghanistan launched enforcing strategies.
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the peace and reconciliation and counterterrorism strategies. the peace and reconciliation strategy aims to separate the afghan taliban from the foreign fighters. we can make peace with them because they are afghans, if they are interested in peace. if we succeed in making peace and separating them from the foreign fighters, this will be the most effective global and regional counterterrorism strategy. the foreign fighters will not have a safe haven in afghanistan. at the same time, our counterterrorism strategy is reinforcing our peace strategy. it aims to increase the number of reconcileable among the taliban. the taliban must know they cannot win militarily. therefore, there two strategies
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-- their two strategies are reinforcing each other. those who believe there is an inherent contradiction must look at the way these strategies function as two sides of the same coin. there isn't any contradiction. they will have to be pursued simultaneously to get the result. peace with the afghan insurgents and defeat of the international terrorists trying to use afghanistan against the rest of the world. in this context, president ghani offered the most comprehensive peace offer to the taliban. you are familiar with the key features of the offer, ranging from a legal package to a political, security, and economic package. all the key issues that the taliban have been concerned with, but at the same time, we
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did mention to them that there are some key enablers. these are not conditions, but key enablers. renunciation of violence, cutting ties to international terrorism, and respect for the afghan constitution. especially the rights of our women and minorities. there has not been any official response from the taliban. to the offer. they are still pondering, consulting each other. the unfortunate fact is there has been increase in violence since the launch of the peace
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strategy. the peace offer. clearly it is suggesting there are those elements who do not want peace. now this will not deter us. we will continue to pursue the peace strategy. at the same time, strengthen our counterterrorism capabilities. the way forward on the peace strategy, to make sure it succeeds, colleagues as always, it's complicated. i offer at least eight lines of effort as to how to go forward. the first is that we have to strengthen the afghan national security forces.
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the south asia strategy provides a good basis for international support. without the afghan national security forces, no peace and reconciliation would work within the country. second, there will have to be national consensus for peace and reconciliation. not just among political actors, but among all sections of our society. women must see themselves in the process. our minorities will have to be comfortable with the peace process. it will have to be a peace process for all afghans. third, there will have to be an intra-afghan process of dialogue.
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one of the major insurgent groups taliban has had recently -- it worked for them, an intra-afghan process, but we need to have the right support for that process. fourth, u.s. afghan alignment is key. we have to make sure the countries are fully aligned in pursuit of the peace process. fifth is regional cooperation. as i said, for the success of both strategies, peace and reconciliation and counterterrorism, we have to have regional consensus and regional support.
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as i said, terrorism is a common threat to the entire region. they need to know how we fight. peace and reconciliation is of interest to all of them, and they need to know whether their interests are taken into account. in addition to pakistan, iran, india, turkey, central asian states, china and russia, we are also looking at the critical role that saudi arabia and other countries can play in this respect. particularly to support the afghan dialogue.
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one of the things we will be doing is exactly to explore how that influence can be harnessed for a peace process. we often hear about the office of taliban. it can play a role. it must start doing that, and sooner rather than later. we have been there for seven years. if you are not there for peace, you cannot be there for war either. they have to start engaging in the process. finally is the role of pakistan, which is central to the peace process and the counterterrorist. we are engaging them at different levels. there has been a strong welcome from pakistan for the peace
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initiative. we are engaging them now to offer them concrete measures as to what can they do together with us to support the peace process. on counterterrorism, there is a huge difference between them and us. that is the sad reality. we are putting this to them that there will be no foreign fighters without taliban in afghanistan, and no taliban insurgency without foreign fighters in afghanistan. a good process of dialogue has been initiated on pakistan-afghanistan action plan. i hope we will reach an agreement there.
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but that will definitely be necessary for the south asia strategy and regional cooperation. with this, i just wanted to explain the context in which we are in, and how these two mutually reinforcing strategies can work together. i will be looking forward to your comments and questions. thank you again. [applause] >> thank you very much. we are delighted that you are here with us today. there is no one who has been
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more involved in afghans efforts for peace, security, efforts with its neighbors, and for u.s.-afghan relations. we are delighted to have you here. i think you provided a context that has not really penetrated the washington media or policy community. we are grateful for that. it is now about 11:05 and we have a hard stop at 11:30. i'm going to ask two for three questions. questions of the there will be roving microphones that will come to you. please introduce yourself, ask your question, and keep it short. the shorter the question, the more questions you will be able
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to take advantage of this opportunity. i want to start with something you said about the peace offer. i don't think americans really appreciate how remarkable this offer was. it was unconditional. it talks about the possibility of taliban participation in a political process, and it also talked about, while the constitution needed to be respected, it also could potentially be amended. so there could be a dialogue on that issue. these are major moves by president ghani. they deserve recognition and support. you said one thing which was very important, which was there needs to be intra-afghan reconciliation.
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one of the things we have had concerns about, if you have a reconciliation of pakistan, which took up arms against the afghan people, but don't have reconciliation among the afghan people, what lessons did people draw from that? could you say more about that process you have talked about? process you have talked about? what's the objective, what's the process, where are you on that? becuase that's a crucial element of the process. adviser atmar: absolutely. the way we look at it is -- challenge number one, peace between the state of afghanistan and the state of pakistan. our people are good friends and have always a mutually the problem has been the
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relationship between the two states. so that's element number one. element number two is intra-afghan peace with taliban. as i said, we need to work on it. the third element is the foreign fighters. we cannot make peace with them. they are not afghans. they do not pursue an afghan objective. their objectives are beyond afghanistan. we will have to have some kind of counterterrorism. with the afghans, the taliban are no longer a monolithic organization. they do not have the same level
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of -- or strength of leadership as they used to. they are brought together by foreign influence. there are leaders now among the taliban that question the continuation of the conflict. they're certainly in contact with our peace council and the government. they are asking for a process whereby they and their families are protected to engage in peace. something that needs to be understood that most of the, if not all of the taliban and haqqani leaders have their
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famililes as collateral kept somewhere. that is the way they are to be trusted with what they are doing. they are concerned about their families, their own safety. with this group, our strategy is that they are reconcilable and we need to talk to them. of course there is a irreconcilable element. as i said, this conflict is as much about economics as about politics. awingare dropping on -- dr
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on proceeds from the criminalized and drug economy. there are states and nonstate elements. of course, not to mention the corrupt officials. when it comes to the regional states and their involvement, the peace offer alone will not be enough. we have to have the right balance between incentives and disincentives. when it comes to the reconcilable elements, the challenges, the government of afghanistan must have a solid national consensus to be able to engage. it cannot be seen as peace for one section of theafghan society and lack of peace for another section. it will have to be a solid consensus on the basis of which intra-afghan process will work.
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now are we capable of having that? we have hope we are capable of having it. every afghan has suffered a lot, but they are still kind enough, generous enough to embrace a principled peace opportunity. principled peace opportunity. but that process of national consensus will have to be supported by regional and international consensus. it's complicated. how to do that, we will be exploring that further with our american colleagues as well as countries like saudi arabia and uae. >> if i could ask you one more
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question before moving. what is the mechanism for that intra-afghan reconciliation? what is the mechanism for building consensus and support of an outreach? is it the peace council? is it an electoral process? what is the mechanism within afghanistan to achieve that objective? adviser atmar: this is the high peace council. they are representing almost all of the political actors, the political community, as well as civil society. so they are the mechanism, but they will have to be supported by the state institutions to establish the process. the electoral process is obviously the future. now we often hear about sharing
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of power with taliban. the position of people of afghanistan is that it is an and looked all process -- an electoral process. the way forward, to have a political authority to govern. all of these processes will be open. >> i want to ask you two more questions. you talked about pakistan what you are doing their, and the pakistan in what you are doing re, and the need for regional actors to support this
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process. there's been a lot of focus in the media these days about russia. we talked a little bit about the role russia is playing. i would like to talk about that. also if you could address the internal security situation in afghanistan. we have read press reports of the terrible attacks, many of them by daesh that have killed innocent afghans. we express our condolences for those. we read about those and it gives the impression to americans scared the situation is deteriorating rather than getting better. can you discuss the role russia is playing and a little about the internal security situation and the strategy for combating the challenges you now face? then we will go to the audience. adviser atmar: most recently we had this regional consensus on russia. over the past couple of years, unfortunately, that has been weakening of the regional consensus.
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where we agree with the russians is that the terrorism and especially the foreign fighters are a threat to all of us. second agreement is that the best way forward is peace and reconciliation in afghanistan. we agree on these. where we disagree is when we hear about the distinction that is made between good and bad terrorists. and then finding a way to work with taliban. of course, we have received assurance that taliban will not be provided with weapons and resources. we would welcome that assurance and we would like to say that in
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-- we would like to see that in practice. we also get concerned that when a claim that there are u.s.-nato-afghan unmakred helicopters bringing daesh from the south, tribal areas of pakistan, quite recently during the conference, we respectfully engaged them, if you have any evidence of this happening, please produce it and we will -- welcome a joint regional investigation into the evidence you have provided. but if you don't have evidence, we do have evidence that we would like you to have a look at. the evidence we have is that already we have over 80 daesh
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i.s.-related, associated foreign fighters in our custody. we ask them where they were recruited, who trained them, who brought them into afghanistan. i'm sure we need to do more of that to engage each other and look at the evidence we have. but frankly speaking, sometimes when we engage these regional actors, it's not so much about afghanistan. it's about other interests they have outside afghanistan, like always, bringing those interests or those conflicts into afghanistan.
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therefore, we suggested to our american and western partners that probably afghanistan is the place where we all have a common interest to cooperate. as china said, they want to see afghanistan as a cooperation plays with the united states and nato, not a confrontational place. i hope that is also the case with the russians and other regional actors. you are absolutely right about these heinous acts of terror in the country, including the one, the killing of 26 of our innocent people. these attacks have increased over the past couple of weeks. in a way, in response to the
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significant setbacks and significant setbacks and crushing the taliban suffered. they resort to this level of violence as an act of desperation. it is desperation because they no longer think about the hearts and minds of the people. they just connect the level of violence to demonstrate to the world that they exist, they have not been crushed entirely. that is the wrong way to actually send a message. while we do realize we need to do a lot more to prevent these attacks are happening, a certain degree of this will be happening for all of time, unfortunately.
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if you look at the growing strength of the afghan national security forces with the right support from our international partners, we strongly believe the same way they have kept the country together without any combat role of the international forces, who would be able to improve security as well. >> we went out go to the audience. >> thank you, sir. mentioned that china sees afghanistan as a place of cooperation. what is china's interest in the future of afghanistan and how it could be helpful in the peace
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process to help change pakistan's conduct towards peace? thank you. >> we will take two questions at a time so we can get more people. second row. i'm member of the international advisory council thesenior counsel of international studies. steve's question about intra-afghanistan peace process. kabul aloneriven by and not including the provinces and the province governors and the power centers outside of kabul, that would seem like the right way to approach this. not too many years ago, i was having tea. i am aware of the differences
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between the president and the governor. in general, the provincial involvement in the priest process -- can you give us insight into the governor differences? >> on china, their number one interest is security. they are extremely worried about the so-called eastern turkestan islamic movement. we used to have 300 to 500 fighters in afghanistan. last group of them that we arrested was basically a family
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with six children, two women and a couple of male fighters. china knows about it. frankly speaking until quite recently, they had this wrong information that perhaps the behindstates or india is the fighters. themgage them and provided with the impetus so now they have a better understanding that it moves out of china, goes all the way to vietnam, indonesia and ends up in turkey and comes back to pakistan and afghanistan. they have a better understanding of the threat now.
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therefore there is this confidence in our cooperation now. course, they also have an as the visionest they create. it cannot happen without stability in the region and security in afghanistan. security in afghanistan is central to the region. afghanistan in addition to its vision, probably the most comprehensive vision for economic reintegration and regional connectivity that the president has so eloquently presented to the leadership of china and the entire central asia is now having more traction. on regionalrating
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and economic cooperation as well as regional security and counterterrorism. they are fully supported of the haveciliation and we obviously slight difference of view as to how that needs to happen. the primary focus is to encourage the taliban. we agree on that but add that there must the some comes toives when it the irreconcilable elements and disincentives will have to be provided by pakistan. leadersas the taliban have safe haven in pakistan and able to control the drugs, there
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will always be an element of irreconcilable. that needs to be addressed. we are working with the chinese on that aspect as well. differences between the national unity government rather governor,ifferences president d it would exist that we brought that to an end. -- a new government was introduced. reach anatmar agreement with the national unity government. our commitment was always for a peaceful way to resolve their differences. no matter what difference we
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have, we have a common enemy and we have to strengthen our national unity. hence our emphasis on the involvement of all political actors. and for mentioned level to be involved in the peace process so they don't see it as a threat to themselves. -- this was exactly our challenge. it did have a difficult past with other factions. hopefully now, we are learning to work together. this is exactly the hope that we have. commitment to
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dropping violence and terrorist , based on our constitution to join the political process. the risk of the actors of the country would be supported. where we need to have the ground rules and that is important -- number one is the role of islam in our country. with the interpretation that the majority of afghans have, not did that is ground rule number one. ground rule number two is democracy and a representative democratic policy. isund rule number three human rights and the rights of our citizens, men and women alike. these three things, if in place, consensus,ational
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conceivablyill be achieved. >> we have regrettably come to the end of our time. the national security adviser has a hard stop at 11:30 a.m. and the clock says it is. i want to thank you for coming. please join me in thanking him for his time here. [applause] >> please remain in your seats until the official party t departs.
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