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 You are in: Under Secretary for Political Affairs > Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs > Releases > Public Statements on South and Central Asian Policy > 2003

Remarks on the Eve of the Constitutional Loya Jirga

Dr. Zalmai Khalilzad, Ambassador to Afghanistan
U.S. Embassy Kabul
Kabul, Afghanistan
December 13, 2003

The United States congratulates you, the Afghan people, and your leaders on the convening of the Constitutional Loya Jirga. Afghanistan is passing a major milestone in its transition to a constitutional, representative government that respects its traditions and protects the rights and welfare of its people.

You deserve tremendous praise for the remarkable strides you have made in the two years since the transitional government was established. The credit goes to the strong leadership of President Karzai and his government and your vigorous participation. The constitution to be presented to the Loya Jirga was developed through an inclusive process. It signals a profound trust in the Afghan people and a firm belief that government exists not to rule, but to serve the nation.

The United States has been gratified to see the high level of participation and the quality of the political debate among the Afghan people. Despite efforts by extremist forces to disrupt the selection process, 87 percent of the eligible local representatives took part in meetings to select delegates. The debate has touched on issues never before put to the people for decision. You have responded to the challenge by energetically and responsibly debating these critical questions in meetings among yourselves, in a wide range of media, and even on the internet. By all indications, you are seizing this historic opportunity.

In light of the progress Afghanistan has made, we hope and expect that the delegates will continue to provide enlightened discussion and ratify a constitution that enables this country to continue its journey toward the goal of establishing a moderate and democratic state and society.

Though this is a major step forward, the United States understands that much work remains to be done. The American and Afghan peoples will continue to work in close partnership to achieve stability and prosperity. In our common effort, it is your responsibility to make choices that keep Afghanistan on the right path. As we proceed down this path together, the United States will remain committed for as long as it takes for Afghanistan to stand on its own feet.

To the members of the loya jirga, I say you are making history. The people you represent are watching you with great anticipation. And the world is watching as well. You are at a key moment of decision that can enable Afghanistan to join the ranks of successful countries, overcome the tragedies of the past quarter century, and seize the opportunity for a more hopeful future.


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