OPINION: Arriving at Auckland for my first visit as Afghanistan's new Ambassador to New Zealand, I immediately noticed the half-mast flag flying over a building at the airport.
The half-mast flag was to honour the services of three brave soldiers, Lance-Corporal Jacinda Baker, Private Richard Harris and Corporal Luke Tamatea, who had been killed by a Taleban roadside bomb in the northeast part of Bamiyan province in Afghanistan.
These brave soldiers - two young men and a young woman - and seven other service personnel killed since 2001, left the comfort of family and friends and decided to provide security and extend their helping hand to their fellow human beings over thousands of kilometres away in a remote region of central Afghanistan.
Every single day, since the removal in 2001 of the Taleban regime and their al Qaeda supporters in late 2001, the Afghan people, our National Security Forces and the international contingent of which New Zealand is a member, have been serving shoulder-to-shoulder in a very challenging environment. Their mission is to protect the world from the menace of al Qaeda and violent extremism and to make sure that Afghanistan will not fall back to the dark days of the Taleban regime which took the country and its people hostage and deprived them of basic human needs and rights.
This is a noble cause and this, for anyone who is still not clear, is the real reason why the presence and sacrifices of the people and government of New Zealand are for the good of peace and security and democracy in Afghanistan and peace and security in the region and the wider world. And that’s precisely why we the Afghan people honour the dedication and sacrifices of the Kiwi soldiers and acknowledge their exemplary bravery in action, devotion to service and love for fellow human beings. Specifically, New Zealand’s support for the mission in Afghanistan and its PRT in Bamiyan have contributed to stability and the provision of humanitarian assistance as well as access to health care, education and clean water for thousands of vulnerable people living in the rugged valleys of central Afghanistan. It is the true spirit of good citizenship demonstrated and seen in practice.
Over the past 10 years we Afghans have gained a tremendous amount of experience and trust in working together with our international partners in a very challenging region of the world. We had remarkable successes in dismantling and degrading the terrorist networks, taking away their planning and executing capabilities and removing their top level leadership, including Osama bin Laden who was killed in an operation in Abbottabad, Pakistan in May 2011.
These 10 years have been a truly unique chapter in the history of our country. After decades of strife and violence, we took steps re-build state institutions, create a vibrant civil society, nurture and expand freedom of media and ensure the basic rights of women and men. We have sought to lay the foundations of a young democracy. Our social and economic accomplishments have been remarkable, greater by comparison than in any other period in our country’s recent history. The progress we are making is undoubtedly the result of tireless efforts by brave man and women of our two great nations and many other international partners.
After almost a decade of a joint effort, at the NATO summit in Lisbon in November 2010 we agreed on a time table for orderly withdrawal of the International Security Assistance Forces (ISAF). We have also agreed that the Afghanistan National Security Forces (ANSF) will gradually take over responsibility for securing the country
The progress we are making is undoubtedly the result of tireless efforts by brave man and women our two great nations and many other international partners. Though the recent upsurge of violence and terrorist attacks on Afghan cities and villages, including yesterday’s brutal killing of 17 men and women by the Taleban at a wedding party in Helmand, have tempered the sense and pride we feel at our achievements, we remain firmly committed to realising the aspiration of the Afghan people for a peaceful and prosperous lives.
The people of Afghanistan have suffered from too much violence and too much despair over the past decade since the Soviets invaded our peaceful and stable country in 1979. We have seen too many of our young men and women lose their lives as a result of war and conflict. Our people crave and deserve sustainable peace, stability and security not only 'til 2014 but for many years to come.
New Zealand has given us a strong helping hand in our journey so far since 2001 for which we’re ceaselessly and genuinely filled with appreciation and gratitude. Our close partnership over the past decade and our shared sacrifices have also laid down the foundations of long-term, enduring friendship and cooperation between our two nations. We keenly look forward to sustaining this spirit of friendship, partnership and cooperation for many years to come.
* Nasir A Andisha is the ambassador of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan in Australia and New Zealand. We can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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