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International Conference in support of Afghanistan

International Conference in support of Afghanistan

Published on June 13, 2008
Speech by the President of the French Republic

Paris, June 12, 2008

Mr Secretary-General of the United Nations,
Mr President of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan,
Madam First Lady of the United States of America,
Bernard Kouchner,
Ladies and Gentlemen

I would like to extend my thanks for the indefatigable action for a free, independent and democratic Afghanistan. The Afghan people have grievously suffered two decades of tragedy. First occupied and then divided, Afghanistan was taken hostage by a regime allied with terrorists, a regime that is the very negation of the values of Islam. Islam has nothing to do with the group of terrorists that took Afghanistan hostage.

In 2001, the whole world rallied to give all Afghans hope for a new future.

Mr President, dear Hamid, the countries and international institutions gathered here today have come a long way, by your side, but we are aware that there is still a great deal of work to be done. So when you asked me, on my visit to Kabul in December, to host an international conference in France in support of Afghanistan, I immediately accepted because it is the duty of all democratic people to help you. Because your victory will be more than just your victory, it will be the victory of the values of a free world, respectful of the dignity of women and men.

I accepted because we have to win. We do not have the right to lose. I accepted because we have a moral duty to help the Afghan people who have been martyrised. I accepted because the future of an Islam of peace and an Islam of tolerance is in the balance. And if I may be so bold, this goes far beyond the question of Afghanistan alone.

We need to galvanise our energies, in keeping with the commitments made in London in January 2006. Yet I would like this conference to be first and foremost an opportunity for us to think about our strategy for success.

At the North Atlantic Alliance Summit in Bucharest in March, we chose a comprehensive response to: make our action long term; to transfer security responsibilities to the Afghans; to step up the co-ordination of civilian and military actions – we are well aware that we will not win solely by means of military action –; and to rally round a shared objective: a stable and reconciled Afghanistan, free from terrorists and free from drugs and drug trafficking.

We were unanimous in Bucharest, with the Secretary-General of the United Nations, that we should agree on this comprehensive strategy.

France will keep up its engagement in Afghanistan as long as it takes to win. We do not give in to terrorists. We do not yield to torturers. We win and we stay until we win. I said this in Kabul in December with Bernard Kouchner, whose name is dear to all Afghans. I confirm it solemnly here today before you all.

In agreement with the Afghan authorities, we have therefore decided to make an additional contribution to training the Afghan army and the stabilisation of the country. French instructors are already on the ground. An additional battalion will be deployed in eastern Afghanistan this summer. Ladies and Gentlemen, France is proud of the action of its soldiers in Afghanistan because French soldiers serve a just cause, the cause of peace and human dignity.

This military presence is necessary since security is the number one condition for Afghan economic and social development. The two are inextricably linked and this is why I am announcing, here before you, an increase in French reconstruction aid: it will be more than doubled, with the priority on allocations for agriculture and health.

It is quite the thing to criticise what the international community has done in Afghanistan. Of course there have been problems, of course some things have been slow-going, of course there have been some blunders. But the important thing is the progress made since 2001. Six million children, including two million girls, are back at school. It’s important to talk about that. A large part of the road network has been rebuilt. Health services now cover most of the country. Trade is picking up again as are crafts and services. We don’t talk enough about these successes.

Equally important in my view is the success of the Bonn political transition process, which culminated in September 2005 in the election of the Afghan National Assembly, with over one-quarter of its members being women. It took the Afghans less than five years to firmly establish the running of democratic institutions in the country. As the massive voter turnout in the elections held since 2002 clearly shows, the Afghans have chosen freedom. We are not at war with the Afghans, we stand by the Afghans against the terrorists. I defend this idea, because the international community should not have to apologise for standing by a martyred people. The Afghans have chosen to revive the democracy asserted by their 1964 Constitution.

The Afghan people are holding their heads up high again. Our duty is to help them for as long as they choose the presence of friendly countries. We do not want to impose anything on Afghanistan: we want to be more effective to help the Afghans.

We want to improve international co-ordination to make the best use possible of the considerable sums spent and to make sure that the military goals are not detached from the civilian goals. At the same time, we want to purposefully further the Afghans’ gradual ownership of the reconstruction mechanisms. And we need to help Afghanistan with regard for its ancestral customs, its traditional elites, and even its faith, I’m not afraid of the word. We are not colonisers, we will never be so again. We are not missionaries and we do not want to be. Those days are over. We want to work with Mr Karzai’s government with respect and we want results. Those who may seek to impose theoretical models or drastically change Afghan society would only fuel incomprehension, bitterness and the rallying of the most reactionary forces.

We have taken a major step forward in the co-ordination of our efforts with the recent appointment of Mr Kai Eide as Mr Ban Ki-moon’s Special Representative. I would like to thank him and say to both gentlemen that we are proud to work with you. I would also like to tell Mr Ban Ki-moon that it was good to see the Secretary-General of the United Nations in a NATO meeting, in Bucharest, working for the international community. Our only enemies are the terrorists, the torturers, those who respect nothing and no one. I would like to assure you, Mr Special Representative, of France’s full support in your mission and I pay tribute to your determination. It is no mean feat to find men and women prepared to go and live there to defend our ideas.

The scale of the task remains considerable and I would like to conclude on this point. Years of patient work still lie ahead. But we must have done with two major obstacles.

The first obstacle is the violent action of armed groups, too often supported and supplied with weapons by outside forces. I would like to send a clear message to these groups in Afghanistan and in Pakistan: we will not allow you to undermine the accomplishments of these recent years. We will not let the schools we have funded be burnt down, ransacked by people who have no respect for anything. And I say to these groups, you will not shake the determination of the international community. Yet if Afghans engaged in violent opposition today agree to dialogue and reconciliation, I am sure these same Afghans will have a fully-fledged role to play in the new Afghanistan. It is for the legitimate Afghan authorities to define the conditions that will enable their reintegration into Afghan democracy. And it is for Pakistan to do everything in its power to ensure that partisans of violent action do not with impunity find refuge on its soil from which to undermine our efforts in Afghanistan. We need Pakistan to resolutely commit to working towards a free Afghanistan.

The second obstacle is drug trafficking. The drug traffickers, largely controlled by the extremist movement, eat away at the economy, eat away at society and sometimes even the Afghan administration. Drugs fuel war; drugs fuel corruption. Drugs are, in Afghanistan as elsewhere, a threat to peace. At the bottom of the pyramid, there is obviously the poppy farming by farmers in search of resources. But there are also the mafia networks that thrive on the trafficking. Yet none of it would be possible without the imported precursor chemicals. This is why the Security Council saw fit to adopt, at France’s initiative, a resolution for resolute action against the trafficking of these precursors. To waver would be to become party to the traffickers and the armed movements that threaten the stability of the country.

Permit me, in conclusion, to pay tribute to the Afghan people. The Afghans are courageous people, dignified people. The Afghan people have stood firm through the worst hardships anyone could suffer, with millions of victims of years of war, dictatorship and barbarity. I would also like, in the presence of the entire international community, to pay a personal tribute to President Hamid Karzai. Hamid, you are a brave man, a determined man, a man we are proud to have as a friend. Hamid Karzai, if it were not for you, the international community would not be so determined. Your country is very lucky to have you. We are well aware of the problems, but proud of the progress made. Reconstruction is underway. Now is not the time to slacken our efforts.

So may all of Afghanistan’s friends, whom Bernard Kouchner has gathered here today, say we are going to step up our effort to help the Afghan people, our sole aim is that the Afghan people become once again master of their own destiny and their own future!

Thank you all for accepting our invitation.
Thank you all for your work.
France is proud to stand by a free Afghanistan led by a valiant President.
Thank you all.

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