SECRETARY POMPEO: Good afternoon. I want to start by thanking His Highness Sheikh Tamim for Qatar’s invaluable role as host of these historic talks. His unstinting support, and yours foreign minister, have supported both sides and allowed them to reach this momentous day.
The United States and the Taliban have endured decades of hostility and mistrust. Previous talks have faltered. This effort only became real for the United States when the Taliban signaled interest in pursuing peace and ending their relationship with al-Qaida and other foreign terrorist groups. They also recognized that military victory was impossible. I then asked Ambassador Khalilzad to serve as our lead negotiator to gauge the Taliban’s sincerity.
The agreement that we will sign today is the true test of this effort. We will closely watch the Taliban’s compliance with their commitments and calibrate the pace of our withdrawal to their actions. This is how we will ensure that Afghanistan never again serves as a base for international terrorists.
The negotiation process in Doha, with all of its twists and turns, has shown it is possible for us to take this step together. Over the past seven days, violence levels have reached their lowest point in the last four years. U.S. and Afghan forces responded to the reduced enemy attacks by also respecting peace. It was not perfect, but the Taliban demonstrated, even if only for a week, that when they have the will to be peaceful, they can be.
The Afghan people have rejoiced. They are moving freely about the country to visit family and friends. They’re trading. They’re even dancing in the streets. But we’re just at the beginning. Furthering the cause of peace will require serious work and sacrifice by all sides – the United States, the coalition, the Taliban, the Afghan Government, other Afghan leaders, and the Afghan people themselves – to maintain the momentum needed to reach a comprehensive, inclusive, and durable peace.
This agreement will mean nothing, and today’s good feelings will not last, if we don’t take concrete actions on commitments and promises that have been made. When it comes down to it, the future of Afghanistan is for Afghans to determine. The U.S.-Taliban deal creates the conditions for Afghans to do just that.
Here’s our take. Here’s our take on what steps by the Taliban will make this agreement a success.
First, keep your promises to cut ties with al-Qaida and other terrorists. Keep up the fight to defeat ISIS. Welcome the profound relief of all Afghan citizens – men and women, urban and rural – as a result of this past week’s massive reduction in violence and dedicate yourselves to continued reductions. It is this significant de-escalation of violence that will create the conditions for peace, and the absence of it, the conditions and cause for failure. All Afghans deserve to live and prosper without fear.
Sit down with the Afghan Government, other Afghan political leaders, and civil society, and start the difficult conversations on a political roadmap for your country. Exercise patience, even when there is frustration. Honor the rich diversity of your country and make room for all views. Afghan governments have failed because they weren’t sufficiently inclusive. The Afghan Government of 2020, and indeed the Afghanistan of 2020, is not the same as in 2001. Embrace the historic progress obtained for women and girls and build on it for the benefit of all Afghans. The future of Afghanistan ought to draw on the God-given potential of every single person.
If you take these steps, if you stay the course and remain committed to negotiations with the Afghan Government and other Afghan partners, we and the rest of the international community assembled here today stand ready to reciprocate.
I know there will be a temptation to declare victory. But victory – victory for Afghans – will only be achieved when they can live in peace and prosper. Victory for the United States will only be achieved when Americans and our allies no longer have to fear a terrorist threat from Afghanistan, and we will do whatever it takes to protect our people. The United States will press all sides to stay focused on the goal of a peaceful, prosperous, and sovereign Afghanistan and an Afghanistan free of malign foreign interference where all voices and communities are heard and are represented. This is the only way – this is the only way – a sustainable peace can be achieved. And for all of us here, and most importantly for the security of the American and Afghan people, this must happen.
Thank you. (Applause.)