Remarks by Ms. Nancy Jackson  Deputy Assistant Secretary (DAS) for Afghanistan Affairs, Department of State at a Conference on The India-Afghanistan Relationship: Examining Historical, Political Economic and Cultural Ties at  Hudson Institute on 21November, 2019 Remarks by Ms. Nancy Jackson Deputy Assistant Secretary (DAS) for Afghanistan Affairs, Department of State at a Conference on The India-Afghanistan Relationship: Examining Historical, Political Economic and Cultural Ties at Hudson Institute on 21November, 2019

Let me open by thanking the Hudson Institute, Ambassador Haqqani, and his team for their leadership in hosting this important meeting on the India-Afghanistan relationship. It is an honor to be here with all of you today.

Thank you Ambassador Shringla and Ambassador Rahmani for your excellent remarks. Truly India and Afghanistan share deep historical, political, financial, and social ties. And our three countries are bound together by our common cultural, security, and economic interests.

Both Indian and Afghan societies are renowned for their incredible hospitality, strong emphasis on family, their amazing food and songs, and courageous members of the armed services.  And Bollywood movies are just as loved on the streets of Kandahar as in the gallis [ga-lees] of Mumbai. 

Ambassador Shringla noted that India has a rich history of hosting Afghans. Countless millions of Indian children have read the moving story of the Kabuliwala [Ka-bu-lee-waa-laa], written by India’s first Nobel laureate Tagore [Ta-gore]. The shared Afghan and Indian love of family and graciousness celebrated by the story rings true across South Asia, and I’m told that Kolkata still has thousands of Kabuliwalas today.

It is partly because of our confidence in those shared regional bonds that we remain hopeful about Afghanistan today, and about the constructive role that the region can play in Afghanistan – and Afghanistan in the region.

We all can do more to help reinforce those bonds and build on them with improved economic and political ties as security improves over time. As we look at the ongoing violence it is easy to forget that underlying it all, there remains a basis for goodwill, and for cooperation.

With that in mind, I want to focus my remarks today on areas where international security and economic cooperation are profoundly reshaping Afghanistan in ways that matter to both the United States and to India.


The United States, India, and Afghanistan have all suffered from the scourge of terrorism, and we are determined to stop terrorists from threatening our countries, murdering innocent civilians, driving families from their homes, and spreading a message of hatred and fear.

In my previous work at the State Department I have seen first-hand the trauma experienced by refugees fleeing from war and terrorism. Today, our countries are working together to build a region and world that is safer, more stable, and economically self-sufficient.

Countless innocent Afghans have died at the hands of terrorists, including 62 murdered at mosque last month in Nangarhar. It was eleven years ago this week that LeT terrorists murdered and injured hundreds in Mumbai. It has been 18 years since the September 11 attacks killed nearly 3,000 people in New York, the Pentagon, and Pennsylvania.

When the United States began its military engagement in Afghanistan in response to those attacks, our core interest was clear: to ensure that Afghanistan would never again be a platform for a terrorist attack on America or our partners.

In that regard, our mission over the last 18 years has been a success. Thanks to the skill and vigilance of the U.S. military and our NATO and international allies –– no terrorist group has used Afghanistan to launch a successful attack on our shores since 9/11.

And beyond that, Afghanistan is a much different country than it was 20 years ago, with institutions, security forces, and a growing civic culture that make it increasingly inhospitable to global terrorists. Although transnational terrorist groups like al-Qaida and ISIS-Khorasan continue to seek a foothold there, time is not on their side.

While remaining committed to countering the threat of terrorism from groups anywhere in the region, the U.S. Administration understands that the American people are ready to end the war in Afghanistan. In 2017, the President’s South Asia Strategy acknowledged that military power alone will not bring peace to Afghanistan or stop the terrorist threat arising from that country.

Rather, our military effort is designed to create conditions for a negotiated settlement. This effort involves military resolve in Afghanistan, with decisions based on conditions on the ground.

Another critical element of the President’s South Asia strategy is for America to further develop its strategic partnership with India — the world’s largest democracy and a key security and economic partner of the United States.  

We appreciate India’s important contributions to stability in Afghanistan, including $3 billion in civilian assistance since 2001. For our part, we remain committed to pursuing our shared objectives for peace and security in South Asia and the broader Indo-Pacific region.

We have seen encouraging signs over the last 18 months that the South Asia strategy is working, and is beginning to set conditions for a political settlement that includes the Taliban, the Afghan government and other Afghans, including women’s groups. An inclusive political settlement, in turn, will lay the groundwork for political stability and an improvement in security conditions.

But no-one should be under any illusion that a political settlement will immediately mean an end to violence. There will still be violent extremist groups like ISIS, and there will still be armed groups pursuing their own criminal or political objectives. A comprehensive peace agreement will, however, enable Afghans to work together to fight these common threats, including the threat posed by the international terrorist organizations that threaten our societies.


While we all want to see a peaceful and stable Afghanistan, we also share an interest in an economically self-sufficient and prosperous Afghanistan. India and the United States are among Afghanistan’s largest trading partners, with both of our countries doing about $1 billion in annual bilateral trade with Afghanistan.

As Ambassador Shringla has said, India has done much to help Afghanistan’s development, from the construction of dams, roads, electrical lines, irrigation systems, and telecommunications infrastructure to building a stadium in Kandahar for Afghanistan’s cricket team.

India is helping the Afghan Red Crescent Society treat children with congenital heart disease. India provides scholarships to 1,000 Afghan students each year out of the 16,000 Afghans who are studying in India.

The United States has also invested heavily to bring security, stability, and economic self-sufficiency to Afghanistan. We have worked hard to support and train a capable Afghan National Security and Defense Force that is increasingly taking on the responsibility of protecting their country despite ongoing violence by the Taliban and ISIS-Khorasan. We’ve allocated around $29 billion in civilian assistance since 2001 and are providing around $700 million in humanitarian and development assistance in 2019.

One of our most exciting programs involves all three of our countries: the USAID-sponsored “Passage to Prosperity” India-Afghanistan International Trade and Investment Shows. Together, we have held Passage to Prosperity events during each of the last three years – most recently in New Delhi in September. Representatives of all three governments took part in this event that showcases the Afghan private sector and India’s leadership in supporting Afghanistan’s economic development and regional trade.

Past “Passage to Prosperity” events have been attended by hundreds of Afghan businesses and thousands of Indian private sector representatives. The 2018 Passage to Prosperity event resulted in nearly $350 million in deals between Indian and Afghan businesses, and this year’s event was a similar success.

Thanks to our common diplomatic, development, and security efforts, Afghanistan is a different country than it was in late 2001. Afghan troops are increasingly leading the fight against ISIS-Khorasan and the Taliban, backed by the small, but critical support mission of the United States and international partners. And the people of Afghanistan are much better off today than they were two decades ago.

Today, more than 57 percent of Afghans have access to basic healthcare, compared to 9 percent in 2002.

Over half of the Afghan population today has access to electricity, 30 percent via a power grid, compared to only 6 percent in 2001.

More than 2,000 kilometers of roads have been constructed and rehabilitated, allowing Afghans to travel and trade.

Over 9 million students are enrolled in school, 39 percent of them girls.

Over 1 million Afghans have received advanced education, with over 100,000 women enrolled in public and private universities.

Afghan farmers are beginning to export high value crops, with a nascent private sector strengthening supply chains and building market linkages. Afghanistan is trading more with its Central Asian neighbors, diversifying its markets for energy supplies and exports, and finding new markets in India.

This new generation of Afghans lives in one of the most open media environments in South Asia, with access to a large and diverse array of information sources promoting vigorous public dialogue.


Thanks to the courage, resourcefulness, and resilience of the Afghan people and the efforts of the United States, India, and many other international partners, we have seen real progress in Afghanistan over the last two decades.

But the challenges remain daunting. The number of Afghans living in poverty increased from 36 percent in 2007 to over 50 percent in 2017 as international forces drew down their presence in the country.

Corruption, government malfeasance, opium production, and criminalization of the economy continue to be the greatest threats to the sustainability of what Afghans, the United States and our partners have sacrificed to achieve in Afghanistan. Criminal activity and security shortfalls prevent Afghanistan from commercially exploiting its natural resources or serving as a natural transit route for landlocked Central Asia.

Corruption poses a chronic challenge to our ability to use our assistance to support the Afghan people and our interests in the country.  Along with the security situation, it provides an obstacle to progress toward an investment climate that could lead to the growth that hastens Afghanistan’s transition to economic self-sufficiency and prevents the Afghan people from benefiting from their countries considerable natural and human resources.

The United States welcomes India’s substantial investment in and assistance to Afghanistan. And we will continue to support efforts to achieve an honorable and enduring outcome in Afghanistan that preserves our investment in Afghanistan’s future.

For too long the Taliban have taken comfort in their conviction that our fight is unsustainable. Our friends and adversaries should understand that our interest in protecting American citizens is enduring, as we advance a responsible way forward toward a peace settlement that will benefit not only Afghans, but the entire region.