The New Silk Road: Promoting a Better Future for Afghanistan

Posted by Clemens Hach
September 23, 2011
Afghan Man Works on Silk Threads

Yesterday, I attended the "New Silk Road"ministerial at the German Mission in New York. Afghanistan's neighbors and some of its many international friends -- 30 delegations in all -- joined in promoting the vision of a more prosperous future for Afghanistan and the region. The Secretary was joined in the chair by the German and Afghan Foreign Ministers, each of whom spoke in support of greater regional cooperation.

After a week in which terrorists used heinous violence against those who would advance peace and reconciliation, the meeting was a welcome reminder of the strong consensus in the international community to support a secure, stable and prosperous Afghanistan.

The Secretary noted that we have all learned from hard experience that lasting stability and security go hand in hand with economic opportunity. Everyone who spoke, including Afghanistan's neighbors, emphasized the importance -- and the opportunity -- of greater regional integration.

For centuries, traders criss-crossed South and Central Asia on the "Silk Road," trading goods over thousands of miles while serving as a conduit for the spread of knowledge, ideas, and culture. In recent years, trade and commerce in the region has been stifled by war and regional rivalries. As the Secretary said, it is now time do the hard work of putting aside old enmities and rivalries to focus on opportunities, not just threats. The revitalization of regional trade, the opening of markets, the free movement of people, and the development of robust private sector-led growth is good for Afghanistan, good for the region, and good for the United States and their partners.

The Secretary called this the "New Silk Road," an international economic and transit network that links Central and South Asia, with Afghanistan at its heart. The vision of a New Silk Road complements efforts to seek a political solution to Afghanistan's decades-long war. An Afghanistan firmly embedded in the economic life of a thriving South and Central Asia will incentivize those interested in peace and reconciliation.

Afghanistan's neighbors and near-neighbors have a major stake in ensuring that Afghanistan continues its progression from post-conflict society to a full, stable, and active player in the global economy, and yesterday's meeting was an important step in that process.

Everyone in attendance understood that we have much work to do to start making this vision a reality to the people of the region. There are a number of important diplomatic conferences on the calendar in the next few months, that will focus our regional diplomatic efforts, including meetings in Istanbul and Bonn.

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