Remarks to the Afghan Diplomat Training Program

Antony J. Blinken
Deputy Secretary of State
5th Floor Diplomatic Reception Room
Washington, DC
September 9, 2015

DEPUTY SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Well, good morning.  Welcome.  It is, indeed, a very special honor to be with all of you today.  And I have to tell you there is tremendous excitement in having all of you here in Washington with us.  As Jarrett said, for four years now we’ve had a unique partnership between China, Afghanistan, and the United States to try to help unlock the potential of Afghanistan by investing in quite simply its most powerful, its most potent, its most important resource: you, the future, the rising stars of the Afghan diplomatic corps.

Ambassador Cui, Ambassador Mohib, thank you for your commitment to this program and to our partnership beyond.  We’re honored to have both of you here today as well.

And I especially want to thank Jarrett, our Acting Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, for his extraordinary leadership, quite literally from day one upon entering the SRAP office.  This training partnership, which looks to the possibilities of Afghanistan’s future – not just its challenges – is emblematic, Jarrett, of your creative and farsighted approach to our partnership.

The wonderful thing too is this program has not only supported a new generation of Afghan leaders – all of you – but it’s also helped to lay the groundwork for the U.S. and China to work together toward a stable, secure, prosperous, and unified Afghanistan.  Today, our collaboration in Afghanistan stretches from women’s empowerment to sustainable development to new training programs for Afghan medical workers and veterinary technicians.

As diplomats, you have a unique and weighty role to play in translating the politics and policies of the moment into meaningful and lasting change.  You serve on the frontlines of your nation’s highest foreign policy interests with a very significant mandate: to navigate a path to peace that delivers for all of Afghan citizens.

And in this vital mission, the good news at least is that you do not stand alone.  The United States and China share a stake in your success, a pledge that our two countries renewed just a few weeks ago in June at our Strategic and Economic Dialogue.  President Obama, President Ghani, with the support of the Chief Executive Abdullah, have also repeatedly emphasized the importance of harnessing the skills of the Afghan people to resolve old challenges and pioneer some new opportunities.

So we’re proud to be with you.  We’re proud to stand at your side.  This is an extraordinary class drawn from the great wealth of Afghanistan’s diversity and the great wealth of its talent.  I looked at the backgrounds that you bring to your jobs.  Some of you are journalists, attorneys, human rights experts, communication specialists, policy planners, human resource professionals.  But regardless of your background or your particular area of expertise, all of you are here because you’ve chosen what I think we all believe is a very honorable calling, and that is diplomacy.

It’s not only the art of negotiation, the mastery of media, the knowledge of cultural subtleties.  It is, at its core, the practice by which we summon all of our energy and all of our ingenuity as human beings, behind the most noble of pursuits – for peace, for prosperity, for the dignity of every single individual. 

And nowhere is the meaning and full strength of diplomacy more evident than in Afghanistan today, where sustained diplomatic engagement helped make fragile but significant developments possible, including the first-ever peaceful, democratic political transition in your country’s history and a government of political unity.

So we’re counting on all of you to help keep this momentum going.  Over the course of the next two weeks, you’ll have the opportunity to experience a training program that is quite similar to the one that every American Foreign Service officer goes through.  You’ll immerse yourself in crisis negotiation, learn the intricacies of protocol, pick up some new media skills, and you’ll get to have conversations not only with some of our nation’s leading diplomats, but also with American families around their dinner tables.  And we hope that you’ll share with them what you’ve learned with your colleagues back home, but we’re just as eager to learn from you, and they’re eager to learn from you, to understand the challenges you face, to understand better your country, so that we can address those challenges more effectively together.

It’s our very great hope that in the years to come, the relationship between the United States and Afghanistan will be defined not by the legacy of war but by the possibilities and, indeed, the gains of peace.  So I just want to wish you a wonderful time here in the United States and then in China, and I very much hope that we’ll have an opportunity to compare notes maybe after the program and I hope to see some of you in Afghanistan.  Good luck.  Thank you very, very much.  (Applause.)