Remarks at Meet and Greet With Staff of Embassy Kabul

John Kerry
Secretary of State
United States Embassy
Kabul, Afghanistan
April 9, 2016

SECRETARY KERRY: He’s going to spare me of a long intro. We’re running about two hours plus behind, and probably some of you have spent some of that two hours hanging around here waiting, and I really appreciate it. Thank you very, very much.

First of all, let me begin by saying a profound thank you to our ambassador, to Mike McKinley and to Fatima. We are so appreciative for both of you for your service, and I am personally a great admirer of everything you’re doing here, man. You’re keeping things on track, so thank you very, very much.

You can clap. That’s okay. Yeah. (Applause.) Good. You guys have been away too long. But you’re not missing anything at home in terms of politics. (Laughter.) I promise you. And I can’t go there. I’m not allowed to, so I won’t go there – though I could have a lot of fun with it.

I – this is such – not so many years ago, when you spoke, you did not have a bunch of rectangular boxes staring at you. (Laughter.) It’s a whole new deal, but anyway.

On a sad but important note, nevertheless – even an inspiring note – just this week we honored the three-year mark of the death of Anne Smedinghoff. And some of you here probably worked with her. She was my control – she set up my trip when I was here for a very intensive 24-hour turnaround, and she was just steady and calm and really extraordinary in the process. And two weeks later I got the call that told me she had passed away. So it underscores for everybody – and I know you don’t need it, because you live here on a street that is just a barricade and in a life that is so constrained by security concerns that you feel it every single day. But it underscores for the rest of the United States and for people everywhere that being a diplomat carries its risks, and particularly in the world that we’re living in today.

Every single one of you – I hope you get up every day and end the day feeling as proud as you should of the work that you are doing, because if you don’t do this work – if we don’t do this work and undertake this kind of effort – God knows what would happen to a lot of people. Every day lives are saved by every single one of you in here for the work that we’re doing, and a whole nation is being given a chance to live in the way that it would like to live. History is written in these kinds of transformations and transitions, where people put themselves on the line for big values, for ideas that are bigger than one individual and that really create community, create nation-states, create places where people can grow up the way we are privileged to grow up in the United States of America. So I just want to, on behalf of President Obama and every single one of us who are privileged to work with you, thank you for being here and making the difference you’re making. Young kids in this country have extended their – the mortality rate has dropped significantly, lifespan is greater, kids are in school. I think two out of every five kids in school is a girl today. That didn’t used to be the fact. It’s about a third total. The truth is that there are systems in place to provide health, to do other things that people never had before. There are more roads that have been built than any time in the history of the country. People can move and get places.

So it’s changing. As fast as we’d like? No, and not every day, every movement in as straight a line as we would like it to be. But we ultimately are working with a group of folks who have put themselves on the line, both politically and in security. The Afghan forces are now in charge of their own security. We are no longer in a day-to-day combat mode. We are training and assisting, and we have a counterterrorism platform. And our goal is to help the Afghans be able to have full independent capacity as fast as possible over the course of the next years.

In a few – what, a couple months, we meet in Warsaw, Poland for the NATO summit, and then we meet again in Brussels to deal with the development donor conference for Afghanistan. And I said to President Ghani and to Chief Executive Officer Abdullah today how critical these next weeks and months will be for Afghans to secure the success of those meetings by doing what they need to do to fight corruption, provide good governance, move forward in development, and improve the capacity of the armed forces to deliver the security that the people of the country want and expect.

So that’s what you’re part of. And as everybody here knows, this has been going on for a long time now. September 11th, 2001, 15 years ago – I’ve been coming here for 14 of those years about and have seen the transitions in the buildings, in the cities, in the countryside, and I’ve been to many parts of the country. So I have a pretty good sense of what you’re struggling with every single day, and I have confidence that if we stay on the track we’re on – on the plan we’re on – and if this government fully steps up to deliver the promises that have been made regarding elections, electoral reform, corruption, anticorruption efforts, the delivery of services, this part of your lives is going to be remembered as one of the most important that will be recorded in history books as having fought back against a kind of nihilism and terrorism that has no place anywhere on this planet.

So God bless you all. Thank you so much for what you’re doing. I look forward to seeing you in a – whatever it is before we finish up here in this Administration. I can’t tell you exactly when it’ll be, but I will be back before the end of this Administration to measure where we are, and I hope I see a lot of smiling faces celebrating success when I do. Thank you very, very much. Thanks. (Applause.)