Testimony before the U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations 11 July 2013

Senator Menendez, Ranking Member Corker, and members of the Committee, thank you for the opportunity to testify before this Committee at this critical time in Afghanistan’s political transition. I am the Chairperson of the Free and Fair Elections Foundation of Afghanistan (FEFA). From 2004 until last month I was a Commissioner of the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission. I will be speaking about three issues that can determine the course of Afghanistan’s future: the ongoing security transition; the upcoming political transition and elections; and, finally the public perception of the current efforts to start negotiations with the Taliban, and U.S. role within it. I will also outline for you what so rarely gets reported in the media – that Afghanistan is at a turning point toward stability, with our people beginning to have faith in a democratic system. The investments of the last decade by Afghans and their partners, in particular the United States, have transformed the country. We have seen unprecedented progress made in many spheres, but perhaps what makes me most proud is that on the eve of transition, Afghans are ready and eager to stand on their own feet, with a newfound trust in the abilities of their security forces. However, alongside this new sense of determination, there are risks and fears. Many Afghans had their confidence shaken by the recent opening of a Taliban office in Doha. Even if the Taliban have temporarily closed the office, the process helped to legitimize a group that is terrorizing the Afghan people, and played directly into Pakistan’s hands. The United States’ involvement in that process gave rise to conspiracies in Afghanistan about the real priorities of the U.S. government. It would be a tragedy if - at this moment - when so much of the blood, sweat, and tears of these past ten years is paying off - the achievements that the United States has helped to win were sacrificed For a deal that could destroy them. Particularly when we stand less than a year away from elections which will bring a new leader with a fresh mandate to govern, and to negotiate on behalf of the Afghan people.

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