The 7th Ministerial Conference of the Heart of Asia – Istanbul Process was convened on 1st of December 2017 in Baku the capital of Azerbaijan which was attended by the President of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan Mohammad Ashraf Ghani and president of the Republic of Azerbaijan Ilham Heydar oglu Aliyev.
The 7th Ministerial Conference of the Heart of Asia – Istanbul Process was titled “Security and Economic Connectivity towards a strengthened heart of Asia region” which was attended by foreign ministers of the 16 countries with permanent membership as well as representatives from the international organizations and partner countries. In his speech, the President affirmed the vision adopted by Afghanistan with regard to various significant regional and international issues.
Thanking the President and people of Azerbaijan for hosting the 7th Ministerial Conference, the President said, “We are meeting in a context where the need for regional cooperation has never been greater.”
The President said, “Great economic opportunities beckon us. Malign transnational networks and criminal organizations threaten us. Geography has made us into neighbors. Common vision, leadership, and political will, and relentless attention to management will turn us into partners seeking our national security and prosperity within the framework of regional and global security in an interdependent world.”
Touching on the collective efforts made by the regional partners in the previous Ministerial Conferences, the President said, “We gratefully acknowledge President Erdogan’s stewardship of the process and the Government of Turkey’s firm and continued support. We also appreciate the leadership of President Nazarbayev and the Government of Kazakhstan, President Xi and the Government of the People’s Republic of China, Prime Minister Sharif and the Government of Pakistan, Prime Minister Modi and the Government of India in hosting the previous meetings of this distinguished group.”
Alluding to the recently unveiled U.S. strategy for Afghanistan and South Asia, President Ghani said, “The strategy consolidates all instruments of American power, conveying a message that Taliban groups and their backers cannot win militarily. Only through political settlement can we achieve enduring peace. We welcome this strategy, which creates a roadmap for securing Afghanistan’s future within a secure region.”
President Ghani added, “The destruction unleashed upon our people is not a war in Afghanistan, but a war over Afghanistan. Transnational networks of terror and transnational criminal organizations, tolerated by or used as instruments of policy by some states, are attempting to turn our location into a platform for destabilizing the region and the world.”
He further stated, “We ask analysts and policy makers to answer three related key questions: can the 20 transnational terrorists groups and drug traffickers operate without the platform provided by Taliban groups? Are Taliban groups the central operators of the drugs and criminal economy financing the war? Can the Taliban operate without support and sanctuary? We, the people and government of Afghanistan, by contrast, own our problems and solutions and are working relentlessly to turn our country into a heart in accord with Asia and the world, the economic gates of the Sub-continent and the Asian Roundabout”.
President Ghani spoke of the bravery and heroism of the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces particularly the Special Security Forces. He said, “Today, Afghan Commandos conduct four out of five every operation independently from US and NATO support. We Afghans own the fight and have turned the corner. Our Special Forces – the Kitah Khas and Commandos – have never lost a battle and, God willing, they never shall – they are becoming one of the best Special Forces in the region.”
The President added, “As Commander-in-Chief and as a “War President” I salute the valor and heroism of our defense and security forces and pay tribute to the dedication, leadership and management skills of my colleagues leading the defense and security sector and the cabinet supporting them.”
He said, “In fighting terrorism, we are adhering to the UN 2006 Counter-terrorism Strategy, which calls on all member states to “consistently, unequivocally, and strongly condemn in all its forms and manifestations, committed by whomever, wherever, and whatever purposes, as it constitutes one of the most serious threats to international peace and security”.
He said, “The war on terror isn’t just an Afghan or regional problem, as the Fifth Wave of political violence and terrorism is a threat against humanity and the hard-won compacts that bind citizens and states together.”
The President said, “I can confidently state that our Defense and Security forces are now moving to an offensive war against terrorist networks and the drug cartel. I am doubling the size of my Special Security Forces and tripling the size of the Air Force.”
He said, “Daesh failed in building a base for their so-called caliphate in Afghanistan. Daesh is on the run – in Southern Nangarhar, Achin, Kunar, and Tora Bora – Daesh is being killed and cleared from Afghanistan” We are steadily eliminating Daesh capabilities and territory. In the last year, we conducted over 1500 combined ground operations and 300 air strikes against them. We killed 3 of their leaders, over 2500 fighters, and captured over 200 Daesh fighters.”
On eliminating production of narcotics and destroying its processing centers, the President said, “During the past 11 months, we have seized and destroyed more than 2 tons of heroin, 64 tons of morphine, 400 tons of opium, 25 tons of hashish, and more than several thousands of kilograms of precursors. The street value of these seized drugs in Afghanistan is estimated at $352 million. It is our recent efforts against processing facilities, however, that signals our resolve in this arena. In a series of operations by our Special Forces and Commandos, we have destroyed assets estimated at $50-70 million. These operations will not only continue but will become an integral part of our 4-year comprehensive security plan.”
Referring to peace-building with Pakistan, the President said, “State to state comprehensive dialogue is essential to our mutual survival and to our mutual prosperity and security. We are not prisoners of the past and we ask our Pakistani counterparts and colleagues to look into the future, a future of mutual benefits and mutual prosperity.”
President oglu Aliyev also spoke at the Conference, welcoming President Ghani and his delegation to the Conference. He said that they want a peaceful, united and prosperous Afghanistan so that the Afghans can live in an atmosphere of peace and prosperity along with its neighbors.
He said that Azerbaijan supports the national sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence of Afghanistan to achieve peace, prosperity, stability, and tranquility.