By Hamid Karzai
Sunday, May 9, 2010; A15
Nearly nine years ago, terrorists killed thousands of civilians and destroyed iconic symbols of American prosperity and progress. Before that, the same terrorists had taken Afghanistan hostage and had killed and tortured our people for years. These terrible conditions brought our two nations together in a partnership. As in any genuine partnership, this has not been an easy ride. We have had our share of disagreements over some issues and approaches. What has kept us together is an overriding strategic vision of an Afghanistan whose peace and stability can guarantee the safety of the Afghan and the American peoples.
The many sacrifices of both Afghans and Americans have led to tremendous achievements. We are grateful for America's contributions and will always remember your resolve in standing by us. Now and during my visit to Washington this week, I hope to convey my deepest condolences to families of those who lost their lives in Afghanistan.
When I began my second term as president, I put forth a vision for our nation of Afghan leadership, sovereignty and full ownership of providing security, governance, justice, education, health and economic opportunity. That is a vision I know that President Obama shares.
Our common success in fighting terrorism and improving security rests on building institutions of the state to enable Afghanistan to deliver all the necessary services and protection to its people. We have, in abundance, courage and the desire to take responsibility for our own security and governance. To that end, it is vital that Afghan security forces be institutionalized and equipped with necessary and sustainable tools. The international community has been doing this, with the United States taking on the largest role, but more support is needed.
As I said in my inaugural address in November and again at the London conference in January, delivering good governance and rooting out corruption are among my government's top priorities. Recently, we have made systematic progress by launching a local governance policy that gives greater budgeting and implementation powers to provincial and district officials. I have also issued a decree giving unprecedented powers to the High Office of Oversight and Anti-Corruption to investigate cases within the government. And we are determined to do more.
This September, Afghanistan will hold its second parliamentary elections in the past five years. As I write, thousands of Afghans, including a great number of women, have registered to campaign. Our democracy has steadily taken root. Our people jealously guard their democratic achievements.
While we continue to battle terrorism, to help end violence in our country and ensure the safe return of your sons and daughters, my government is convening a Consultative Peace Jirga -- a historic forum of the Afghan people -- to chart a way forward for engaging those who fight against us. Fifteen hundred representatives of the Afghan people will deliberate and advise us on reconciliation and reintegration. I emphasize that our arms are open only to those who are not part of al-Qaeda or any other terrorist network, who denounce violence and who will return to normal life respecting the Afghan constitution.
We recognize that more is needed to eradicate terrorism and for our reconciliation and reintegration to succeed. Sincere and effective regional cooperation backed by our allies is the best guarantee for success.
The Afghan people greatly value and want to strengthen their strategic partnership with the United States. We have traveled far together, but the international effort in Afghanistan still has miles to go. We are not yet delivering security to large portions of the country. I have consistently noted the urgency of addressing the problem of sanctuaries, training and other support that terrorists receive beyond Afghanistan's borders. This problem is far from solved. Ending night raids and house searches, as well as transferring control of detention facilities on our soil to Afghans, will also go a long way in setting us up for success. Civilian casualties are harming our cause. Gen. Stanley McChrystal's leadership has done a lot to address this, but more needs to be done.
Greater coordination of the international effort is also necessary as we strive to build capable Afghan institutions. Removing parallel structures that undermine the authority of our government is key. Addressing corruption and waste in the delivery mechanisms, including contractual systems, is imperative. President Obama's decision to channel more funds through the Afghan government is a good step forward.
Success in Afghanistan will define the course of this young century. Afghans are a grateful people. Once we are on our feet, our partners can count on our commitment to stand shoulder to shoulder. Ensuring that terrorists no longer threaten our common security will take more patience and sacrifices. We have hard and essential work ahead. I am determined to see it through. I am reminded daily, as Robert Frost said, "the woods are lovely, dark and deep, but I have promises to keep, and miles to go before I sleep, and miles to go before I sleep."
The writer is president of Afghanistan.