Salaam Alaikum. Minister Zakhilwal, thank you for hosting this event today celebrating an important initiative between our two countries.
I am honored to be here, as part of the team representing the President of the United States and the American people. I am delighted to welcome two distinguished colleagues, Deputy Secretary of State Jacob Lew and USAID Acting Administrator Alonzo Fulgham. They are here to talk with our Afghan partners about how our U.S. Government programs can best help the people of Afghanistan. Both of these leaders have demonstrated their dedication to deepening the partnership between Afghanistan and the United States and to improving the quality and effectiveness of our assistance.
The launch today of the new Economic Growth and Governance Initiative is particularly exciting as our Afghan counterparts were fully engaged in designing this $92 million project. The Initiative was tailored to support Afghanistan’s highest priorities, namely, to accelerate implementation of economic policies to create jobs and spur economic growth.
We look forward to deepening this partnership as we implement this $92 million, five-year project – with joint decision-making; joint review and assessment of work, plans, and progress; and substantial involvement by Afghan officials and citizens at the national and provincial level.
In doing so, we will see Afghanistan’s Government extend its presence and demonstrate its commitment to its people throughout the country, strengthen its accountability mechanisms, and improve the delivery of services to its citizens. Just as importantly, we expect this program to lead to an improved environment for growth of the private sector and creation of stable jobs.
It gives me especially great pleasure to introduce Deputy Secretary of State Jacob Lew. Secretary Lew has a very distinguished public and private career and is now one of Secretary of State Hilary Clinton’s two principal deputies. Despite his very demanding work load, we are fortunate that Secretary Lew devotes a great deal of his time and attention to strengthening America’s partnership with Afghanistan.