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In Afghanistan Photo Exhibit


Touchstone Gallery, Washington DC, 09/17/08

Ambassador Jones-Bos, Rear Admiral Borsboom, Mr. Stakelbeek, Distinguished guests,

Ladies and gentlemen,

I am delighted to be here tonight for the opening of this wonderful exhibit that showcases life in Afghanistan and to celebrate the continued partnership between Afghanistan and the Netherlands. I’d like to thank Ambassador Renee Jones-Bos for her longstanding friendship with Afghanistan.


There is a strong bond of friendship between the Afghan and Dutch people. I actually met Ambassador Jones-Bos at the home of an Afghan friend in the Hague before she arrived here as Ambassador.


I am very grateful to Mr. Hans Stakelbeek, a passionate friend of Afghanistan, for the stunning images at display here.


Ladies and gentlemen,

When you look around, you first notice the ruins of the royal palace of Dar-ul-Aman, a beautiful Baroque-style building that was victim of the decades of conflict that plagued Afghanistan after the Soviet invasion. Those ruins are a stark reminder of our rich and diverse past. When you look further, you see images of young girls attending a school in Uruzgan province. Nothing is more promising than seeing a little Afghan girl attending school under a tree in a remote village. You see Afghan men training to be police officers and members of a local community working together to repair a broken water system near the Chora Valley. It is these images that represent our continued struggle. They show a country rebuilding from the ground up, struggling to repair infrastructure, educate its people and ensure its security. These images of pain, resilience, strength and hope are us.


Ladies and Gentlemen,

In our struggle to create a prosperous and peaceful Afghanistan, the Netherlands has been a very generous friend and trusted partner. Close to 2,000 Dutch troops work in one of the most difficult and deprived provinces, Uruzgan, as well as in the cities of Kabul and Kandahar, where they fight terrorists and build up Afghanistan’s civil society at the same time. The Dutch PRTs have built health clinics, schools, roads and water systems, implemented crop-substitution programs, and undertaken conflict resolution initiatives with community leaders. They work with villagers and interact with people. It is not unusual to hear from children in Uruzgan saying “Alles Gut.”


We are very grateful for the government and people of Netherlands for their support and sacrifice. Since 2001, 16 brave Dutch soldiers have died while fighting for peace in Afghanistan, stability in the region and security in the US and Europe. They will be remembered for their distinguished service and valor. They are coming from their beautiful country, Holland to the valley of Uruzgan to put their lives on the line to make the world a safer place for all our children. We are indebted to them forever.


Thank you all for joining us.