Salaam alaikum. Your Excellency President Hamid Karzai, Minister of Foreign Affairs Spanta, Minister of Energy and Water Ishmail Khan, distinguished guests, ladies, and gentlemen.
I am honored to represent the President of the United States and the American people today to celebrate this important achievement with the Government and people of Afghanistan.
Just over eight years ago there was darkness across Kabul and Afghanistan. A darkness resulting from political oppression, intolerance and isolation – and a literal darkness due to the absence of critical infrastructure – including electricity.
So much has changed since those days. Political progress – nowhere more evident than from the fact that Afghanistan will soon enjoy its first-ever Afghan-led presidential and provincial council elections in just over two weeks. There has been significant economic and social progress with significant gains in health, education, transportation, and other sectors.
The American people are proud of their significant contribution in all of these sectors – none more important than the one we celebrate today – the energy sector. The U.S. Government has donated $300 million to support the Tarakhil plant and today we can all share in the achievement of expanding electric power to thousands of men, women, and children.
The additional 35 megawatts of power from this plant will provide electricity to approximately 200,000 people in Kabul. In December of this year, this plant will increase its yield to 100 megawatts of power – providing power to thousands more homes and businesses. This will add to existing power sources for Kabul and replace many of the inefficient diesel generators that are currently operating.
In addition, the Tarakhil plant will accommodate peak demand periods and serve as a backup system if other power sources, such as hydroelectric, decline during periods of low rainfall. The plant was designed to accommodate the future population growth of this expanding city – but it must be fiscally self-sufficient. Sustainment of this investment through customer payment for electricity services will be essential.
The United States' support for Afghanistan’s energy sector is evidence of America’s extraordinary commitment to Afghanistan. We have partnered with the Afghan Government to invest in generation, transmission, and distribution systems throughout the country. We have helped the government negotiate power purchase agreements with its neighbors. We are working to bring in private sector investment to build a power plant for the Shibirghan gas field. And we will eventually donate $150 million to refurbish and expand the Kajaki dam complex, which will triple power output for the 1.5 million people in the Hilmand River Valley.
We know the Afghan Government is also committed. We see it in the competent and dedicated staff that our international partnerships work with every day – including the men and women of the existing national power utility (DABM) and the new corporatized electricity utility (DABS).
The resolve of the American people to Afghanistan’s success has never been stronger, as reflected in President Obama’s Administration’s strategy with its emphasis on the security of the Afghan people, the more rapid development of a capable Afghan Army and Police Force, sustainable economic growth, and regional dialogue and diplomacy.
So – I would ask the citizens of Kabul when you turn on your lights at night, remember that the United States of America stands with you – optimistic of our combined prospects for success, and confident in you and our mission.
Mr. President, thank you for the honor of sharing this moment with you, and on behalf of the American people, let me report that we are proud to be doing our part here in your country in our combined efforts in the fields of security, governance, justice, and economic development.
Last updated: February 12, 2014