Statement of Former Foreign Ministers on Afghanistan & Pakistan

December 9, 2009

Contact: Jonathon Price
Associate Director of the Aspen Strategy Group
The Aspen Institute
202-736-5808 |

Washington, DC, December 9, 2009–– The following is a statement signed by 20 former Foreign Ministers.  The group of ministers recently convened in Washington, D.C. under the auspices of the Aspen Atlantic Group and in partnership with the Bertelsmann Foundation. The Aspen Atlantic Group is an organization that brings together former foreign ministers from across the globe and the political spectrum to develop concrete, non-partisan recommendations to help the two sides of the Atlantic address the next frontier of global challenges. The statement originally appeared in The Daily Beast on December 8.

We, former Foreign Ministers from 20 countries, met in Washington D.C., December 4-6, 2009 under the leadership of former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright to discuss the situation in Afghanistan and Pakistan. 

We agree on the following:

  • A long-term peace in Afghanistan and Pakistan is vital for regional and international security; 
  • We endorse the expanded troop commitments by the United States, NATO’s European members and other nations in the International Security Assistance Force, as necessary to build peace and stability; 
  • We all believe that the entire international community must do more in Afghanistan to build an effective civilian effort to match the military efforts on the ground.  Without this, there will be no effective counter-insurgency strategy.   

To build such an improved civilian effort, the international community should:

  • Agree at the London conference in January on a “civilian surge” by all countries to extend much greater and more effective assistance and to put economic power and greater capabilities back in the hands of the Afghan people. 
  • As part of this civilian surge, the international community should agree upon a single, powerful civilian to oversee all assistance and be a counterpart to the ISAF commander on the military side.  
  • Create a World Bank-led international group to stimulate economic assistance and greater trade with Pakistan and Afghanistan.  Specifically, we need to help the Afghan people take greater advantage of their natural resources to produce jobs in mining, construction, and agriculture, thereby reducing dependence on opium production.  With this in mind, we should continue to advocate large-scale infrastructure projects to provide the basis for long-term economic growth.   
  • Encourage a greater commitment to education in both countries.  In addition, the international community should consider what it can do to promote more effective political institutions and the rule of law.   
  • Renew and Rebuild the UN-led civilian efforts

We also believe that more attention needs to be given to the challenges of educating each of our publics about the long-term imperative of sustaining international involvement in Afghanistan/Pakistan.  With this in mind, we need to foster a more vigorous public dialogue in each of our countries. 

We believe the international community must remain focused on protecting the rights of women and improving the standards of living and opportunities available for women in both countries.

Finally, as a long-term measure, because we believe there needs to be a regional solution to Afghanistan’s problems, we should consider forming a wider international contact group, to include Afghanistan’s neighbors and other countries actively involved, to contribute greater political and economic support to the international effort in Afghanistan. 


Madeleine Albright – United States
Halldór Ásgrímsson – Iceland
Lloyd Axworthy – Canada
Shlomo Ben-Ami – Israel
Lamberto Dini – Italy
Jan Eliasson – Sweden
Joschka Fischer – Germany
Rosario Green – Mexico
Igor Ivanov – Russia
János Martonyi – Hungary
Don McKinnon – New Zealand
Marwan Muasher – Jordan
Ana Palacio – Spain
Niels Helveg Petersen – Denmark
Surin Pitsuwan – Thailand
Lydie Polfer – Luxembourg
Malcolm Rifkind – United Kingdom
Jozias van Aartsen – The Netherlands
Hubert Védrine – France
Knut Vollebaek – Norway

The Aspen Atlantic Group, conceived in 2003 by former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, is an assembly of former foreign ministers from around the world and across the political spectrum. Building on a history of constructive negotiations, policy acumen, and continued influence as members of parliament, advisors to governments and political parties, and opinion leaders, these former ministers are uniquely positioned to leverage their experience and insight to promote a more candid, open, and collaborative transatlantic exchange.  The mission of the Aspen Atlantic group is to develop concrete, non-partisan recommendations to help the two sides of the Atlantic address the next frontier of global challenges.

The Aspen Institute mission is twofold: to foster values-based leadership, encouraging individuals to reflect on the ideals and ideas that define a good society, and to provide a neutral and balanced venue for discussing and acting on critical issues. The Aspen Institute does this primarily in four ways: seminars, young-leader fellowships around the globe, policy programs and public conferences and events. The Institute is based in Washington, DC, Aspen, Colorado, and on the Wye River on Maryland’s Eastern Shore and has an international network of partners.


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