No country has had a more troubled recent history than Afghanistan. It has been the scene of conflict, violence and extremism for much of the last three decades. The result has been tragedy for its people.
It has also, of course, been a matter of immense concern for the wider international community. Terrorism has been exported from Afghanistan far from its borders. The continuing violence and hatred have also threatened to destabilize its neighbors.
Afghanistan is, however, entering a new more hopeful chapter in its history. Afghan forces are preparing to take over responsibility for security for their whole country by the end of 2014. The transition plan will see the multi-national International Security Assistance Force reduce its role to support and training.
This week, representatives from 50 nations meet in Astana to continue developing a roadmap to help Afghan citizens build the peaceful and more prosperous future they want. The Astana meeting, the Istanbul conference earlier this month and the Bonn summit on December 5 are key to shaping this response.
It is vital, we believe, that any such response includes a strong and universal commitment to Afghanistan's sovereignty and territorial integrity. But nor can we simply turn our backs on the Afghan people, and the international community as a whole should remain deeply engaged with Afghanistan. For even if, as we hope, many of the current insurgents lay down their weapons, its long-suffering citizens need our help.
Afghanistan is one of the world's poorest countries. Its infrastructure is shattered. The economy has been starved of investment. The country's main export remains drugs which adds to lawlessness within its own borders and cause untold misery across the globe.
From the beginning, Kazakhstan has accepted its responsibility as a regional neighbor to help bring stability to Afghanistan. We have long supported ISAF and have provided an indispensable supply route for non-military and non-lethal cargo for its operations.
We continue to believe as well in the importance of the United Nations retaining a pre-eminent role in Afghanistan. But as countries like the US and the UK step back, we accept that Afghanistan's regional neighbours under the UN umbrella must accept a greater responsibility to help that country move towards peace and prosperity. This should include Iran, Pakistan, India, Russia, China and the countries of Central Asia.
Kazakhstan is ready to meet these increased responsibilities. Our efforts will continue to be focused on humanitarian assistance and rebuilding the economy including through the provision of new roads, bridges and hospital across the country.
We have already supplied thousands of tonnes of grain, flour and rice to help feed the Afghan people and are ready to send more under procurement programs run by the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Food Programme (WFP). We intend to share the fruits of what is a record grain harvest in Kazakhstan this year.
We have already earmarked $50 million for an educational program to train 1,000 Afghans in our country's universities which we hope will make a difference to the lives of Afghan citizens.
We will also focus increased support to help root out the menace of drug production and trafficking. Kazakhstan already finds itself in the front-line of stopping the supply of drugs to markets in Western Europe and beyond.
Over the last five years, we have seized tonnes of drugs including heroin and opium within our borders. We will continue these efforts. But the best way of cutting off this trade is to prevent opium being produced within Afghanistan. We are committed to helping the Afghan police carry out this vital role, and have already provided training for dozens of Afghan police instructors.
Along with these practical measures, we hope that our country can also show Afghanistan what its future could hold. We are immensely proud of our Islamic tradition. But we are equally proud of our reputation as a modern, tolerant and moderate country where people of all backgrounds are respected.
In our society as well, women and men have equal opportunities to make the most of their talents and potential. With so many challenges to overcome, no country can write off the skills of half of their population.
As Kazakhstan has shown, there is no conflict between being a predominantly Islamic country and a modern successful and stable society. Indeed our progress since independence 20 years ago and the prosperity of our people shows they go hand-in-hand.
We believe strongly that Afghanistan now has a new opportunity to build a better future for its people. We can promise that through our efforts, Kazakhstan will do all we can so they can achieve this ambition, as responsibility for Afghanistan's future moves back to its region. It is in the interests of all who value peace and stability that Afghanistan succeeds.