Remarks Following a Meeting With Afghan Resistance Leaders and Members of Congress

 

November 12, 1987

 

Well, we've just held a very useful and, I might say, brief but also, I'll add, a very moving discussion with Chairman Yunis Khalis of the Islamic Union of Mujahidin of Afghanistan and other members of his distinguished delegation. I expressed our nation's continued strong support for the resistance and our satisfaction with the large step the Afghan resistance took toward unity in choosing a chairman for the first time. This new political milestone demonstrates that the people of Afghanistan speak with one voice in their opposition to the Soviet invasion and occupation of their homeland.

 

This increasing unity has already made itself felt on the battlefield. During the past 18 months, the Mujahidin fighting inside the country have improved their weapons, tactics, and coordination. The result has been a string of serious defeats for the Soviet elite units as well as many divisions from the Kabul army.

 

Chairman Khalis and his delegation are visiting Washington, following the November 10th U.N. General Assembly vote, which with a record vote, once again, called overwhelmingly for the withdrawal of all foreign troops from Afghanistan. This is the eighth time since the December 1979 invasion that the General Assembly has decisively called upon the Soviet Union to pull its forces out of Afghanistan. And let there be no mistake about it: The withdrawal of Soviet forces is the key to resolving the Afghan crisis. Other issues that have been raised to divert attention from this fact only extend the combat and prolong the suffering of the Afghan people.

 

General Secretary Gorbachev has publicly stated a Soviet readiness to withdraw. Both in April and September of 1987, I asked the Soviet Union to set a date this year when that withdrawal would begin. I also stated that when the Soviet Union showed convincingly that it was ready for a genuine political settlement the United States would be helpful. After all, the Soviet presence in Afghanistan is a major impediment to improved U.S.-Soviet relations, and we would like to remove it. The Soviets should want to do so, as well.

 

Unfortunately, the Soviet answer on a date for rapid withdrawal has been silence. Instead we've seen the Kabul regime announce a phantom cease-fire and propose a transitional government, one that would leave this discredited and doomed group in control. These gambits have been rejected by the only voice that really counts: that of the Afghan people, speaking through their resistance representatives. Any proposal unacceptable to the resistance is destined to fail.

 

And as the resistance continues the fight, we and other responsible governments will stand by it. The support that the United States has been providing the resistance will be strengthened, rather than diminished, so that it can continue to fight effectively for freedom. The just struggle against foreign tyranny can count upon worldwide support, both political and material.

 

The goal of the United States remains a genuinely independent Afghanistan, free from external interference, an Afghanistan whose people choose the type of government they wish, an Afghanistan to which the four million refugees from Soviet aggression may return in safety and, yes, in honor.

 

On behalf of the American people, I salute Chairman Khalis, his delegation, and the people of Afghanistan themselves. You are a nation of heroes. God bless you.

 

Note: The President spoke at 10:16 a.m. in the Roosevelt Room at the White House.