The conclusion of the Emergency Loyal Jirga marks a crucial milestone in the Afghanistan peace process.
The very fact that the Loyal Jirga took place at all, within the very short deadline set by Bonn, and that it concluded peacefully, is quite remarkable.
For the first time in 23 years, the Afghan people cast a vote for their leader. The enormous confidence shown in the new President will enable him to tackle the major challenges that lie ahead, including reconstruction, strengthening of the central government, building a national army and police force, disarmament, advancement of women and protection of human rights.
It is also significant that, despite efforts to threaten and intimidate delegates, which the United Nations strongly condemns, most did find the courage to raise controversial issues and make daring proposals. And it became clear that the major preoccupations of all Afghan people, including security, healthcare and education, are the same. Many of the discussions on the floor of the Loyal Jirga showed that unity is slowly being forged around these common concerns and that national reconciliation can begin.
Despite its flaws, this Loyal Jirga represents one step forward in peace process that is bound to take years. I applaud the delegates for their courage and determination during the last week.