March 21, 1988
By the President of the United States of America
March 21 marks the beginning of a new year in a bitter decade for the people of Afghanistan. This may well be a climactic year, and we hope with the Afghan people that it will see the complete withdrawal of Soviet troops and self-determination for the people of Afghanistan. For more than 8 years, the courageous Afghans have suffered and died under the boot of the Soviet Army, which invaded to prop up an illegitimate, unrepresentative, and discredited regime. Let us take this occasion, therefore, to remember the sorrow and to salute the heroism of the Afghan people. They have fought valiantly and against heavy odds to free themselves from the yoke of oppression -- from assaults on their liberty, their sovereignty, their dignity, their lives, and their very way of life.
It now appears possible that the tenacity and tremendous sacrifices of the Afghan people will bear fruit in the coming period. The Soviet leadership seems to have finally recognized that the will of the Afghan people to be free cannot be broken. Indications of Soviet willingness to withdraw are an important step forward, though their seriousness can be proven only by the actual, and total, removal of Soviet troops from Afghan soil. To be acceptable, Soviet withdrawal must be complete, irreversible, and verifiable.
Our objectives have been and remain: prompt and complete withdrawal of Soviet forces; restoration of Afghanistan to an independent, nonaligned status; self-determination for the Afghans; and return of refugees in safety and honor. I reiterated this commitment and our support for the brave Afghan Mujahidin in my meeting last November with Afghan Alliance leader Yunis Khalis. I said the same to General Secretary Gorbachev last December.
The United States Government has also repeatedly told the Soviet leadership that any guarantees of noninterference that they and we would undertake must be symmetrical. An agreement at Geneva must not serve as a pretext for continued Soviet military support to the discredited minority Kabul regime. Some 120 members of the United Nations have voted year after year for self-determination in Afghanistan, recognizing that the present government in Kabul does not represent the Afghan people but is a direct result of outside interference. The Mujahidin and the refugees are the true voice of the Afghan people.
I am proud of the strong support provided the Afghan cause over the past 7 years by my Administration, by the United States Congress, and by the American people. Our commitment to the freedom of the Afghan people will not end should the Soviets withdraw. We will join other nations and international organizations to help the Afghans rebuild their country and their institutions; millions of men, women, and children will be returning to a country devastated by Soviet aggression.
The United States has consistently supported the Afghans in their long ordeal. That support will continue. We will rejoice with them when true peace is achieved and Afghanistan once again takes its rightful place in the community of nations. Let us pray and strive to make sure that this moment of liberation will come soon.
Now, Therefore, I, Ronald Reagan, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim March 21, 1988, as Afghanistan Day. I call upon the people of the United States to observe this day with appropriate ceremonies and activities.
In Witness Whereof, I have hereunto set my hand this 21st day of March, in the year of our Lord nineteen hundred and eighty-eight, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and twelfth.
[Filed with the Office of the Federal Register, 4:50 p.m., March 21, 1988]