Ambassador Elisabeth Millard Introductory Op-Ed Tajikistan and America: A Partnership for a Bright Future

It is a great privilege to be appointed the new United States Ambassador to the Republic of Tajikistan, especially as we prepare to celebrate 25 years of diplomatic relations later this year. For 23 years, I have had the honor to serve my country as a Foreign Service Officer. My career in the U.S. Foreign Service has brought me to many wonderful places such as the Czech Republic, Denmark, India, Kazakhstan, Morocco, and Nepal. But I have never been as excited as I am now – embarking on a journey that will allow me to work in a country with some of the world’s most breathtaking mountain landscapes, vibrant cultures, and friendly people.

Being a U.S. Ambassador is not only a great honor, but also a great responsibility. I am proud to say my work has been defined by a strong and enduring commitment to advancing the universal values of democracy, rule of law, and the protection of human rights and dignity. Last October, I accompanied Secretary Kerry on his very first visit to Dushanbe. During his time in the region, he held a historic meeting with the five Central Asian foreign ministers where we charted an ambitious strategy for the future. I intend to continue to build on these engagements. Through them, we will work together with Tajikistan and its neighbors towards a more secure, stable, and prosperous Central Asia.

I am fortunate to have served in Central Asia before – as the U.S. Deputy Chief of Mission in Astana, Kazakhstan. I have also covered this area from the Washington perspective, and these experiences help me better understand the unique challenges facing the region. During my term as Ambassador, I hope to increase our positive engagement with the government and people of Tajikistan, not only with respect to our shared interest in stability and economic prosperity, but also on other important issues like respect for human rights, freedom of speech, civil society, and democratic engagement.

The United States supports Tajikistan’s goals of security, democratic reform, and economic growth. Since establishing diplomatic relations in 1992, we have provided over $1 billion in assistance to Tajikistan and are using these funds to improve food security, strengthen education and healthcare, develop local governance and civil society, and bolster Tajikistan’s sovereignty and security.

Regional problems like terrorism and violent extremism, illegal narcotics trade, and trafficking in persons are deeply concerning to both Tajikistan and the United States. The Embassy of the United States in Dushanbe is working in cooperation with the Government of Tajikistan, as well as other international partners, on a broad range of initiatives to help Tajikistan continue to develop its capacity to understand, identify, deter, and defeat legitimate internal and external threats, while respecting human rights and the rule of law. These initiatives support our mutual goals of promoting peace, security, and stability in Central Asia and beyond. I will work to strengthen our partnership with Tajikistan to address these serious challenges and to grow our robust security partnership.

The United States seeks a peaceful, free, and prosperous future for Tajikistan and Central Asia. The long-term security, stability, and prosperity that Tajikistan desires can only come through a strong commitment to improving governance, respect for rule of law, development of the economy and business environment, and protection of its people’s rights and freedoms. The U.S. mission to Tajikistan is steeped in a tradition of safeguarding human rights and other key fundamental principles as an essential prerequisite for the equitable development and growth of any society. The U.S. government’s assistance programs in Tajikistan are based on the shared principle that everyone is entitled to live with dignity, free from discrimination and abuse, and free to make his or her own choices. We intend to continue to promote respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, including religious freedom, while also supporting Tajikistan’s efforts to counter violent extremism.

We seek to prepare Tajikistan to increase its economic prosperity. Historically, Tajiks were a nation of traders, and we will work together with the government, business associations, and entrepreneurs to further improve the business climate for investments in this country. We will promote economic cooperation with Tajikistan’s neighbors to stimulate greater prosperity and stability across the region. Tajikistan is also a critical partner for regional initiatives like the New Silk Road initiative. Through electricity grids and transit corridors, like those promoted through the CASA-1000, Tajikistan links Central Asia with South Asia and beyond.

Finally, I want to emphasize that the American and Tajik people share a common desire for a prosperous future with the best opportunities for our children. I have raised five children, and I currently have six beautiful grandchildren. Every day I think of them and how I can help them to develop into citizens who contribute to society. I want them to be successful and happy. I know that the Tajik people share this concern for their own families and children. That is why direct engagement with the people of Tajikistan is a top priority for me. People-to-people contact remains at the core of our diplomatic efforts. I look forward to traveling extensively throughout your country to interact with Tajiks from all walks of life, to hear your suggestions on how we can work together for a prosperous future, and to strengthen the ties between the American and Tajik people.

During my time in Tajikistan, our seven American Corners will continue to welcome and invite all Tajiks to use them as free places to experience cultural, educational, and English-language resources about the United States. We will invite American scholars and cultural figures to visit Tajikistan and will endeavor to send more and more Tajik scholars and professionals to visit the United States. These exchanges promote mutual understanding and foster deeper bilateral ties. Tajikistan is a country of young, hard-working, and talented people. As a mother and grandmother, I am especially interested in supporting opportunities for women and in helping the future generation of young Tajiks reach their full potential. I very much look forward to meeting and working with you all in the months and years ahead.

I am delighted and honored to be serving as the U.S. Ambassador to Tajikistan. It is a beautiful country that I cannot wait to explore. I intend to continue to improve our bilateral relationship with Tajikistan through active engagement with the government and the people of Tajikistan. We have accomplished so much during the past 25 years of our relationship and I look forward to seeing what we can achieve in the next 25!

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Let’s work together to build a partnership for a bright future!