Statement by H.E. Dr. Zahir Tanin
Permanent Representative of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan to the United Nations
At the General Assembly Debate on the Situation in Afghanistan
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is a great honor for me to address this august assembly on the occasion of the annual resolution on “The Situation in Afghanistan.” I would also like to thank the delegation of Germany for their dedication and work in drafting and negotiating this resolution, as well as convey my gratefulness for the support of all of the co-sponsors to this resolution. Within this resolution, your voices have shown renewed solidarity to a stronger, more peaceful Afghanistan.
It has been more than seven years that international forces have entered our country. With so much time passed and so much focus on particular complexities, we may sometimes lose sight of the original noble purpose for our work in Afghanistan.
What is this noble purpose? We are in Afghanistan to prevent the malady of terrorism from infesting a nation and the world. We are here to proclaim together: No longer again will the Taliban regime have control of a country and crush the hopes, dreams and lives of their own people. No longer again should Al Qaeda have sanctuaries in Afghanistan and elsewhere to project its extremist terror to kill thousands of innocent people across the world.
We are also here so that the region and the world can enjoy the new wealth and prosperity of a strong Afghanistan that can offer new avenues for economic cooperation and trade routes. We are here so that a strong Afghanistan can serve as an example of a democratic Islamic country that can bridge communities and peoples of all faiths and cultures.
Let us hold this original purpose as the light to the dark challenges that lay before us today.
These challenges are critical. Terrorists commit increasingly brutal acts, killing teachers, aid workers, families. Terrorist activities also have an increasingly strong correlation with crime and narcotics. In addition, the Government of Afghanistan faces serious obstacles in its quest to fight corruption, hold elections, build a strong justice sector and increase economic development. And most importantly, the food shortage threatens more than eight million Afghan lives this upcoming winter, only a few weeks away.
Simultaneously, the world is facing the worst financial and credit crisis since the Second World War. Just as terrorism is a threat with no boundaries, the financial squeeze is affecting us all. While Afghanistan is fighting serious challenges with international ramifications, there is also a tightening of resources. It seems that we must do more, with less.
To meet this challenge, we need to embark on a smart and sustainable strategy in Afghanistan that can harness our resources most effectively. Such a smart and sustainable strategy will always be guided primarily by the interests of the Afghanistan people and have as its foremost goal the creation of a self-sustaining Afghanistan. Such a strategy will have the following components:
1. Afghan ownership should increase at every level and in every dimension.
The Afghan National Army and National Police must increase in number and in strength for Afghans to protect Afghans. For this end, the Government of Afghanistan has ambitious goals to increase trainings, develop a comprehensive reform strategy, and expand the size of our army to 134, 000 troops by 2010. To meet these goals, we need continued international support.
In addition, the Government of Afghanistan is fighting corruption with the reorganization of its ministries, the work of the Independent Directorate of Local Governance, and the launching of the High Office of Oversight for Anti-Corruption. International support for these government initiatives would allow the government to improve the delivery of national services to Afghan people.
The Government of Afghanistan also aims to increase Afghan ownership of reconstruction and development efforts. While international support is necessary to strengthen our agricultural sector, to create new infrastructure projects and sources of energy, and to find new areas for local economy, we hope that this international support will increasingly be accomplished through the framework provided by our Afghan National Development Strategy.
Furthermore, the upcoming elections are a most important opportunity to increase ownership of Afghanistan by qualified Afghans. Fair, credible and timely elections are essential to strengthening legitimacy and creating a self-sustaining Afghanistan. However, security is the main precondition for holding elections. The Government of Afghanistan hopes for the support of the international community in its efforts to provide this security.
Lastly, the ingredients of a political solution to Afghanistan must involve the Afghan people and their communities. In order for any talks for reconciliation and the peace process to be successful, we must win the confidence of the Afghan people by including them in the process substantively.
2. International involvement should refocus on the overall security of the Afghan people.
The Government of Afghanistan recognizes the necessity of increased international troops to quell the insecurity today. To ensure this increase in international involvement most effectively protects the Afghan people, we should ascertain the following:
First, international troops in Afghanistan should expand its focus. Its goal must go beyond the targeting of the Taliban; its goal should be to protect the comprehensive security of Afghan people. Second, the Government of Afghanistan urges any increase in deployment of troops to be accomplished through further collaboration with the government. Thirdly, international troops need a review of the problem of civilian casualties. Although the Taliban are the reason for a majority of civilian casualties, the international forces for their part can do more to reduce the risk of civilian casualties. To build a self-sustaining Afghanistan, the people must be able to trust their government and its allies to protect their lives and their families.
In addition, the Government of Afghanistan deeply appreciates UNAMA’s efforts to address the human development component of security. Their mandate to deliver aid more effectively is an enormously important one at this time of limited resources. But in order for Kai Eide and UNAMA to meet this task, the financial resources they need to operate effectively must be addressed by member states. In turn, the Government of Afghanistan pledges to continue to work collaboratively with UNAMA.
3. A reemphasis on regional partnerships is necessary.
The challenges Afghanistan faces today are regional challenges. The Taliban and Al-Qaeda, the movement of refugees, and the narcotics trade are trans-border problems. Moreover, regional solutions promise great regional benefits in the areas of security, trade, energy, infrastructure and more positive people-to-people relationships. Thus we should strive together to find regional solutions to our shared challenges.
Our first priority is the relationship Afghanistan shares with our friends in Pakistan. They suffer equal harm at the hands of the Taliban and Al-Qaeda. To fight these terrorists who would kill our people, we must work together to eliminate the sanctuaries for these terrorists. The Government of Afghanistan increasingly recognizes that the only lasting peace is one that is forged together with our allies in the region. Thus, the support of the international community for such regional efforts is essential.
At this time of great challenges, there is also reason for great hope.
In these seven years, we have taken some significant steps forward. We have built schools, health clinics, roads, and telecommunications infrastructure. We are making progress on human rights and the rule of law. Even as we speak, we are seeing a breakthrough in counter-narcotics efforts. As we stated in October, the Taliban are fighting a war of perception. Their goal is to persuade the Afghan people that the international community is failing, especially at this time of transition after the US elections. To counter this, we must be equally vigilant in demonstrating our successes to the Afghan people. We know that there are two Afghanistans: one conveyed by news reports broadcasting only the atrocities, the other experienced by millions of Afghans building daily lives in peace. Let us not forget this second Afghanistan: our efforts are not in vain and we are making progress.
Today is also a day of great hope because there is a new beginning in two of Afghanistan’s most important allies. With Pakistan’s new President H.E. Mr. Asif Ali Zardari, we are witnessing the first moves toward collaboration and cooperation that we hope will lead to peace and security. With the United States, we welcome the recent historical elections and look forward to working with the president-elect Mr. Barack Obama. We appreciate the continued support of the United States in Afghanistan.
Today is a most important day. We have reminded ourselves of our original, noble purpose for our work in Afghanistan. Success in Afghanistan is as vital today as it was seven years ago. And, within the context of a global financial crisis, we have identified the components for a smart and sustainable strategy to harness our resources most effectively.
For our part, the Government of Afghanistan is fully and absolutely dedicated to a stronger Afghanistan. Every international effort that is committed today to fulfilling the objectives of this resolution will be matched by our government’s efforts twicefold. In the upcoming months, let us together have the courage to determinedly and resolutely walk this path forward to a self-sustaining, peaceful, prosperous Afghanistan.