Statement of H.E. Dr. Zahir Tanin
Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Afghanistan to the UN
At the General Assembly debate on
Agenda Item 17: The Situation in Afghanistan
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Thirty years ago, in December of 1979, Soviet forces entered Afghanistan. Since then, Afghanistan has been a perpetual victim of war, violence and conflict. Constant upheaval has torn the country from a peaceful, progressive path and thrust it into the global spotlight. The General Assembly has repeatedly gathered to reiterate its solidarity with the Afghan people.
However, while we debated here, the floodgates of hell opened in Afghanistan. What was once a stable, modernizing country, a role model for other states in the region, became a name without a state, a vast wasteland of shattered lives. A hundred years of social, political and economic progress were destroyed. And what is worse, two million people were killed. Ten million more fled for their own safety.
This is the true tragedy of my country and my people.
And now, Mr. President,
Eight years after the fall of the Taliban, eight years after we all believed that the long national nightmare of the Afghan people had at last come to an end, violence still threatens the lives of Afghans in many parts of the country.
The resolution before us today reflects an awareness of our common responsibility to address the situation in Afghanistan, and reaffirms the strong determination of the membership towards this end. For this support, the government and people of Afghanistan are deeply grateful.
In this regard, I would like to thank you, Mr. President, for convening this meeting, and thank all of you for your presence here today and for so widely and strongly supporting the resolution now before us. Allow me to also express my sincerest thanks to the German Mission, and in particular to Ambassador Martin Ney and Counsellor Daniel Krull and his able team, for their substantial efforts and able facilitation of this resolution.
The last eight years have been difficult, but the situation in Afghanistan has fundamentally improved. Eight years ago, we were debating how to build what did not exist: a government, an army and police force, and a functioning economic and social life. Today we are debating how to improve what we have built: how to have a good, effective government, a well-trained army and police, and a productive economy. Today Afghanistan’s flag flies proudly across the country. This is a substantial accomplishment.
Unfortunately, our progress has not been sufficient. We allowed three crucial opportunities to slip through our fingers.
First, we missed the chance to wipe out the Taliban, al-Qaeda and other terrorists. After their initial defeat, we permitted them to rearm and regroup in sanctuaries outside of Afghanistan. As a result, they returned to threaten us in 2006 and the security situation has deteriorated markedly.
Second, we missed the chance to properly resource and reinforce our efforts. Afghanistan has been starved for resources, starved for attention, and starved for troops. Our responses have been reactive, ex-post-facto, and fragmented.
Third, we missed the chance to rapidly empower and enable Afghans to shoulder the responsibility for their own destiny. The government and civil society lacked capacity, experience and resources.
Thankfully, within the last two years the Government of Afghanistan and the international community have, together, begun to craft a common approach. We are beginning to offer the necessary resources to combat a resurgent Taliban. We have strengthened the UN’s important mandate for coordination. We have begun to build capacity to address weak governance and fragile institutions. We have built a strengthened partnership with the elected government in Islamabad and we are working together towards real cooperation in the fight against our common enemy. And finally, with the holding of the second Presidential elections in our history, Afghans were again able to have a say in their future.
The elections mark the beginning of a new chapter in Afghanistan. Unfortunately, the elections were held in difficult circumstances. In many regions, voters risked their lives to participate. Despite this, however, millions voted, and millions more participated in the debates surrounding the campaigns.
Elections are not perfect anywhere. They are even less perfect in an emerging democracy threatened by conflict. The Afghan people worked tirelessly, not on the sidelines but as leaders of our institutions. Complaints and irregularities were uncovered and addressed in a meticulously fair and systematic way. The elections were as free as possible, as fair as possible, and as transparent as possible.
Most importantly, the people of Afghanistan showed respect for the rule of law. All of Afghanistan patiently and peacefully awaited a legal, Constitutional outcome and now are prepared to accept that outcome. This has been a peaceful transition.
The re-election of President Karzai has ended a period of uncertainty and an extended pause in our reconstruction and stabilization efforts. The President-Elect, in his first address, emphasized that we need to seize this unique moment.
Over the next five years, the new Government of Afghanistan will create and maintain two Compacts: one with the Afghan people, and one with the international community. Together, these pacts will help forge strong, constructive partnerships and will lead Afghanistan to sustainable progress.
The principal Compact with the Afghan people will be based on a continuing commitment to ensuring the physical and economic security of Afghans, providing good governance and rule of law, and encouraging economic development. To achieve these three aims, President-Elect Hamid Karzai has identified four areas of focus: first, national participation; second, reconciliation; third, Afghanization; and fourth, tackling corruption.
Central to this Compact is the need for Afghans to take control of their destinies. In an ongoing effort to build capacity and clean the stain of corruption, Afghans should increasingly bear the responsibility for governance, rule of law, and the protection of human rights. In training the army and police, Afghans can take a greater role in ensuring security, law enforcement and leading counter-narcotics efforts. And the Government represents all Afghans. The government serves all Afghans. We are committed to greater national participation in the political and reconstruction processes. In addition, we will continue to welcome any Afghan who is willing to join the peace process and respect the Afghan Constitution. In undertaking these commitments, the new Government of Afghanistan will work actively and constructively with both the region and the international community.
In building a prosperous and democratic Afghanistan, security is the core of all our efforts. Security is not only an end in itself; it is also an important prerequisite to progress in other areas. Insecurity is a barrier to good governance or sustainable development, and is the single biggest threat to human rights. Insecurity prevents Afghans from putting aside their guns to concentrate on rebuilding their lives, and it breeds corruption, fear, hopelessness and despair. We will never earn the trust of Afghans while they are subjected to constant terror. We must first help them feel secure.
However, our aim is not to kill every Taliban fighter. We have to use political and military strategies together, in order to expand the reach of the government, train the Afghan army and police, isolate the Taliban from the people, earn the trust of the people, and encourage the engagement of Afghan civilians in the peace and reconciliation process.
The sole strength of the Taliban, al-Qaeda and their terrorist allies is in their brutality. Afghanistan needs a military and civilian strategy that centers on the security of the Afghan people, and offers them real protection from the threats of the Taliban and the unintended consequences of counterterrorist operations. NATO’s new strategy is a promising and responsible step in this direction.
However, Mr. President,
The Government’s tremendous objectives will not be achieved in one day. We will achieve nothing through premature deadlines. We will achieve nothing without the consistent political, military and financial support of the international community. Most importantly, we will achieve nothing without mutual understanding built on trust and cooperation.
Recent public debate about Afghanistan has strained this understanding. Afghanistan both respects and understands the legitimate concerns of the international community. We ask the world to respect and understand the views and concerns of Afghans. All stakeholders deserve sincere, credible partners. We need a partnership built on real solidarity.
For this reason, the Government of Afghanistan will focus on building and renewing a second Compact: one with the international community.
This Compact should rest on the strong foundation of our shared commitment to pursue security, development and good governance in Afghanistan and the region. Together, we should seek rational, well-resourced common strategies with realistic timelines. In this regard, we welcome the call for an international conference to refresh and renew our partnership and build a solid foundation for our future work together. The recent attack on the dedicated UN workers in Kabul shows that our partnership is under attack from the outside; we must strengthen it from the inside.
The key to the future of Afghanistan is in the hands of the Afghan people. They are the masters of their destiny. The Taliban do not represent Afghans. Their power is the power of destruction. Their strength lies only in brutality. Let us make a strong relationship between the Afghan people and the international community the bedrock of our strategies. Let us use today’s resolution on Afghanistan to demand more from both ourselves and from our partners. Alone, we will fail, but together we can, and will, succeed.
Thank you, Mr. President.