H.E. Dr. Zalmai Rassoul
Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan
at the Security Council Debate on
Ladies and gentlemen,
First of all, let me extend my congratulations to you, Minister Okuda, for assuming the Presidency of the Council for this month, and thank you for convening this meeting and inviting me to participate. I would also like to thank His Excellency the Secretary General for his presence here today. The rebuilding of societies emerging from conflict is one of the biggest challenges to the maintenance of international peace and security, and thus among the most important functions of this Council and this Organization. It is also of central importance to Afghanistan, which still struggles on a daily basis to establish peace and security.
In Afghanistan, reconstruction and stabilization efforts began immediately after the fall of the Taliban at the end of 2001. When we first gathered in December 2001 in Bonn, we began a process that, in five years, would put Afghanistan back on a path towards an
enduring stability. Though we were astonishingly successful in achieving the benchmarks set by the Bonn process, we soon acknowledged that further efforts would be necessary to address the magnitude of the challenges we faced. In Tokyo in 2002, London in 2006 and Paris in 2008, we adapted our plans to emerging realities and extended our efforts towards establishing a secure, stable and prosperous Afghanistan.
After three decades of war, Afghanistan’s economy was decimated, the state was disintegrated, and the society was bereft of infrastructure or even the most basic necessities of life. Millions died; millions more were forced to flee for their safety; among them, a large number of technocrats and educated Afghans.
Continuous conflict during this period crippled the social fabric of the country. Further, the ongoing political and social instability bred networks of terrorists, extremists, criminals, drug-dealers and opportunistic regional elements that depend on insecurity in Afghanistan and the region. A nexus of drugs, extremism and crime fed on chaos and anarchy and now seriously threatens our efforts to build peace.
Despite the challenges, we have achieved remarkable success in nine years, establishing a convincing basis of optimism for the future of the country.
Afghans have forcefully renounced the totalitarian rule of the Taliban, establishing a government through three successful elections, including the last Presidential election, run entirely by Afghans. The Afghan government is becoming more efficient and effective every day, and is increasing its capacity to provide governance and services to the people. More than three quarters of Afghans now have access to basic health care. Millions of children now have the opportunity to attend school, many for the first time.
We have addressed the legacy of violence through a comprehensive disarmament and reintegration program that successfully reintegrated thousands of former fighters into society. In particular, I would like to recognize and offer thanks for the efforts of Japan in this area, including through financing of DDR, DIAG and reintegration programs, and for hosting a comprehensive conference on peace and reconciliation in Tokyo last November. In addition, we have built and continue to improve the Afghan National Army and Police through recruiting, training and equipping, and they are beginning to take primary responsibility for providing security for the people and the country.
In rebuilding Afghanistan’s shattered infrastructure, we have built thousands of miles of roads, hundreds of schools and clinics, local wells and improved irrigation systems. We have seen immense economic growth and this year, for the first time, the Afghan Government has taken in more than a billion dollars in revenues. The average Afghan income has jumped six-fold in the past four years alone.
Change has come in ways that are not so visible as well. The Afghan people are more vocal, more engaged and more involved in the future of their country than ever before. We have a vibrant media, an active civil society, and well-informed citizens. Social structures are beginning to re-knit and a feeling of national unity is slowly emerging.
We are proud of our accomplishments to date, but we still face daunting challenges. Security remains Afghanistan number one challenge. Terrorists are still intent jeopardizing our progress and taking Afghanistan back to the days of tyranny and oppression. In stabilizing Afghanistan, we know that military means is essential. Nonetheless, it’s not the only answer. That’s why we have embarked on a comprehensive strategy, including military, political and economic efforts.
As an important strand in our security strategy, the role of international forces and the manner in which they operate is crucial. More needs to be done to ensure the protection of civilian populations. We emphasize utmost care and precision during combat operations to avoid civilian casualties. It’s also essential that international forces conduct their duties with strict adherence to cultural sensitivities, and in close coordination with Afghan security forces. By the same token, we appreciate the new approach of NATO Commander Gen. Stanley Mchrystal places added emphasis on the protection of civilian populations.
To achieve success in defeating terrorism and improving security, more focus is required for addressing the main sources of insecurity. The problem of insecurity will not be solved until terrorist sanctuaries and safe-havens in the region continue and provide terrorists with ideological, financial and logistical support.
Regional cooperation is another essential element in achieving stability in Afghanistan. We continue our collaboration with regional countries, bilaterally, trilaterally and through other forums for overcoming the challenges in Afghanistan and the region.
In the way forward, we must work to ensure sustainability of our progress, economically, politically and socially. Much remains to be done. We must build the capacity of the Afghan government and the strength of its institutions so that it can stand on its own feet. We still must focus more on improving good governance and fighting corruption. We must guarantee the long-term security of the Afghan people and more fully win their confidence. And we must foster the social well-being that is necessary for stability and peace.
A few months ago, at the beginning of his new term, President Karzai proposed a strategy which was subsequently endorsed by the international community in London at the end of January. This strategy is focused on building lasting, sustainable peace and stability in the coming three to five years through Afghanization and national ownership and leadership, by empowering and engaging Afghans themselves, by promoting long-term socioeconomic development, and by undertaking new regional cooperation.
First, for peace to be sustainable, Afghans should be involved in their own security. The Afghan National Security Forces will play a central role. In the coming three to five years, intensified training and recruiting will enable the ANSF to begin to take primary responsibility for security and defense of the country and its citizens, allowing the international community’s role to evolve from a primary to a supporting one.
Second, the Government of Afghanistan will engage more fully with all Afghan people and address their concerns in order to strengthen national unity and social stability. Improved capacity will allow the Government of Afghanistan to address corruption, strengthen good governance, end the culture of impunity and better serve Afghan people.
Third, we will offer former combatants and those willing to join the peace process the chance for a peaceful life and a decent future through a reconciliation and reintegration process. This is an alternative to end the continuing insecurity in parts of the conflict, and an important way to isolate extremists and terrorists and ensure that Afghans will continue to choose peace over violence.
Fourth, though these elements will promote peace and stabilization, the only way to guarantee the sustainability of progress is to anchor the society on a foundation of long-term socioeconomic development. The Government of Afghanistan must be able to fund its programs, support its people and decrease its dependence on international aid. Job creation and agricultural development in particular are central elements that will cement short-term gains, improve social cohesiveness and promote political normalization. In addition, there must be focus on education to help build capacity, promote social stability and confront extremism.
A crucial piece of the London strategy is the central role of the Government of Afghanistan in coordinating and leading these efforts as Afghans take greater responsibility for their destiny. With regard to development assistance, a much better job is required to improve its efficiency. To date, only 20% of such aid has gone through Afghanistan’s national budget. 80% of assistance has been channeled on a bilateral basis. In short, we must Afghanize development priorities.
Through improved coordination, we should work to address parallel or competing governance structures which do more harm than good.
President Karzai’s new Afghanization strategy is built on a workable, reliable partnership between the Government of Afghanistan and the international community. My government and the Afghan people are very grateful for the continuing commitment and generosity of our international partners and friends, and we recognize that a partnership based on respect and realism is vital to our success. Understandably, we have different expectations, different timelines and different priorities. We can only avoid fragmentation and confusion through mutual understanding, open communication and an awareness of our shared goals. Our efforts will take time to bear fruit, and this process cannot be hurried. In addition to short-term measures, long-term development supported by a committed partnership with the international community is the key to a healthy and sustainable Afghan society safe from the risk of recurring conflict.
I thank you, Mr. President.
H.E. Dr. Zalmai Rassoul
Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan
at the Security Council Debate on Post-Conflict Peacebuilding