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Futher Steps Needed to Safeguard the Lives and Rights of Afghan Civilians:
November 22, 2010 – H.E. Ambassador Zahir Tanin, Permanent Representative of Afghanistan to the United Nations addressed the UN Security Council on the topic of â€œprotection of civilians in armed conflict.â€
Ambassador Tanin said Afghans were the first to feel the tragic effects of conflict in their country.Â He noted that civilian casualties were mainly caused by intentional acts of the Taliban, Al-Qaeda and other extremist groups. â€œTerrorists and extremists have expanded the scope of their activities, attacking all segments of society.Â By resorting to new and brutal tactics, including suicide bombings, abductions, targeted assassinations and use of IEDâ€™s, they show complete disregard for human life,â€ said Ambassador Tanin.
He however asserted that unintended casualties resulting from joint military operations by Afghan and international forces continued to occur.
Stressing the need for increased coordination and collaboration between Afghan and international forces during military operations, Ambassador Tanin said protection of civilians during combat operations is â€œa shared responsibility and an international obligation.â€ He highlighted Afghanistanâ€™s continued call for international forces to take â€œnecessary measures to minimize and eliminate civilian casualties.â€
He welcomed enhanced measures by Afghanistanâ€™s international partners for civilian protection.Â â€œWe appreciate NATO commandersâ€™ commitment of giving a central place to the protection of civilians in their new military strategy. We hope that further necessary steps will be taken in this regard so as to safeguard the lives and rights of Afghan civilians, particularly in the areas affected by conflict.â€
In the context of improvement of security in the country, Ambassador Tanin underscored the transition of security responsibilities to Afghan security forces over the coming years, stressing the importance of sustained international assistance for the training of Afghan security forces as essential for achieving lasting peace.
Moreover, he highlighted Afghanistanâ€™s â€œcomprehensive outreach initiativeâ€ for achieving durable peace. He alluded to ongoing peace talks with members of the armed opposition and the creation of the â€œHigh Peace Councilâ€ as significant steps towards peace and reconciliation.
Ambassador Tanin Addresses UN Security Council on
â€œProtection of Civilians in Armed Conflictâ€
Ladies and gentlemen,
First, let me thank you, Mr. President, for convening this meeting on the protection of civilians in armed conflict, a topic of particular importance in Afghanistan.Â I would also like to thank the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, Valerie Amos for her briefing and welcome the recent report of the Secretary General on the Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict.
Nine years ago, the Afghan people overwhelmingly supported the USâ€“led intervention and joined the US and coalition forces in the fight against terrorism. They saw the international military campaign as crucial for security in the country and the region and for bringing an end to their suffering. From 2001 to 2006, the trust and cooperation between the Afghan people and the international community helped the country to become increasingly stable. However, with the re-emergence in 2006 of the Taliban from sanctuaries in the region and their attempts to attack national and international forces, parts of the country began to slide back into conflict. Violence and insecurity, particularly in the last two years, largely affected the security of people and thousands of civilians lost their lives. The increase in the number of civilian casualties has negatively affected the peopleâ€™s trust in the prospect of peace security and development in the country.
Afghans are the first to feel the tragic effects of conflict in their country.Â Civilian casualties are caused mainly by intentional acts of the Taliban, Al Qaeda and other extremist groups. Terrorists and extremists have recently expanded the scope of their activities, attacking all segments of Afghan society. By resorting to new and brutal tactics including suicide bombings, abductions, targeted assassinations, and indiscriminate use of IEDs they show complete disregard for human life. Further, terrorists and extremists continue to conduct attacks from densely populated areas and use civilians as human shields. Nevertheless there are also a number of unfortunate, unintended casualties resulting from the military operations and activities of international forces as well as joint military operations of both International and Afghan forces.
As shown in UNAMAâ€™s 2010 midyear report, the number of civilian casualties due to violence in my country has increased. In the first six months of 2010 there were 3,268 civilian casualties including 1,271 deaths as a result of armed conflict or an average of over 18 civilian casualties a day. It shows a 31% increase from the same period last year. 76% of the incidents were the result of the activities of the Taliban and Al-Qaeda terrorist groups. 6,000 civilian casualties occurred in 2009.
In discussing civilian casualties, let us remember that we are referring to people, the loss of human life and all too often the lives of innocent women, children, and elders.Â Such deaths may not be looked at as merely â€œthe consequences of ongoing violenceâ€ and â€œco-lateral damage.â€Â Each death in Afghanistan represents a life lost, a family left behind, and an entire future denied its potential.
Protection of civilians during military operations is our shared responsibility and an international obligation. Increased coordination between international and Afghan forces during military operations and a greater cooperation between the international community and the Afghan government is necessary for ensuring safety and security of civilian populations. This is an important issue which has long been a crucial point of discussion with Afghanistanâ€™s international partners. My government has called upon international forces to take necessary measures to minimize and eliminate civilian casualties. We appreciate the NATO commandersâ€™ commitment of giving a central place to the protection of civilians in their new military strategy. We hope that further necessary steps will be taken in this regard so as to safeguard the lives and rights of Afghan civilians, particularly in the areas affected by conflict.
To protect the lives of civilians, Afghanistan must work with the international community to achieve lasting peace and stability in the country. The protection of civilians must be placed in the context of the emerging transition in which Afghan national forces will begin to assume full responsibility by 2014.
Just this weekend in Lisbon at the NATO Summit, we embarked on the transition from an international guided process to an Afghan led process.Â Security is at the core of this transition.Â It is essential for NATO and international partners to enhance trainings for Afghan security forces in order to ensure enduring security and consequently the elimination of civilian casualties. This transition is happening while the enemy is attempting to disrupt the governmentâ€™s activities and continue their attacks against the Afghan people, government, and international forces.Â As the Afghan government seeks to prepare itself to take on responsibility for leading security efforts, the continuing support of the Afghan people for our shared efforts and their active participation in stabilization of the country are crucial for success.
Protection and promotion of the rights of civilians should be among the top priorities of international engagement in Afghanistan.Â In his address to Heads of State at the NATO Summit in Lisbon, H.E. President Karzai said, â€œwe are in dialogue with ISAF on issues of serious concern to the Afghan people, in particular: civilian causalities, detentions, lawless behavior by some security companies and, at times, the NATOâ€™s posture.Â We need the space to discuss these issues and resolve them in a spirit of collaboration and teamwork. The sustainable solution to these issues will, of course, come from the realization of our common objective of replacing international forces with Afghan security forces.â€
We are of the conviction that civilian protection is not confined to only preventing civilian casualties. An end to civilian loss requires establishing lasting peace and stability. The recent Joint Coordination and Monitoring Boardâ€™s Progress Report on the Afghanistan National Development Strategy, covering the first 100 Days after the Kabul Conference, rightly points out that we have achieved more successes in improving security.Â Afghanistan has completed 89% of planned activities in the area of security and exceeded expectations in the growth of the National Army and National Police.
In addition to military operations, the Afghan government is engaged in a comprehensive outreach initiative to achieve lasting peace and security. The Afghan led peace process calls upon the Taliban to lay down their arms and join the peace and reconciliation efforts.Â Engaging the armed opposition in peace Talks and the creation of Afghanistanâ€™s High Peace Council and selection of 60 members are significant steps towards strengthening the peace and reconciliation process.
Our national reconciliation plan is based on our growing responsibility to promote human rights, build trust, and continue outreach to the people of Afghanistan.
Going forward, the issue of civilian protection in armed conflict will continue to be central to our national strategies. Todayâ€™s meeting reminds us of the importance of civilians in the overall work of the United Nations and of the international community.Â We look forward to further collaboration with our international partners for achieving our ultimate objective, which is ending violence and achieving lasting peace. The success of our partnership is the best way to ensure civilian protection.
Thank you Mr. President.