This Monday morning, 19 December, the United Nations Security Council held its quarterly debate on the Situation in Afghanistan. The Security Council (SC) first heard a briefing from Under-Secretary-General of Peacekeeping Operations, Mr. Hervé Ladsous, followed by a statement by H.E. Mr. Jawed Ludin, Deputy Foreign Minister of Afghanistan, and a briefing via teleconference by the outgoing Special Representative of the Secretary-General (SRSG) and head of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), Mr. Staffan de Mistura. Also present at the debate was Mr. de Mistura’s replacement as SRSG, Mr. Ján Kubiš, whose appointment was widely welcomed by all speakers.
This quarter’s SC debate takes place against the backdrop of the ongoing transition process in Afghanistan and the recent Bonn and Istanbul Conferences and consultative Loya Jirga. With President Karzai’s recent announcement of the second tranche of the security transition, many states welcomed Afghanistan’s successful and resolute progress. As Mr. Ludin stated, “Transition is truly the manifestation of our determination to succeed, and to stand on our own feet.”
Simultaneously, several speakers stressed the importance of linking the security aspect of transition with development and governance. “It is more urgent than ever before that the civilian side of transition proceed,” Mr. Ladsous explained, a sentiment echoed by many others even as they welcomed progress on various fronts, such as improvements in healthcare and education. As the US Deputy Permanent Representative H.E. Ms. Rosemary DiCarlo put it, “Let us not forget that much has already been accomplished to improve the lives of Afghan citizens.”
Many speakers also welcomed recent domestic and international consensus on the future of Afghanistan’s relationship with the international community. Mr. Ludin said that last month’s consultative Loya Jirga “reflect[ed] the unanimity among the Afghan people for partnership and engagement with the international community”, just as the Bonn Conference reflected an international consensus for a continued international commitment beyond 2014 through the 2015-2024 ‘Transformation Decade’. “We will be there far beyond 2014,” as Mr. Ladsous succinctly put it, “as long as the Afghans need us.”
In the course of the SC debate, speakers also highlighted the importance of the ongoing Afghan-led peace and reconciliation process. Other topics touched upon included women’s rights, the treatment of detainees, the ongoing drought and humanitarian situation, regional cooperation, and the UNAMA mandate review. Outgoing SRSG Mr. de Mistura welcomed the latter, saying that “every opportunity for [review] becomes an opportunity for us to better serve the Afghans,” an optimism Mr. Ludin shared.
In addition to Mr. Ludin, USG Ladsous, and Mr. de Mistura, the SC heard statements from all fifteen members as well as Canada, Turkey, Australia, the EU, Norway, New Zealand, Japan, Liechtenstein, Malaysia, Pakistan and Iran. Following the statements, Mr. Ludin delivered a brief response, in which he thanked the countries which spoke for their support and sympathy. Mr. Ludin also highlighted the problem of terrorist sanctuaries and safe-havens in the region, reiterated the Afghan Government’s commitment to the full upholding of human rights and the rule of law, and acknowledged various concerns raised by some regional partners.
Overall, the tone of the debate was positive, with praise for progress thus far and general optimism about the future through transition and beyond, even while acknowledging remaining room for further progress, particularly in human and women’s rights. In Mr. Ludin’s words, “We are all aware of the challenges on the way ahead… as Afghanistan moves from Transition to the Transformation decade… the international community’s commitment remains as crucial for our future as ever before.”