Statement H.E. Dr Zahir Tanin Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Afghanistan to the United Nations
At the Security Council debate on the Situation in Afghanistan
Firstly, let me congratulate you and your delegation on the assumption of the Presidency of the Council for December. My delegation assures you of our full support as you steer the activities of the Council to a successful conclusion. We are also thankful to our good friend Ambassador Puri of India, and his team, for their excellent leadership of the Council during November.
We welcome the Secretary-General’s report on Afghanistan; and I wish to thank Special Representative Kubis for honoring us with his presence here today. We are grateful to him for his insightful briefing, and able leadership of the UN’s activities in the country.
Eleven years ago, following the fall of the Taliban regime, the Bonn Agreement was signed, creating a concrete road-map which paved the way for a new era in Afghanistan’s history. The agreement was about an integrated national movement, aimed at establishing the foundations for peace, stability and democracy, with the help of the international community. An interim administration was established, led by President Hamid Karzai. The inauguration ceremony which took place on 22 December 2001 was atmospheric, filled with unprecedented enthusiasm, with the end of a dark period of conflict and strife. I was there, and remember very clearly how the representatives of the Afghan people, coming from all walks of life, had come together, expressing their shared feelings about the difficult past, and hope for a better future.
Eleven years ago, we were weak. Conflict and consecutive foreign intervention led us to become a failed state and a broken society. In fact, we were on the verge of collapse. It was impossible to change it alone. This is why the international community was placed in the center of our efforts for peace and stability. In that historical decade, the international community and Afghanistan struggled together, worked together, and joined hands for the noble objective of peace and a better future for the Afghan people. It was one of the most significant international engagements in our time, with more than fifty countries providing military and civilian support. Our shared achievements are monumental.
Early this morning I arrived from Kabul, a city which I found to be vibrant, and full of life, in contrast to a city that appeared dead eleven years ago. The situation in the country has substantially improved. It is a great source of pride and honor that millions of Afghan girls and boys are going to schools, millions of people have access to health services, and millions of people are emerging from poverty and destitution. But the most important success is that eleven years later the Government of Afghanistan with the help of the international community is starting to take full responsibility for nation-building and for normalizing of the situation through the process of transition and transformation. It is imperative that during transition, and beyond, we and the international community are together.
As we approach 2014, when the international combat forces leave Afghanistan, transition is gaining momentum. In the next two years a successful security transition and most importantly an efficient political preparation will enable us to embark on the decade of transformation, in which we will stabilize the situation in Afghanistan. Steady implementation of security transition is but one example of the many gains made thus far. With the first three of the five stage transition process nearly complete, the overwhelming majority of Afghanistan’s population now resides in areas where Afghan security forces have lead security responsibility. And I’m pleased to say that security has improved in areas where lead security responsibility has been transitioned to Afghan forces. The Afghan national army and police are operating with greater confidence and capability. The launch of stage four of security transition will be officially announced in the coming days.
As transition proceeds, we see it imperative that the sustainability of Afghanistan’s security forces remain a priority. The Chicago NATO Summit last May was a milestone in that regard; and we appreciate the commitments pledged by NATO and other partners for long term support to our army and police. We also look forward to the development of a new NATO mission in 2014, which will focus on training, advising and assisting Afghan national security forces.
Transition is not about security alone. To normalize and stabilize the situation in the country, we need to put in place a comprehensive political framework that will provide the country and the international community with a new agenda, at the end of the military phase and the beginning a new transformative period. This framework will comprise of, at least, three main elements:
1 – National Consensus, National Reconciliation
Afghan people and political forces are preparing for a new beginning in the country. The absolute majority of Afghans see their future as linked with the continuation of the democratic system that we established over the last ten years. There is a concern shared by all Afghan people: not to lose what we have achieved, and not to go backward, but to continue moving forward. Once again, as it happened in Bonn eleven years ago we see the prospect of an emerging unity of understanding between different political forces that can lead to the unity of purpose and a constructive national dialogue aimed at saving the future.
In the centre of this dialogue is our grand strategy of national reconciliation. The peace process has gained momentum following the visit of the High Peace Council (HPC) led by H. E. Mr. Salahuddin Rabbani to Islamabad last month. The peace process Road Map which was presented to the Government of Pakistan during the visit provides a concise framework for effective action, focusing on the release of some Taliban detainees in Pakistan’s custody, establishing direct contacts with influential Taliban leaders, provision of safe passage for Taliban negotiators, and sustaining peace talks with the armed opposition groups, which include but are not limited to the Taliban. And just two weeks ago, H. E. Foreign Minister Rassoul paid a visit to Islamabad, where he held extensive discussions on bilateral cooperation, and ways to achieve the goals set out in the peace process Road Map.
As the Afghan-led reconciliation process forges ahead, we will continue to rely on the support of the international community as a whole, and the United Nations in particular. We look to this Council to help us expedite our efforts by meeting our delisting and travel ban exemption requests for concerned individuals. We recognize and welcome, with appreciation, that the successor resolution to SC resolution 1988 adequately incorporates the ideas and recommendations of the Afghan Government to help advance our peace and reconciliation efforts. Special thanks go to our colleagues at the United States Mission for their efforts in drafting the resolution, and to the Council as a whole for the constructive spirit of compromise and cooperation during negotiations.
2 – Elections:
In April 2014, Afghanistan will choose its new leadership, just a few months before the NATO combat forces leave the country. With the elections and the end of the military phase of international support, a new chapter in Afghanistan is unfolding; one characterized by sovereignty, self-reliance, and normalization of the situation. The preparations underway are Afghan-led and Afghan-managed. The international community, and in particular the United Nations, is assisting us in these important elections. The Afghan Independent Elections Commission with the support of the government of Afghanistan has responsibly began the preparations for the elections through announcing the elections calendar, and by focusing on all aspects of the preparation process, political, technical and financial, well in advance. Our diligent planning may help to bring more certainty to the Afghan people about the political transition. The draft electoral law is now under the consideration of Parliament. As noted by the Secretary-General in his report, elections will be the cornerstone of political transition. Elections have the potential to become a new venue for national consensus and unity; a reflection of our shared vision for a stable and peaceful country. It will be an opportunity to put to test our unfaltering efforts for human rights, including the rights of women.
3 - International and Regional Cooperation:
Key aspects of the outcomes of the Chicago and Tokyo conferences were not only about security, but political guarantees for the future. The international community and Afghans came together to build partnerships and ensure success in achieving our shared goals. The ISAF and General Assembly resolutions on Afghanistan reiterated global consensus for supporting transition and assisting Afghanistan in the long haul. We hope that this affirmation of international support will remain. As part of our long term partnership with the international community, we have entered into a number of bilateral and strategic partnership agreements. With the United States we are discussing the details of our security cooperation in line with our strategic partnership. Similar discussions are ongoing with our NATO partners on the scope and shape of a new training, advising and assistance mission. Early next month, President Hamid Karzai will visit the US at the invitation of President Obama. We look forward to the visit, which will go a long way toward addressing key issues of our long term partnership.
At the same time we see visible progress in relations with our neighbors and expanding the scope of and strengthening regional cooperation. Relations with Pakistan have taken a new form, characterized by confidence building. In recent months, contacts at high levels have helped us concentrate on concrete areas of cooperation including counterterrorism efforts, and strengthening the peace process.
We are also giving special focus to relations with other partners in the region. Regional cooperation is a crucial element of Afghanistan’s future peace and security, and is taking new shape as the Istanbul Process is swiftly moving forward. The Heart of Asia Kabul Ministerial Conference this past June marked the beginning of the implementation phase of the process. The conference emphasized the three key issues of political consultation, confidence-building, and the role of regional organizations for making progress towards a peaceful and prosperous region, characterized by joint cooperation. Seven confidence-building measures were identified, covering a wide array of fields, and a number of action plans have been developed for CBM implementation. We look forward to the next Ministerial Meeting of the Istanbul Process, to be held in Astana, Kazakhstan this coming April.
Afghans see the Transition as an opportunity for an end to war, and a means for ensuring that stability and prosperity are realized. Transition is also about continuing our partnership with the international community, and fulfilling our commitment to a safer, more secure and prosperous future for the Afghan people. The Bonn and Tokyo Conferences were milestones in that regard, mapping out, and defining the nature of the long-term partnership between Afghanistan and the international community for the way forward. On the basis of the Mutual Accountability Framework, we will work to address remaining challenges though a more result-oriented cooperation, and with special focus on ensuring that mutual expectations are met.
In conclusion, we have come a long way in our joint endeavor. Eleven years later, Afghanistan is on its path to a new era, reasserting its status as a fully stable, prosperous and self-reliant country, able to meet the needs of Afghan citizens in all sectors. Afghanistan’s full realization of ownership and leadership is a shared goal between Afghanistan and its international partners, one which we must work towards jointly during the Transformation Decade.
Let me also take this opportunity to thank my good friend, Ambassador Peter Wittig and his team at the German Mission for the able manner in which they led the Council’s work on Afghanistan over the past two years.