Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Bush study favors bigger army presence in Afghanistan, report

The Bush administration, in the midst of a wide review of its war strategy in Afghanistan, is likely to recommend soon to the incoming Obama administration that the U.S. push for further expansion of the Afghan army as the surest path to an eventual U.S. withdrawal, The Associated Press has learned.

It’s too late in President George W. Bush’s tenure for a major change of direction in Afghanistan, but the White House wants to produce a kind of road map for the next administration, not just in terms of military effort but also in other areas such as integrating U.S. and international civilian and military aid.

The strategy review, which began in September amid increasing militant violence and a growing U.S. and allied death toll, is being coordinated at the White House and is expected to be presented by December. Defense officials would discuss emerging conclusions only on condition of anonymity because it is not yet completed.

The Bush administration is likely to endorse fulfilling a standing request by the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, Gen. David McKiernan, for about 20,000 additional U.S. troops in 2009. But it has concluded that the emphasis increasingly should be on Afghan forces taking the lead.

A chief advocate of focusing more on speeding the training and equipping of a bigger Afghan army is Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who said last week that it represents the long-term answer in Afghanistan.

Gates also has emphasized limiting the depth of U.S. military involvement in a country that has ground down foreign armies over centuries of conflict.

“We will be making a terrible mistake if this ends up being called America’s war,” Gates said Oct. 31 after presiding at a ceremony in Tampa, Fla., where Gen. David Petraeus was installed as head of U.S. Central Command, whose area of responsibility includes Afghanistan as well as Iraq.

“What I would like to see, and, I think, what everybody would like to see, is the most rapid possible further expansion of the Afghan military forces because this needs to be an Afghan war, not an American war and not a NATO war,” Gates told reporters.

President-elect Obama, who has called Afghanistan an “urgent crisis,” said in a speech Oct. 22 that “it’s time to heed the call” from McKiernan for more U.S. troops. Obama said he would send at least two or three additional combat brigades. One combat brigade typically has 3,500-4,000 soldiers.

Obama also has called for more training of Afghan security forces as well as more nonmilitary assistance.

Petraeus is conducting his own review of his command area, including Afghanistan. It is just getting under way and is due to be finished in February, after Obama presumably has his national security team in place.

Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, also is conducting a strategy review focusing on the way ahead in the tribal areas of western Pakistan along the Afghan border, where the Taliban and al-Qaida have established havens from which to launch attacks across the border. Mullen’s review is meant to find a strategy for Afghanistan that takes the border issue fully into account.

There are now about 31,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan. Another brigade is due to arrive in January; beyond that, decisions on the size and timing of any further additions will be up to Obama.

Under a plan adopted by the U.S. and Afghan governments in September, the Afghan army is to grow to 134,000 soldiers by 2014. The previous goal was 80,000, and the actual number in uniform now is about 67,000, according to Lt. Col. Christian Kubik, spokesman for the Combined Security Transition Command in Afghanistan, which is responsible for training and equipping Afghan forces. The price tag for getting to the new target of 134,000 by 2014 is an estimated $17 billion, Kubik said.

Gates noted there is broad support for getting to the 134,000 goal quickly.

“It may well not stop there,” he added, noting that the size of the Afghan security forces is vastly smaller than Iraq’s. A rapid increase in the size of Iraqi security forces over the past two years was a key element – along with an altered U.S. counterinsurgency strategy – in drastically reducing the level of violence and opening the door to American troop withdrawals this year.

Barry McCaffrey, a retired four-star Army general, wrote recently after a July visit to Afghanistan that one of the keys to winning in Afghanistan is expanding the Afghan army to 200,000 soldiers.

“Afghanistan will not be solved by the addition of two or three more U.S. combat brigades from our rapidly unraveling Army,” McCaffrey wrote in a paper for the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y.

Gates said he does not expect NATO allies or others to contribute significant additional troops in Afghanistan, even though he and other U.S. officials have pleaded for many months for more help. In his remarks last week, Gates alluded to a behind-the-scenes debate about the wisdom of deepening U.S. involvement, beyond the extra brigades McKiernan already has requested.

“I think it remains to be seen whether there is a need or value to significantly more troops than that,” the defense secretary said.

Maj. Gen. Robert Cone, who heads U.S. efforts to train and equip the Afghan army and police, says that in the long run it will be more cost-effective to have Afghans, rather than foreign forces, fighting the Taliban and other militant factions.

“The key is accelerating the growth of the Afghan army,” he said in an interview in September.

Third Committee debate on Agenda Item 39: Report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees

Statement by H.E. Ambassador Zahir Tanin
Permanent Representative of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan to the United Nations
At the Third Committee debate on Agenda Item 39: Report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees

Mr. Chairman,

At the outset, I would like to thank the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) for his detailed report which contains useful information about the situation of the 1.4 million refugees and 52 million Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) remaining worldwide. My Delegation strongly supports UNHCR’s noble mandate and particularly commends its long engagement with Afghans for over a quarter of a century. In the current context, UNHCR is providing precious support to the Afghan Ministry of Refugees and Repatriation in protecting and supporting Afghan Refugees, Returnees and IDPs, and in creating conditions conducive for the voluntary, safe, dignified and sustainable return and reintegration of Afghan Refugees after decades of war in the country.

Mr. Chairman,

The three decades of devastating conflict in Afghanistan forced millions of Afghans to go into exile; leaving behind their families, property, and motherland to escape from the brutality of war. Since the fall of the atrocious regime of the Taliban in 2001, which also marked the beginning of the reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan, more than 5.4 million Afghans have returned to their homeland, mainly from Pakistan and Iran. This year alone, almost a quarter million Afghan refugees from Pakistan and another 3, 000 from Iran have voluntarily returned to Afghanistan with the hopes of getting back to their places of origins: their villages, and rejoining their families to live peacefully again in their native land. Nevertheless some 3 million Afghans still remain in Pakistan (2.1 million) and Iran (915,000).

The Government of Afghanistan is grateful to those countries, especially our neighbors Pakistan and Iran, for having hosted our compatriots during the ravaging years of conflict in Afghanistan and for continuing their assistance to Afghans living in their lands. Afghanistan’s main objective in 2008 and 2009 will be to improve conditions for voluntary repatriation as well as reintegration of returnees, in conformity with the objectives contained in our National Development Strategy (ANDS) and in line with the spirit of the tripartite agreements on voluntary repatriation signed with the Governments of Iran, Pakistan, and UNHCR.

The voluntary return and reintegration of all Afghans refugees is a priority for our Government and we would like to underline the importance of the provision contained in the tripartite agreement which stresses the need to facilitate voluntary repatriation of Afghan Refugees from Iran and Pakistan if the conditions inside Afghanistan allow. We would like to seize this opportunity to call for sustained international assistance to create a feasible environment for the voluntary, gradual, safe and dignified return and reintegration of Afghan Refugees.

We welcome the temporary suspension of UNHCR’s assisted voluntary repatriation operation from Pakistan to Afghanistan during the annual winter break, in view of the difficulties that it could engender for the reintegration of Afghan Refugees.

Mr. Chairman,

Effective and sustainable reintegration requires economic and social development and the provision of employment opportunities, especially in the rural areas. Many returnees are facing reintegration difficulties including lack of land, shelter, water and basic services such as health care and education. The Ministry of Refugees and Repatriation of Afghanistan (MRRA) is monitoring the voluntary, dignified and gradual nature of returns and focuses on the provision of key physical, legal and material necessities linked to the reintegration process. MRRA, in partnership with UNHCR, provides individual assistance including the allocation of the repatriation and initial reinstallation cash grant which is complemented by reintegration programmes particularly in the sectors of shelter, water and income generation. These public programmes include:

  • Shelter assistance for the most vulnerable families
  • Allocation of land to landless returnees
  • Legal and employment individual assistance
  • Particular assistance to women and girls with the support of the Ministry of Women of Affairs (MOWA)

Mr. Chairman,

Insecurity is the main obstacle to the return of Afghan Refugees and their effective as well as sustainable reintegration. The majority of this year’s returnees have resettled in the eastern, central, or northern part of Afghanistan. The deterioration of the security situation in the south of Afghanistan caused by the terrorists activities of the Taliban and Al-Qaida have created difficult conditions for returnees and restricted the scope of humanitarian assistance, as justly mentioned in the Report of the High Commissioner for Refugees. We commend the work done by UNHCR staff operating under those difficult conditions and are deeply concerned about the prevailing insecurity in certain areas impeding the access of humanitarian assistance to the population, including the vulnerable returnees.

Moreover, the global rise in food prices, the current drought and approaching winter have resulted in high dependence on humanitarian assistance. The Afghanistan -UN joint appeal launched in January 2008 to address this issue asked for additional financial mobilization in response to the impending crisis. Thus far only 32% of our identified need has been met.

Mr. Chairman,

It is estimated that a total of some 540,000 Afghan refugees will return home in the next two years. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Afghanistan and UNHCR will co-host an International Conference on return and reintegration on November 19 in Kabul. This conference aims to address how best to ensure the sustainable return of refugees and IDP’s and seeks to reconcile the repatriation targets and timelines proposed by the neighboring countries with the increasingly challenging operational environment in Afghanistan.

It will also be a forum to mobilize additional resources for a comprehensive, integrated approach and multi-year funding delivered through the framework of ANDS.

We would like to take this opportunity to invite Members States to participate to this conference at the highest level possible. We are looking forward to the outcomes of the conference and we invite the participants to take into consideration the following important issues in their discussion:

-       To incorporate Afghan refugees’ needs into ANDS through national development programmes particularly in key sectors such as health, education, sanitation and employment.

-       To ensure that areas to which refugees return are properly provided with basic amenities as well as the means for making a livelihood

-       To give priority to rural economies for future development programmes as a tool to achieve successful and sustainable return of refugees, bearing in mind that 80% of Afghanistan’s population lives in rural areas.

-       To keep the spirit of partnership and openness to look for a comprehensive solution to the question of Afghan refugee in order to make further progress towards an integrated and coherent solution, that will ensure the interests of Afghanistan, its neighbors and the region.

At the closing Mr. Chairman,

We would like to express our gratitude to the international community and other relevant UN agencies for their support to the plight of Afghan refugees and internally displaced persons.  No sign of confidence in a country’s future is more compelling than the return of its citizens to participate in the upcoming Presidential election. Afghan refugees will not hesitate to return home if Afghanistan achieves to cement peace, security, prosperity and justice. We count on your continued support and remain committed to work together to fulfill our commitments made during the Paris Donor Conference in June 2008, to ensure the conditions for voluntary and sustainable returns of Afghans to their homeland.

Thank you for your attention.

Second Committee Debate on Countries in a Special Situation

Statement by Mr. Mohammad Wali Naeemi

Counselor, Permanent Mission of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan to the United Nations

At the Second Committee Debate on Countries in a Special Situation

Madam Chairperson,

I have the honor to speak on behalf of my delegation on a significant agenda item of the Second Committee, “countries in special situations”. My delegation appreciates the hard work of the Office of the Under-Secretary General and High Representative for the Least Developed Countries , Landlocked and Small Island States. We thank Mr. Cheikh Sidi Diarra for his comprehensive introductory statement.

My delegation aligns itself with the statements of Antigua and Barbuda and Bangladesh on behalf of the G77 and China and the Group of Least Developed Countries, respectively.

Madam Chairperson,

The Brussels Programme of Action is a partnership framework between the LDCs and their development partners. It contains time-bound and measurable goals and has set out seven specific commitments, namely, poverty eradication, gender equality, employment, governance, capacity building, and sustainable development. These are seen as cross-cutting issues that should be addressed in the implementation process. There is no doubt that the achievement of these targets would mean the achievement of the MDGs by the LDCs. In order to fulfil their commitments as set out in the Brussels Programme of Action, the international community needs to take the necessary steps by supporting and equipping LDCs with the resources they need.

The Secretary General’s report on the LDCs highlighted progresses and achievements in the Least Developed Countries in the area of human development and good governance. However, significant challenges still need to be addressed. Increased poverty in the LDCs and the global financial crisis have multiplied the challenges of the least developed countries, in particular the post-conflict LDCs such as Afghanistan. Lack of security, a weak infrastructure, and insufficient capacities are primarily responsible for that.

The emergence and acceleration of the crisis has further increased the challenges of LDCs meeting the IADGs, including the MDGs. Such a scenario, no doubt, warrants increased global action if we want to secure the implementation of the Brussels Programme of Action by 2010, which is only two years from now.

The LDCs are highly vulnerable to both internal and external shocks. The world is passing through a critical time and the most vulnerable countries are LDCs, LLDCs, and post conflict countries. The continuation of the food crisis, financial crises and other challenges in the LDCs will hinder developmental velocity. LDCs are not in a position to weather further shocks such as a decline in exports, investment and access to capital that the current crises may potentially cause in the long run. Comprehensive and decisive policy action is critically important at all levels to overcome the current multiple crises.

The food crisis alone will drive millions of people into poverty and hunger. The LDCs are the hardest hit, particularly the landlocked LDCs and those LDCs which are emerging from conflicts. The comprehensive framework for action submitted by the Secretary General’s Task Force needs to be carefully examined with special attention to LDCs, particularly vulnerable LDCs in Africa and Asia.

In addition, food and livelihood security in LDCs will be seriously affected by climate change. Urgent and decisive action is needed to address the climate change. The international community should provide necessary funds in a predictable manner to meet the adaptation needs of the LDCs.

The importance of the agricultural sector in the economies of the LDCs can not be overstated. Agriculture is critically important for many LDCs. It contributes significantly to their national income, employment and rural development. Regrettably, this sector remains the most underdeveloped due to weak infrastructure, lack of capacity and access to adequate energy and technology. In addition to that, the prices of the agricultural products are generally low and volatile in the international market. Unless these are addressed, a number of LDCs, particularly those are emerging from conflicts, will not be able to achieve the internationally-agreed-upon development goals.

Nevertheless, this sector remains underdeveloped in countries in special situations. Agricultural productivity in the LDCs continues to decline. We need to scale-up investment and provide modern technologies to this sector to enhance agricultural production.

International trade has assumed a central place in the global development process. It’s clear that exports from LDCs are facing increasing challenges. We welcome the offer of duty-free and quota-free market access by some developed and developing countries and invite others to follow similar path. In recent years, South-South trade, often coined as the new geography in trade, has significantly increased. Nevertheless, LDCs, which are marginalized in North-South trade, are also increasingly marginalized in South-South trade.

Trade capacity-building of the LDCs is urgently needed. The Aid for Trade initiative should particularly support the LDCs in addressing their supply-side constraints and erosion of preferences. The accession process of the LDCs, particularly those that are currently in process to the WTO, should be simplified.

We have noted with concern that the special circumstances of the LDCs are not finding adequate reflection in relevant reports of the Secretary General. It is acutely important to analyze the status of progress in the LDCs on a sectoral basis.

Madam Chair,

My delegation attaches great importance to the final review of the Brussels Program of Action, which will begin shortly, and to the outcome of the 4th UN Conference on LDCs. These will further identify obstacles, constraints, challenges and emerging issues that require affirmative actions and initiatives to overcome. Hopefully, the outcome of the Conference will be a new framework for partnership for sustainable development and economic growth of the least developed countries that will assist LDCs to integrate progressively into the world economy.

I thank you Madam Chairperson.