Thursday, October 2, 2014

United Nation’s General Assembly Debate on the Situation in Afghanistan

Statement by H.E. Dr. Zahir Tanin

Permanent Representative of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan to the United Nations

At the General Assembly Debate on the Situation in Afghanistan

Mr. President,

Excellencies,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a great honor for me to address this august assembly on the occasion of the annual resolution on “The Situation in Afghanistan.” I would also like to thank the delegation of Germany for their dedication and work in drafting and negotiating this resolution, as well as convey my gratefulness for the support of all of the co-sponsors to this resolution. Within this resolution, your voices have shown renewed solidarity to a stronger, more peaceful Afghanistan.

Mr. President,

It has been more than seven years that international forces have entered our country. With so much time passed and so much focus on particular complexities, we may sometimes lose sight of the original noble purpose for our work in Afghanistan.

What is this noble purpose? We are in Afghanistan to prevent the malady of terrorism from infesting a nation and the world. We are here to proclaim together: No longer again will the Taliban regime have control of a country and crush the hopes, dreams and lives of their own people. No longer again should Al Qaeda have sanctuaries in Afghanistan and elsewhere to project its extremist terror to kill thousands of innocent people across the world.

We are also here so that the region and the world can enjoy the new wealth and prosperity of a strong Afghanistan that can offer new avenues for economic cooperation and trade routes. We are here so that a strong Afghanistan can serve as an example of a democratic Islamic country that can bridge communities and peoples of all faiths and cultures.

Let us hold this original purpose as the light to the dark challenges that lay before us today.

These challenges are critical. Terrorists commit increasingly brutal acts, killing teachers, aid workers, families. Terrorist activities also have an increasingly strong correlation with crime and narcotics. In addition, the Government of Afghanistan faces serious obstacles in its quest to fight corruption, hold elections, build a strong justice sector and increase economic development. And most importantly, the food shortage threatens more than eight million Afghan lives this upcoming winter, only a few weeks away.

Simultaneously, the world is facing the worst financial and credit crisis since the Second World War. Just as terrorism is a threat with no boundaries, the financial squeeze is affecting us all. While Afghanistan is fighting serious challenges with international ramifications, there is also a tightening of resources. It seems that we must do more, with less.

Mr. President,

To meet this challenge, we need to embark on a smart and sustainable strategy in Afghanistan that can harness our resources most effectively. Such a smart and sustainable strategy will always be guided primarily by the interests of the Afghanistan people and have as its foremost goal the creation of a self-sustaining Afghanistan. Such a strategy will have the following components:

1. Afghan ownership should increase at every level and in every dimension.

The Afghan National Army and National Police must increase in number and in strength for Afghans to protect Afghans. For this end, the Government of Afghanistan has ambitious goals to increase trainings, develop a comprehensive reform strategy, and expand the size of our army to 134, 000 troops by 2010. To meet these goals, we need continued international support.

In addition, the Government of Afghanistan is fighting corruption with the reorganization of its ministries, the work of the Independent Directorate of Local Governance, and the launching of the High Office of Oversight for Anti-Corruption. International support for these government initiatives would allow the government to improve the delivery of national services to Afghan people.

The Government of Afghanistan also aims to increase Afghan ownership of reconstruction and development efforts. While international support is necessary to strengthen our agricultural sector, to create new infrastructure projects and sources of energy, and to find new areas for local economy, we hope that this international support will increasingly be accomplished through the framework provided by our Afghan National Development Strategy.

Furthermore, the upcoming elections are a most important opportunity to increase ownership of Afghanistan by qualified Afghans. Fair, credible and timely elections are essential to strengthening legitimacy and creating a self-sustaining Afghanistan. However, security is the main precondition for holding elections. The Government of Afghanistan hopes for the support of the international community in its efforts to provide this security.

Lastly, the ingredients of a political solution to Afghanistan must involve the Afghan people and their communities. In order for any talks for reconciliation and the peace process to be successful, we must win the confidence of the Afghan people by including them in the process substantively.

2. International involvement should refocus on the overall security of the Afghan people.

The Government of Afghanistan recognizes the necessity of increased international troops to quell the insecurity today. To ensure this increase in international involvement most effectively protects the Afghan people, we should ascertain the following:

First, international troops in Afghanistan should expand its focus. Its goal must go beyond the targeting of the Taliban; its goal should be to protect the comprehensive security of Afghan people. Second, the Government of Afghanistan urges any increase in deployment of troops to be accomplished through further collaboration with the government. Thirdly, international troops need a review of the problem of civilian casualties. Although the Taliban are the reason for a majority of civilian casualties, the international forces for their part can do more to reduce the risk of civilian casualties. To build a self-sustaining Afghanistan, the people must be able to trust their government and its allies to protect their lives and their families.

In addition, the Government of Afghanistan deeply appreciates UNAMA’s efforts to address the human development component of security. Their mandate to deliver aid more effectively is an enormously important one at this time of limited resources. But in order for Kai Eide and UNAMA to meet this task, the financial resources they need to operate effectively must be addressed by member states. In turn, the Government of Afghanistan pledges to continue to work collaboratively with UNAMA.

3. A reemphasis on regional partnerships is necessary.

The challenges Afghanistan faces today are regional challenges. The Taliban and Al-Qaeda, the movement of refugees, and the narcotics trade are trans-border problems. Moreover, regional solutions promise great regional benefits in the areas of security, trade, energy, infrastructure and more positive people-to-people relationships. Thus we should strive together to find regional solutions to our shared challenges.

Our first priority is the relationship Afghanistan shares with our friends in Pakistan. They suffer equal harm at the hands of the Taliban and Al-Qaeda. To fight these terrorists who would kill our people, we must work together to eliminate the sanctuaries for these terrorists. The Government of Afghanistan increasingly recognizes that the only lasting peace is one that is forged together with our allies in the region. Thus, the support of the international community for such regional efforts is essential.

Mr. President,

At this time of great challenges, there is also reason for great hope.

In these seven years, we have taken some significant steps forward. We have built schools, health clinics, roads, and telecommunications infrastructure. We are making progress on human rights and the rule of law. Even as we speak, we are seeing a breakthrough in counter-narcotics efforts.  As we stated in October, the Taliban are fighting a war of perception. Their goal is to persuade the Afghan people that the international community is failing, especially at this time of transition after the US elections. To counter this, we must be equally vigilant in demonstrating our successes to the Afghan people. We know that there are two Afghanistans: one conveyed by news reports broadcasting only the atrocities, the other experienced by millions of Afghans building daily lives in peace. Let us not forget this second Afghanistan: our efforts are not in vain and we are making progress.

Today is also a day of great hope because there is a new beginning in two of Afghanistan’s most important allies. With Pakistan’s new President H.E. Mr. Asif Ali Zardari, we are witnessing the first moves toward collaboration and cooperation that we hope will lead to peace and security. With the United States, we welcome the recent historical elections and look forward to working with the president-elect Mr. Barack Obama. We appreciate the continued support of the United States in Afghanistan.

Mr. President,

Today is a most important day. We have reminded ourselves of our original, noble purpose for our work in Afghanistan. Success in Afghanistan is as vital today as it was seven years ago. And, within the context of a global financial crisis, we have identified the components for a smart and sustainable strategy to harness our resources most effectively.

For our part, the Government of Afghanistan is fully and absolutely dedicated to a stronger Afghanistan. Every international effort that is committed today to fulfilling the objectives of this resolution will be matched by our government’s efforts twicefold. In the upcoming months, let us together have the courage to determinedly and resolutely walk this path forward to a self-sustaining, peaceful, prosperous Afghanistan.

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.