Saturday, August 30, 2014

Dealing with Crises in Afghanistan and Pakistan

Statement of H.E. Dr. Zahir Tanin
Ambassador and Permanent Representative of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan to the United Nations
Panel Discussion – Dealing with Crises in Afghanistan and Pakistan
Political and Diplomatic Perspectives
26th International Workshop on Global Security
Istanbul, Turkey
June 27, 2009

Thank you. It is an honor to have the opportunity to speak to you today.

This is a key time for the world in Afghanistan and the region. In the last few months, international attention has refocused. New US leadership has promised more troops and a civilian surge. In a few short weeks, Afghans will go to the polls and choose our next leaders. Despite the continuing security and political challenges, this new focus has already generated several steps in the right direction: a civilian surge, attention on sub-national governance, a new international alignment with Afghan priorities.

The stakes for success in Afghanistan are high. This is NATO’s first peacekeeping mission outside Europe in its 60 year history. Some have suggested that Afghanistan will represent a definitive measure of NATO’s ongoing transformation and resolve and a true test for NATO’s future. In addition, a failure of international engagement would be a serious triumph for terrorism. As the world saw eight years ago, an unstable Afghan state can foster terrorists. Conversely, a successful Afghan state offers security for its neighbors and allies and can act as an economic hub and land bridge.

The time is right. The stakes are high. So today our discussion about how to achieve success in Afghanistan is crucial.

I have been asked to speak about the political and diplomatic perspectives on a strategy for success. In an audience of mostly defense specialists and representatives, my goal today is to lay out the correct civilian and political strategy to complement our military understanding.

At a time of economic uncertainty, a civilian strategy and military strategy need to be complementary. The US has recognized this, as President Obama stated, “It is far cheaper to train a policeman to secure their village or to help a farmer seed a crop than it is to send [US] troops to fight tour after tour of duty.” We also understand that no victory in Afghanistan can be purely military. Only a comprehensive political-military solution is sustainable and lasting.

My recommendations for a comprehensive political-military strategy would improve the understanding of the situation in Afghanistan in order to improve our actions in Afghanistan.

We need to cultivate two understandings: one, an understanding that rejects defeatist assumptions about the politics of Afghanistan and two, an understanding that better identifies the enemy so that we can defeat it.

Far too often, I am asked about the “likelihood,” or the “possibility,” of building a successful state and political culture in Afghanistan. To understand my country’s history is to recognize there is no question about a possibility-there is only the actuality of a stable, democratic state in our country’s history.

The modernization of our country did not begin in 2001-it began in the early 1900s. In 1923, our first constitution enforced such laws as compulsory elementary education. In the 1960s, women voted and served in political offices alongside men. There was freedom of movement and security of property. The state enforced a legitimate control that extended throughout the country before external powers interfered and violence unsettled our progress. In short, there has been a central state in Afghanistan; there can be again.

The Taliban also seeks to persuade the world, and Afghans themselves, that their movement is only “returning” Afghanistan to its traditional morality. But their barbarity does not represent any Afghan tradition. The Taliban is exactly the opposite-they are an anti-tradition, an anti-culture. They are a product of war and destruction, capable of producing only further destruction.

So we must ensure that our comprehensive political-military strategy is not stymied by wrong assumptions. A better political understanding of Afghan culture and history opens up new belief in our opportunity for success. Similarly, a better political understanding of the enemy opens up new possibility for their defeat. This enemy is comprised of Al-Qaeda, the Taliban, and their international terrorist allies, as well as the destabilizing internal networks of corruption and warlordism.

In the last eight years, Al Qaeda and the Taliban have been able to strengthen and regroup. In 2001, they were not included in the Bonn political process, nor did the international community send enough troops to eliminate them. After their initial defeat, flagging international attention ignored the sanctuaries and sources of their external support. The combination of all these factors was a deadly recipe for terrorism’s strengthening and re-emergence. Recent developments in the region indicate that terrorism continues to find leadership and guidance from outside Afghanistan.

Beyond the Taliban, a network of corruption and warlordsim threatens our Afghan state from within. Since 2001, old warlords have been able to gain new power by linking themselves to the aims of the international community. Yesterday’s warlords with guns have become today’s warlords of position and money. The international community has continued to ignore the extra-legal operations of these power-holders, contributing to a deepening nexus between warlordism, drugs and sometime the criminalization of politics. This internal weakness denies the Afghan people’s desire for justice and destabilizes the democratic process in Afghanistan. International efforts in Afghanistan should instead focus on supporting the moderate forces for progress. Moderate elements are a more stable foundation for our state.

Today we must also translate this better understanding into better action. Better action prioritizes security, strengthens governance and emphasizes regional cooperation.

First, the right strategy stems the insecurity to create space for governance. Where there is no minimum security, governance will be impossible. Thus, international forces can help our government in creating a human security corridor where we can move beyond only fighting the Taliban to delivering an effective system of justice, health care, education and safety of movement for Afghans.

We must establish this minimum security environment immediately. But for long-term success, troops should move towards establishing a more permanent security by eliminating the sanctuaries that provide long-term support to the insurgency. In addition, politically, we should work to weaken the Taliban and their extremist allies by separating out those elements that are willing to support a strong, stable, democratic Afghanistan and including them in the political process.

Second, the right strategy strengthens governance. Interlinked with fighting the Taliban is establishing Afghan government institutions, including effective Afghan national security forces.

At this time of economic constraints, quality of strategy is more important than quantity of resources. International support should be accomplished through a strategy that maximizes the impact of every international effort. This best quality strategy is coordinated, continuous and accountable.

There has been a recent improvement in the coordination of international efforts, but we must continue to be focused. Military efforts are still visualized through a province-by-province, instead of the national, perspective. Civilian and development work are often conducted by piecemeal non-state organizations outside of the Afghan government. Many of the foreign experts also do not stay long enough to complete their projects.

This does not have to be the case. Last year’s Paris Donor Conference recognized that international engagement should be coordinated around the pillars of the Afghan National Development Strategy.

In addition, how we spend the money must be clear and accountable. The Ministry of Finance has recently revived our donor database. International aid should be channeled through this database so that we can measure how well funds have been used. Private contractors must also be accountable.

Today the most visible test for strengthened governance is in the upcoming elections-a crucial moment for democratic progress in Afghanistan. We are happy to see full international and Afghan commitment to fair, free and transparent elections with a level playing field for all candidates. It is important to keep the right expectations: a successful election does not deliver a quick-fix solution to all challenges. Instead, our goal is to strengthen a continuing democratic process that is fully and completely Afghan-owned.

Third, the right strategy requires sustained regional cooperation.
The region has the most to lose-and the most to win-from Afghanistan. Increased bilateral, trilateral and multilateral processes can reduce negative perceptions and increase positive, productive action. Together with Pakistan, Afghanistan has recognized that we face a joint threat of terrorism. We are coordinating our efforts to defeat this threat. We also look towards NATO and the US to support us in eliminating sanctuaries for terrorism in the region.

Beyond Pakistan, Afghanistan looks to bilaterally work with Iran, India, Central Asia, Russia and China on issues of security, border, trade and drugs. For the first time in a long time, many countries in our region understand the possibility in honest cooperation. The Uzbekistan energy supply and the Russian Federation’s facilitating of the NATO supply line are two important examples. In addition, trilateral processes with the US, Pakistan, Turkey and Iran are becoming important ways to forward talks for cooperation. Multilaterally, Afghanistan is committed to participation in ECO, SAARC and the contact group of SCO.

The focus on Afghanistan and renewed work through bilateral, trilateral and multilateral processes ultimately strengthen the frameworks in which they are conducted. And with stronger regional frameworks and organizations, we are better equipped to face the future. Afghanistan’s present challenges may very well be the catalyst to a stronger, more peaceful region for decades into the future.

Today there is refocused international attention on Afghanistan and a genuine momentum forward in the right direction. We must seize the moment to cement our progress in an improved political-military strategy. This strategy increases understanding of Afghan culture and of the enemy to prioritize security, strengthen governance, and emphasize the region. Success in Afghanistan will mean opportunities realized: a state rich in minerals, energy and agricultural potential; a state located strategically to serve as a land bridge between Europe, Central Asia, South Asia and China. Afghans hope to become active and productive players in global progress.

Thank you.

“Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict”

Statement of H.E. Dr. Zahir Tanin,  Ambassador and Permanent Representative of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan to the UN

Delivered by: Mr. Mohammad Erfani Ayoob, Minister Counselor, Charge d’ affairs, a.i.
At the Security Council debate under agenda item

“Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict”

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Mr. President,

I would like to begin by congratulating you for your assumption to the Presidency of this Council, and thanking you for holding this meeting today, which is highly important for my delegation . I would also like to thank Under Secretary-General Mr. John Holmes for his typically concise and insightful presentation . And finally, I would thank His Excellency the Secretary-General for a thoughtful and comprehensive report and its annex on constraints on humanitarian access . The United Nations has brought serious attention to the plight of suffering civilians caught in the crossfire and established a comprehensive framework in the Security Council to deal with protection of civilians during the arm conflict . However , with the recent trend towards asymmetric conflicts , and the tendency of non-state actors to use civilians as human shields or worse , this work is even more essential.

Mr. President,

The Government of Afghanistan with the assistance of our friends in the International Community, making a good progress to provide Afghans the opportunity for a better life, while the enemies of Afghanistan are continuing to bring more suffering to the civilians of this war stricken nation. As numerous UN reports have detailed , the Taliban and their local and international allies show an increasingly blatant disregard for human life in Afghanistan .They rely increasingly on the use of improvised explosive devices detonated in high-density civilian areas, which cause indiscriminate damage and loss of life , and affect predominantly women and children. The Taliban have stepped up their use of assassinations, school attacks, kidnappings, and threats targeted against those accused of “cooperating” with the government or the international community . They continue to use civilians as human shields, milking accidental tragedy for their propaganda.

Mr. President,

The Taliban have two simple aims ; first, they want to terrify our citizens and convince them they are helpless and cannot trust the international community or their government to protect them; and secondly, they seek to divide the Afghans and the international community, weakening us both. We cannot and shall not let them succeed in either of these goals.

Mr. President,

Unfortunately , in the course of our fight against terrorism, some time civilians have become victims, however unintentionally, of our actions as well . Every civilian death hurts our cause. Each death undermines the faith of the people in their government, and weakens our most valuable asset in the rebuilding of Afghanistan : the Afghans themselves . The Afghan people rightly expect that efforts to fight terrorism would be part of a larger counterterrorism effort rather than vice versa. Their security , should be central. The best hope for the Afghan people is the continuing support of the international community, and Afghans are more aware of this than anyone . We all understand the necessity of defeating the brutally violent and dark minded elements who wage war on peace, stability and prosperity in our region and in the world. Our allies have sent their sons and daughters to fight on foreign land, and Afghanistan is profoundly grateful for this . Without the assistance of international community and their military presence, our people would not have escaped the repression and brutality of the Taliban era and would not, now, have a better future in sight.

Mr. President

The safety of each person and the prevention of death of innocent civilians are critically important for us , and the Government of Afghanistan has raised this issue so repeatedly with our friends and allies. Afghans should be made to feel that their security ,safety and integrity are the centerpiece of our fight .We welcome the recent reviews on this issue, and applaud decisions by the US and NATO to improve rules of engagement in populated areas, minimize the use of air bombardment, and make human security a priority in our strategy . In addition to this Mr. President , it is fundamentally important that the international community should focus and do more on the professional training and better equipping of our growing Afghan National Army and Police forces, so that the Government of Afghanistan should take more and eventually all responsibility for the protection of its citizens. The main goal of Afghan Government and our allies to fight terrorism is to bring a better future for Afghan people . Therefore , while fighting their enemies, we must take every measure to protect them and make sure that they do not become victims of that conflict , and have the opportunity to build their lives in safety and dignity .
Thank you, Mr. President.

UNICEF Draft Country Programme for Afghanistan

Statement of H.E. Mr. Zahir Tanin
Permanent Representative of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan to the United Nations
At the Executive Board meeting of UNICEF
On the UNICEF Draft Country Programme for Afghanistan

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Mr. President,

At the outset allow me to congratulate you on the leadership you have shown in the work of the Executive Board. I also wish to express my appreciation to Ms. Anne Venneman for her comprehensive presentation on Monday of progress and achievements set against the medium-term strategic plan. Finally I would like to thank Mr. Toole for his presentation of the new Afghanistan Draft Country Programme.

UNICEF has shown an admirable dedication to its work in Afghanistan. UNICEF has long been a primary partner of the Government of Afghanistan in ensuring progress of all MDGs relating to children, especially important to our country because 68% of the Afghan population is under 25. We continue to value our partnership with UNICEF as we fight together to provide Afghan children with better lives.
Mr. President,
The Government of Afghanistan welcomes the new draft country programme. We believe that it outlines an effective framework for partnership between the Government of Afghanistan and UNICEF in terms of aligning policies and funding with the priorities identified in our National Development Strategy. Its budgeting is well-balanced and correctly identifies priority areas. We particularly value UNICEF’s focus on integrated early childhood development, girls’ education, child education in general, and emergency preparedness and response.
Mr. President,
Our priorities are tested by recent challenges: a deterioration of the security situation, the humanitarian and food crises, and increasing poverty. The Taliban disproportionately harms the most vulnerable, particularly women and children. The insecurity they cause also impedes the achievements of MDGs 2 and 3, and obstructs access to basic services such as safe water, healthcare and education. Mother and child mortality in Afghanistan remain among the highest in the world.
With respect to education, as of September 2008, around 640 schools around the country are closed, including 58% of the schools in Kandahar province, and all of the girls’ schools in parts of Farah province. In the 10 months between May 2007 and June 2008, 161 teachers and students were killed, 57 through suicide bomb attacks, and 112 schools were burned. In the winter of 2008, security deteriorated even further, and in January 2009 there was a 75% increase in the number of incidents compared to a year earlier. Deliberate attacks against female students and teachers are typically particularly barbaric, including the acid attacks last fall, and the recently alleged attacks by poison gas.
Despite these challenges, Afghans still believe that education provides the best hope for a different future. From 2002 to today we have seen an increase in the number of children in school from 1.78mil in 2002 to 6.14mil in 2008, of which 2.19mil are girls. Still, only half of school-age children are enrolled in school, and there is great disparity in enrollment between urban and rural children. Thus we commend UNICEF’s approach in focusing on community-based schools that increase access to education. We also encourage the donor community to continue building schools and, particularly, training teachers, in support of the Afghanistan National Education Plan. Since only 15.5% of women in Afghanistan are literate, it is particularly essential to train female teachers, and to raise an awareness and advocacy program for local community and religious leaders to stress the importance of educating women.
Mr. President,
In addition to education, we must strengthen the state of Afghanistan to protect our children from the Taliban, who have been identified as a group that recruits children for practices such as suicide attacks. Cooperation between UNICEF and the monitoring and reporting mechanism for children and armed conflict could ensure wider access to information regarding child recruitment. Our government is also currently preparing its first progress report on the Convention on the Rights of Children. Child labor is a particularly difficult issue in Afghanistan, where poverty and social pressure can push children to leave school into exploitive work. Our Parliament is currently discussing the ratification of Convention 182 on elimination of the most serious forms of child labor. In addition, we are revising the juvenile code. UNICEF can provide valuable assistance to our Government in all this work.
Finally, Mr. President,
The situation in Afghanistan and the region is more and more precarious. Violence in our region threatens to push more refugees into our country. UNICEF will be crucial to providing these people with urgently needed assistance. To coherently adapt to the changes of the situation, we will need coordination between the members of the UN family, the donor community, and the government of Afghanistan as we work towards improving the lives of children in Afghanistan.
I thank you.