Statement by H.E. Zahir Tanin Ambassador, Permanent Representative of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan to the United Nations
Security Council Open Debate on the Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict
Thank you, Madam President. I am pleased to see you in the Security Council seat as well as President of the Council this month. I would also like to thank you for convening this important debate on the Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict. Thank you also to Ms. Valerie Amos, Under Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs, Mr. Hervé Ladsous, Under Secretary General of the Department of Peacekeeping Operations, Navi Pillay, High Commissioner for Human Rights, and Yves Daccord, Director General of the International Committee of the Red Cross, for their useful briefings today.
Protection of civilians is of paramount importance to the government of Afghanistan. The Afghan people expected to see long-awaited peace when the Taliban regime ended following decades of war, unprecedented destruction and loss of life. Yet despite joint stabilization efforts towards peace and security, the suffering of the Afghan people continues. The security situation remains precarious today, and has in fact escalated in intensity since 2009.
Afghan civilians are targeted with guns and bombs by enemies who measure success in terms of blood spilled and life lost. Women, children, government officials, journalists, religious leaders, and judicial authorities are at risk as they go about their daily lives- shopping at a bazaar, visiting a friend, commuting to work. They are attacked in villages, on public roads, in restaurants, government offices, courthouses, and mosques.
With pure and utter disregard for civilian life, the Taliban’s and other extremist groups’ brutal terrorist campaigns affect ordinary Afghans most profoundly. The Taliban are responsible for the overwhelming majority of civilian casualties in Afghanistan, causing thousands of deaths in 2013 alone, which represents a sharp increase from previous years.
The brutal campaign opened a murderous era in Afghanistan’s history, devastating both in terms of its acute impact on Afghan people and in terms of its savagery. Terrorists’ tactics are a horrific manifestation of man’s inhumanity to man, of which graphic video footage of beheadings posted on Taliban websites, the recent heinous attack on a popular restaurant in Kabul, and the cold-blooded murders and violence against women and children are but a few harrowing examples.
This Council condemned Taliban attacks in the strongest terms 6 times last year, stressing that terrorism in all its forms is criminal and unjustifiable and underscoring the need to bring its perpetrators to justice. It is clear, Madame President, that the Taliban show flagrant disregard for international law as well as the basic tenets and principles of Islam.
We note with deep concern an increase in the indiscriminate use of improvised explosive devices (IED’s) by armed insurgent groups in the past year. IEDs remain the leading cause of civilian deaths and injuries, accounting for 34 percent of all civilian casualties in Afghanistan. To address this menace, a national counter IED strategy was instituted by Presidential Decree in 2012. We are working to strengthen our counter-IED capabilities, and the International Security Assistance Force’s (ISAF’s) related training programs for Afghan National Security Forces are a further important step in minimizing the danger these weapons pose.
Tragically, ground engagements in counter-terrorism and counter-insurgency operations have resulted in the deaths and injuries of civilians. It is unfortunate that Afghans lost their lives during operations by international and national forces that aimed to protect their lives. To this end, the Afghan government has repeatedly called upon international military forces to take all necessary measures to stop Afghan civilian loss of life. In the past years, important steps were taken in this regard.
With Afghan forces now at the forefront of protecting the Afghan people from terrorist attacks, we see situations in which civilians are caught in the crossfire of ground engagements with the enemy. One life lost is one life too many, and with this sentiment in mind Afghan forces are strongly committed to the protection of civilians. Stabilization efforts are guided by their sense of responsibility, sobriety, and duty to their fellow Afghans.
It is clear that the surest way to protect the lives, honor and dignity of citizens is to end the cycle of violence that harms innocent civilians. In this regard, achieving peace and security in Afghanistan requires the following three key components: First international assistance throughout the next decade to support Afghan capacity to counter terrorist campaigns against Afghan people. Second, the elimination of terrorist sanctuaries that fuel the cycle of violence. Third, vigorous pursuit of our Afghan-led peace and reconciliation process, intended to engage those ready to renounce violence and contribute responsibly to their homeland. Effective regional and international cooperation is key to the successful outcome of the process.
Thank you, Madame President.