Friday, October 9, 2015

The Situation in Afghanistan

Statement of H.E. Dr. Zahir Tanin

 Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Afghanistan  to the United Nations

 At the United Nations Security Council debate on

The Situation in Afghanistan

Check Against Delivery

 Mr. President,

Allow me to begin by congratulating you on your assumption of this month’s Presidency of the Council. I would like to express a warm welcome to our good friend, Special Representative Jan Kubiš, who spoke for the first time in the Security Council today. In a short period of time, the SRSG has gained much confidence and admiration of the Afghan people, and we look forward to continuing our close cooperation. I also take the opportunity to thank H.E. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon for his comprehensive report on Afghanistan.

Mr. President,

We meet today at a critical juncture in Afghanistan’s history. It is a time in which the culmination of the efforts of my country and the nations involved in the stabilization process in the last ten years has reached a moment of truth. Today’s debate falls within a line-up of important events that will shape the contours of the international community’s work during the transition and beyond: from the Bonn conference in December, to the Tokyo Ministerial Conference this July. After a decade, we are also looking today into a new framework of the UN’s mandate and work in a situation characterized by transition, followed by the transformation decade.

Mr. President,

The transition process, which started with the transfer of responsibilities to Afghan security forces a year ago, is continuing apace. With the second tranche completed, we are nearing the launch of the third phase of transition, at the conclusion of which, the majority of Afghan territory will come under full Afghan security control. By end of transition by 2014, Afghanistan will assume full responsibility of security as well as the ownership and leadership of governance and development. A shift of paradigm is underway, the aim is sovereignty – empowering Afghanistan to take charge of its own destiny and turning the direct military and civilian function of the international community into a support and enabling role.

A successful transition, Mr. President, requires renewed parameters of partnership between Afghanistan and the international community, with the guaranteed commitment of the continuation of military, political and financial support during the transition and the decade of transformation from 2015 – 2024. This is what we, Afghanistan and the international community, set out to do last December in Bonn. This commitment will be supported concretely in July in Tokyo.

Mr. President,

At this stage, we hope the assistance of the international community as manifested in the commitments of the Kabul conference in 2010 and Bonn in 2011, will help to meet the requisite needs of our security forces. This is crucial for the building-up, training and equipping of our national security forces, who have proven themselves in recent weeks to be increasingly capable in protecting their fellow Afghans. Furthermore, the transition dividend, channeled into Afghanistan’s political stability, economic growth and social advancement, will have a direct effect on fostering sustainable peace in the country, and bring about real change in the lives of people.

In the long term, what matters is the establishment and strengthening of enduring strategic partnerships that will provide us with a solid base of mutual cooperation. Thus far, we have already signed and are negotiating long-term, strategic partnerships with our international partners, including those in the region. In this connection, Afghanistan and the United States are working to finalize all parts of the strategic partnership agreement, which will ensure our combined commitment to the future of a peaceful, stable Afghanistan. On 9 March we signed a memorandum of understanding with the US on the handover of control of the Parwan detention facility to the Afghan Government and we are working to finalize another memorandum relating to special operations in the very near future.

Mr. President,

An effective transition is also contingent upon the successful outcome of an Afghan-led peace and reconciliation, outreach and reintegration process. The dynamics of the peace talks shifted with the announcement of the opening of the Taliban office in Qatar, which we believe will provide fresh impetus to our peace efforts. We welcome recent measures taken by the 1988 Committee of the Security Council, which have enhanced confidence building, and will help expedite our reconciliation efforts.

On a national level, outreach and reintegration efforts remain essential to bringing back members of the armed opposition to mainstream society. Nearly 3,500 anti-government elements are enrolled in the Afghanistan Peace and Reintegration Program (APRP), and in the coming months, we expect to see many more, joining the program and returning to normal life.

At the same time, we will continue to work with all relevant regional and international partners to move the peace process forward, including the UN, the US, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Pakistan. We are pleased that the peace process has garnered the support it needs from all countries in the region. Our desire for multi-faceted cooperation is embodied through the Istanbul Process that began in November 2011. It is a visionary step forward to achieving a benevolent regional order, characterized by cooperation, collaboration and shared goals. We look forward to furthering our progress at the follow-up to the Istanbul Process this June in Kabul.

Mr. President,

For the success of transition we must redouble our efforts toward a more effective, accountable, transparent Government that is ready to deliver services and safeguard national interests as set out in the Kabul Process. Afghanistan continues its fight to strengthen good governance, end corruption, promote human rights including gender equality, combat illegal narcotics and foster greater economic opportunities.

For Afghans, Mr. President, a successful transition is the key for peace and stability. We are well aware of the challenges, but the bitter memories of war and conflict only further our determination to work together to secure a peaceful future. However, our confidence needs to be deepened by real cooperation, trust, and mutual respect between Afghanistan and the international community. The recent incidents such as the brutal killing of 16 innocent civilians, mostly children and women, in the Panjwayi district of Kandahar province, the burning of the Holy Quran north of Kabul, and similar atrocities could undermine our trust and cooperation, by inciting deep sorrow, anger and frustration among Afghan people. It is imperative that these incidents are ended immediately and the perpetrators be held accountable.

Mr. President,

The UN over the last ten years has been in the forefront of helping the Afghan people. The UN has supported the efforts of the Afghan Government for building a more peaceful future for the country. While Afghanistan continues transition, it will still largely benefit from the support of the UN. We are thankful to the Secretary-General for the comprehensive review of UNAMA’s mandated activities and the UN’s support in Afghanistan and for the work of the review team. The Afghan Government fully agrees with the report of the Secretary-General’s findings that UNAMA should use its good offices to continue to support Afghan-led political processes and capacity building for Afghan institutions. We appreciate the report’s emphasis on the UN’s work for human rights of all Afghans; and we share the report’s assertion that aid coherence in support of Afghanistan’s development agenda is crucial.

We are satisfied with the work of the comprehensive review. And, of course, plenty of work for us all lies on the road ahead. The size and configuration of UN presence is to be considered in the coming months as well as the application of a One-UN approach for streamlining UN activities, based on the evolving realities on the ground and needs of transition. The Government of Afghanistan is looking forward to close cooperation in this regard.

A long-term, strategic view into the renewed posture of the UN in Afghanistan will be needed to answer some of the bigger questions about the organization’s political role, the necessary steps towards reinforcing integration and delivery as one, and questions about bringing more transparency and accountability in managing resources and coordination of aid during the transition and transformation decade. I am confident that with our strong, ongoing partnership, Afghanistan and the UN are well-equipped to address all future challenges.

Mr. President,

In the last ten years, Afghanistan and the international community were together in fighting terrorism and working to bring stability and peace to the country. This fight is not yet finished.  We still have a long way to go, and we continue to struggle to normalize the situation in the country. This is the aim of transition. But the transition we agreed upon must be a responsible, unhurried, and coordinated process. Afghanistan and its people count on both the conscience and commitment of the international community to remain steadfast to the countless and long reiterated assurances for a stable, democratic, and prosperous Afghanistan.



H.E. Zahir Tanin

H.E. Mr. Zahir Tanin, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Afghanistan to the United Nations, and Vice President of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People. at the UN Seminar on Assistance to the Palestinian People in Cairo.

Remarks by H.E. Dr. Zahir Tanin Ambassador and Permanent Representative of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan at Ataturk Symposium


Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen, and friends,

It is my honour to be here as a part of this symposium, celebrating Mustafa Kemal Atatürk. I would like to thank my respected friend Ambassador Apakan and the Turkish Mission for their coordination of  the Third Annual Atatürk Symposium to remind us of the legacy of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk and reflect on his long-lasting impact. I am pleased to join my esteemed UN colleagues, Ambassador Gary Quinlan of Australia and their close neighbours Ambassador Jim McLay of New Zealand to make opening remarks for our knowledgeable speakers, Professors Ludwig and McCarthy and Dr. Bay.

I have a particular reason for being here. For us in Afghanistan, our journey toward modernisation in the early 20th century is closely linked with that of Turkey, and to the ideas and aspirations of the Young Turks and Kemal Atatürk.

With the gradual crumbling of the Ottoman Empire on the eve of the First World War, the Young Turks emerged as a major force within the empire. They profoundly influenced the thoughts of nationalist and modernist forces throughout the Muslim world. In Afghanistan, a progressive elite felt a close ideological kinship with the Young Turks, with particular influential elements in the Afghan ruling class seeing Turkey as a source of inspiration. Among them was Mahmud Tarzi, father-in-law of Afghanistan’s next king, who had lived in the Ottoman Empire – in Syria – for a long time,  and was known as the founder of modern nationalist ideology in Afghanistan. It was mainly through him that the influence of the Young Turks’ and later, Kemal Atatürk’s thinking came.

In 1919, the new King,  Amanullah Khan, ascended to the throne of Afghanistan. Influenced by the widely felt progressive aspirations of the time, mainly through Mahmud Tarzi and other members of a political movement of the time, the ‘Young Afghans’, he was a modernist, nationalist king, deeply committed to progress and change . The new King engaged in a historic struggle and managed to lead Afghanistan to full independence from Britain at the start of his reign. With Afghanistan’s independence, King Amanullah devoted himself to securing Afghanistan’s future. Like Kemal Atatürk, the King saw modernisation as the way forward, and to him this meant westernisation.

However, King Amanullah’s success in achieving independence made him a hero and rallying point for anti-colonial, nationalist and pan-Islamic movements across the Muslim world, particularly in Central Asia and the Indian subcontinent. But with Soviet Russia to the north and British India to the south, Afghanistan’s geopolitical situation required a delicate balance. For the king to become a symbol of pan-Islamism would threaten this balance of powers, and it took a while to distance himself from championing the pan-Islamic cause and focus instead on reforms.

King Amanullah’s reforms were broad. He ended slavery, established the first Afghan constitution, penal code and many important modern institutions aimed at building a society based on the rule of law. He embarked on a major education agenda, founding modern western-style schools and sending dozens of Afghan students abroad throughout Europe. He emphasised women’s rights, saying that “the keystone of the future structure of new Afghanistan will be the emancipation of women”; to this end he established the first family code. Queen Soraya was the first First Lady in our part of the world that appeared in public without a veil or “limited” veil. He particularly emphasised girls’ education, constructing girls’ schools and sending girls to France, Switzerland, and Turkey. King Amanullah began to modernise the basic health systems, communications infrastructure, as well as the Afghan army. Telephones, telegraphs, a postal service, numerous print media, radio broadcasting, the metric system, cars and airplanes were first introduced in Afghanistan at that time. Besides these substantive changes, under King Amanullah Afghanistan began to modernise socially and culturally as well. Some symbolic changes such as mandatory use of European clothing for public workers and other measures sent shockwaves through the country and the region.  The many photographs of Afghans in western attire from the period are testament to the transformation that Afghanistan’s culture was undergoing.

King Amanullah turned to other nations for support with his reform efforts –Soviet Russia, France, Germany, Italy, the USA, Japan, and even Britain – but more than anywhere else, he turned to the fledgling Republic of Turkey. Afghanistan became only the second country in the world to recognise the new Republic, with the 1921 Turkey-Afghanistan Alliance Agreement, signed in Moscow, even as Turkey was fighting to establish its independence. The Agreement reflected the full mutual trust that Turkey and Afghanistan shared, going so far as to give each a voice in the other’s foreign policy, pledging not to enter into agreements with third parties without each others’ consent.

The Agreement ushered in a period of very close cooperation, as Turkey became integral to Afghanistan’s development and modernisation efforts. The Turks sent educational and military missions to Afghanistan. Turkey’s future Chief of General Staff, Kâzim Pasha, helped train the Afghan army and its officers. Turkey helped build the civil service by sponsoring the first administrative school; got involved in Afghan girls’ education and women’s rights; and later set up the medical training program that became the nucleus of the future Kabul University. Turkey was also instrumental in the drafting of our first Constitution and laws in the 1920s.

King Amanullah understandably saw Turkish involvement in Afghanistan as the key to progress, a manifestation of our shared aspirations for modernisation and to end backwardness. And in many ways, the King’s modernisation project paralleled that of Kemal Atatürk. But Amanullah’s programme was not a non-religious one, and broke from the western secular-modernist model by maintaining a connection between religion, state and law.

The debate between secular-modernism and the religious element is highly pertinent to today’s world. The Al-Qaeda sort of religious extremists denounce the nation-state as un-Islamic and a “blasphemous idol”, though the mainstream view in most Islamic countries is that secular-modernist reform is not inherently anti-Islamic or even non-religious. Rather, the key to modernisation is simply modernity and modern values, as both King Amanullah’s and Kemal Atatürk’s reforms show – values such as freedom, rule of law, progress, prosperity and human rights.

Where Atatürk’s modern state survived, however, Amanullah’s failed. When the King met Mustafa Kemal in Turkey in 1927, forming a strong personal connection, Atatürk is said to have advised him to always maintain the strong support of an army with which to resist counter-pressure from conservative forces. But the failure of the King’s reforms was not due to the lack of a strong army or strong support from the army, or any anti-religious character of his reforms as claimed by his enemies. Rather, where Turkey could tap the uniting power of Turkic nationalism for the new Republic, Afghanistan was disadvantaged by a powerful and divisive tribal and religious elite opposing the reforms. But most importantly, Afghanistan’s strategic location often made it a pawn in the game of international geopolitics, which has sadly undermined many of our past attempts to modernise, from King Amanullah’s to the end of the Cold War.

Now we are engaged in a new attempt at modernisation. Yesterday’s Bonn Conference, ten years after the fall of the Taliban, marked a historic milestone for my country, the largest international gathering on Afghanistan in history, where the international community pledged its continued support for another decade after the end of transition in 2015. In this international support, Turkey’s role is crucial, and now as in Atatürk’s day they have proven themselves a steadfast ally. Just last month Turkey generously hosted the Istanbul Conference on regional security and cooperation, and established the Istanbul Process. Turkey has also been fully supportive of us as we reclaim our historic role as an economic and cultural hub in the ‘Heart of Asia’.

Mustafa Kemal Atatürk is often remembered as a great leader, revolutionary and moderniser. But we in Afghanistan also remember him as a true friend to our nation, and in this regard his legacy lives on. Today, as we did ninety years ago, Afghanistan can count on the leaders and people of Turkey for inspiration, support and friendship, for which we are deeply honoured and grateful.

I thank you.


Slide Show by Permanent Mission of Afghanistan to the United Nations

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