Sunday, December 21, 2014

Statement by His Excellency Hamid Karzai President of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan Istanbul Conference for Afghanistan:Security & Cooperation at the Heart of Asia

Istanbul

2 November 2011

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

Excellency President Abdullah Gul,

Excellencies Foreign Ministers,

Distinguished guests,

Thank you my brother, President Abdullah Gul, for hosting this conference and, as always, for the legendary hospitality provided to us here in Istanbul. This great city is not just the cradle of many civilisations, but also today a venue of unparalleled quality for promoting international cooperation.

As we meet, the effect of last week’s earthquake in the city of Van and the tragic loss of life it inflicted is on our minds. I take this

opportunity to express, once again, my heartfelt condolences to you, Mr President, and to my brothers and sisters in Turkey for the unfortunate losses.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Today, together with common friends and supporters from outside this region, we gather for the first time in a unique format – the Heart of Asia – which assembles all the major countries of the wider region surrounding Afghanistan, from China to Turkey, from Russia to India, and others in between. Indeed, apart from being yet another example of Turkey’s much valued leadership in strengthening regional cooperation, today’s meeting is also a significant milestone in Afghanistan’s long quest for regional harmony and cooperation.

The region has always been a crucial factor in Afghanistan’s vision for building a stable, prosperous and democratic future. Ten years ago, with help from the international community, we undertook to rebuild Afghanistan from the ruins of war, and laid the foundations of a free, pluralistic and democratic society – a society that is ruled by law and underpinned by just and enduring institutions. In this effort, we have achieved enormous progress, which is greater by comparison than any other period in our country’s history. Nonetheless, the most fervent desire of the Afghan people – which is to live in peace and security – has not yet been achieved.

Terrorist networks, by far the biggest threat to our security, continue to enjoy sanctuaries outside our borders from where they conduct their merciless campaign of bloodshed and destruction. Therefore, until we see a more concerted effort across the region to confront terrorism, particularly with a view to addressing the source and roots of the scourge, peace in Afghanistan will remain illusive.

Ladies and gentlemen,

2011 is a crucial year for Afghanistan as we expect to turn the corner on some of our greatest national priorities, including the Peace Process and the Transition of security responsibilities from the international forces to Afghan authority.

The Peace Process, until recently led by Professor Burhanuddin Rabbani, who is tragically no longer among us, has been a sincere effort, underpinned by our commitment to make the political process in the country more inclusive. As such, all Taliban and other militant leaders can join the Peace Process provided that they give up violence, break ties with Al Qaida, and return to peaceful lives under the Afghan Constitution. However, as recent setbacks have indicated, the Peace Process will not succeed unless we are able to get the top leadership of the Taliban, based in Pakistan, to join it.

Our hope is that, with help from our brothers in Pakistan, we will manage to wean away the Taliban leadership from some of the long-established networks of support they enjoy outside Afghanistan and integrate them into the Peace Process.

Another crucial national priority set in motion this year is the Transition Process, which will see the complete transfer of security responsibility from international forces to Afghans by the end of 2014. The first phase of Transition took place in July, and I expect to announce the second phase in the near future. With the implementation of the second phase, nearly fifty percent of Afghanistan’s population will come under the security umbrella provided by Afghanistan’s own national security institutions. Once completed, Transition will signify the achievement of the most important strategic goal shared by Afghans and our international partners, namely the emergence of a sovereign Afghanistan that is self-reliant, and is the peaceful home for all Afghans.

Transition, of course, is not limited to security. For Afghanistan to become truly self-reliant we will need a comprehensive economic transition, which will take a much longer time than the transition of security. Economic transition will require the continuation of the steadfast support of our international partners far beyond 2014.

In this context, we in Afghanistan look forward to a major international conference on Afghanistan, to be held in Bonn, Germany, next month. Marking the 10th anniversary of the Bonn Process of 2001, the Conference will be an opportunity to take stock of the major achievements that Afghanistan has realised over the past decade in partnership with the international community.

At the Bonn Conference, we will share our vision for the next ten years – it will be a vision of consolidating Afghanistan as a stable and democratic country with a prospering economy. And we will seek a commitment from our friends in the international community to continue to support us as we work towards that vision. We will call for a new paradigm of cooperation between Afghanistan and the international community – one that recognizes the sovereignty of Afghanistan and the centrality of the Afghan state as paramount.

Ladies and gentlemen,

With a view to the future, Afghanistan seeks to build greater confidence and stronger ties with the region.

True to our belief that Afghanistan can only develop and remain stable in a regional environment that is conducive to stability and growth, we will work to foster constructive engagement across the region and play our role in regional economic integration.

Last month, Afghanistan signed an agreement on strategic partnership with the Republic of India. This truly historic agreement will take the age-old relationship between the two countries to an even higher level in the interest of both nations as well as the region. The time-tested friendship and solidarity between Afghanistan and the Republic of Turkey is another source of confidence and support for my country. Indeed, our ever deepening friendship with India and Turkey is a model for how we seek to shape our future relationship with some of our key regional partners that are not only tied to us by cultural and historical bonds but are also extending an enormously constructive hand to the Afghan people today.

Pakistan and Iran are our two immediate neighbours with whom we have very deep cultural and demographic affinities. Both nations have hosted millions of Afghan refugees in their midst for over three decades – an act of generosity and benevolence we Afghans will never forget. Over the past ten years, our country’s relations with the Islamic Republic of Iran have deepened and expanded for which I am grateful to the Iranian leadership.

Our relationship with Pakistan too has evolved considerably and enormously. I have often called Pakistan and Afghanistan as conjoined twins. The mutual dependence of both countries in terms of security, as well as social and economic development, bears out this analogy. Yesterday, thanks to President Gul’s hospitality, I had fruitful discussions with my brother President Asif Ali Zardari about the vital importance of the profoundly close relations that Afghanistan and Pakistan need to have.

We are also looking to China and Russia as two major countries of the region and as major partners in the stability and development of Afghanistan as well as the whole region. China and Russia, as well as India and Turkey, have enormous sway at the global level and, as such, can be very influential in shaping a peaceful, friendly and economically prospering region. In addition, our relations with our immediate and near neighbours to the north – Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan – have grown strongly in the last few years where the potential for further expansion, in the interest of the region as a whole, is even greater.

We in Afghanistan attach great importance to the Middle East and are proud of our relations, in particular, with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt – three countries that are represented here today.

Our relations with the Middle East are not just anchored in religious and historical affinities, but also in our gratitude for the solidarity these countries have shown to Afghanistan over the years. In particular, I wish to recognize the personal commitment of Khadem ul Haramein Al Sharifein, His Majesty King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, to Afghanistan’s search for peace and security. I wish to reiterate the desire of the Afghan people to have His Majesty’s continued and much appreciated guidance and support.

I wish to emphasize that our regional vision, and our keen interest in deepening our relationship with regional partners, is in no way contradictory to our enduring partnerships with countries outside the region. We attach enormous importance to the Strategic Partnership we are currently negotiating with the United States and other partners, including the UK and the European Union, which we hope will guarantee Afghanistan’s security and stability, as well as assist our future economic development. Let me be very clear on this point: neither our Strategic Partnership with the United States, nor any other partnerships we will forge in the future, shall be a threat to our neighbours or any other country. We will never enter into any partnership that may pose a risk to our neighbours or jeopardise Afghanistan’s role as a peaceful, friendly and constructive member of the regional community.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Our today’s meeting in Istanbul is, indeed, a momentous regional gathering, which promises new horizons for regional cooperation, and where the real pull factor is the plethora of common challenges and opportunities. We all know well that the region we share has captured the world’s imagination for both desirable and undesirable reasons.

On the one hand, ours is a region that is blessed with unrivalled resources. Together, we are the custodians of a glorious heritage that underpins human advancement in the intellectual, spiritual, artistic and scientific realms. Today, the powerhouses of this region, notably China, India, Russia and Turkey, are driving the global economy. The future of an interconnected, just and more equitable world depends on the future of this region.

On the other hand, some of these opportunities may never be taken, nor much of our potential ever realized, unless we succeed in overcoming the enormous obstacles we face to legitimate interaction and co-operation. Terrorism is a menacing threat that does not just affect Afghanistan and Pakistan, but also other countries in our region, notably India, Turkey, China and Russia. The narcotics trade threatens the wellbeing of our nations.

As the frontline in the fight against terrorism and the global narcotics trade, Afghanistan has served as a bulwark to the common security of the region. Despite our enormous sacrifices, we are determined to continue to play this role.

To confront the common threats that endanger our security and peace, and to realize the potentials of regional economic cooperation that is so crucial for our common future, the region must come together in cooperation and solidarity to a degree that it has not yet achieved. We must boldly address the political differences that divide the region, and remove the deficit of trust and confidence that exists among some of us. Today, in Istanbul, we are coming together to subscribe to a new vision of regional cooperation, and agree to work together towards creating an atmosphere of true friendship and cooperation across the whole region.

For this vision of regional cooperation to succeed, the role of a peaceful and prosperous Afghanistan is indispensable. Afghanistan can facilitate movement of goods and people across Asia. We can serve as a corridor of transit and trade. Today, I wish to invite Afghanistan’s fellow regional countries to see Afghanistan as an opportunity, and as a catalyst for advancing regional integration.

Ladies and gentlemen,

In calling our region the Heart of Asia, this Conference takes cue from one of the Muslim world’s most renowned poets and philosophers, Mohammad Iqbal Lahori, who said: “Asia is a body of water and soil, where the Afghan nation is the heart; its prosperity brings prosperity to Asia, and its decay brings decay to Asia”. The literal sense of Iqbal’s poem is as true as the wisdom in his analogy, and today it is borne out by history.

Thank you.

Ambassador Tanin’s interview with United Nations Radio

Statement of Staffan de Mistura, Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General in Afghanistan, to the Security Council


Mr. President, Mr. Secretary-General, Members of the Security Council:

The last time I briefed the Security Council, as the Council is aware, I insisted, against the rules, on allowing Ambassador Tanin to speak first, as a sign of attention and respect to the growing need for the Afghan people to be recognized as a sovereign country. But this time, Ambassador Tanin has insisted, with me, to go back to the rules, to show that Afghanistan intends to stick to international rules. Therefore, with his permission, I will apply the old approach and take the floor as he kindly requested me to do.

We meet today at the moment when we are at a special crossroads. July is a significant month in 2011, as decisions have been taken that relate to the beginning of transition. Transition has been announced, but it is also going to be based on the decisions taken at upcoming meetings of the international community with the Afghan authorities, starting approximately in mid-July. This is also the month when we are starting to see the gradual implementation of the decision announced in the speech by President Obama with regard to a gradual redeployment of international forces, in particular those of the United States. In other words, we are at a crossroads between national sovereignty and what comes with it, namely, responsibility and accountability, and between continuing conflict and a politically inclusive dialogue.

First of all, on the transition, it is like a train that is moving forward. According to every indicator I have — and as we heard at the meeting we had on the transition conference in Kabul — it is also on track. The transition will also of course address seven areas, provinces and cities. As usual, we will see that the devil in the details. But the transition is on track.

An issue on which we are working — and on which we should be working more, as was recognized in the meeting to which I referred — has to do with the fact that transition cannot be, and should not be, only about security. It has to be about something more. It needs to be a transition to something that the Afghan people recognize and identify with. That is why we are working together in order to ensure that the results in the social, economic and human rights aspects are linked to the transition. In that sense, while the transition is irreversible like a Swiss train, we need at the same time to make sure that it becomes solidly irreversible with regard to the socio-economic aspect.

In that context, one element that has been discussed in the past few days, and which may come up again, is the idea of seeing whether we could have some of the projects that may emerge that are related to transition linked to some type of transition dividend. In other words, there will undoubtedly be some savings on the military side. Some of it may be utilized to ensure that local Afghan authorities and the people in the areas that are being transitioned feel that there is continuing interest and substantive support for their development. The United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) will do its part in that regard, based on its very clear mandate, in particular to facilitate that aspect of the transition.

That leads me to my second point, which is normally the first one in Afghanistan, that is, security. As the Council knows — and there have been many reminders of this — the security situation has been an issue of concern recently. But we have to look at it in context. God knows I do so with care and caution, having just experienced tragedy on 1 April. There have been attacks on the Intercontinental Hotel. Many of us have been there and we know its iconic value. It was shocking. There have been attacks inside the city and in military hospitals, and even in the Ministry of Defence. There were attacks in Kandahar for two days, as well as attacks in Herat on the Italian provincial reconstruction team.

But let us put it into context. All the attacks were taken care of in an effective way by the Afghan military and police — albeit perhaps sometimes in a rather confusing way, as we are all in the process of training. Even at the Intercontinental Hotel, in a way, the end of the attack was supported by International Security Assistance Force helicopters. Again, however, the Afghan forces were up front.

I think that is an important point, because there is a perception of improvement in terms of the security situation, which is true. There has been a surge and there has been an improvement in the perception of the momentum being reversed. It is also true, however, that there is a constant attempt by anti-government
forces — during the spring offensive, as they call it, and in the summer — to try to reverse that perception by giving signals of dramatic surgical attacks. But I must say that, so far, the first impression still prevails. The Afghans have been able to handle it. That does not mean that in the next few weeks or perhaps months, as the summer is not over, there may not be moments of great difficulty in the security situation.

That is why it is so important, first, to address the issue of civilian casualties, which is affecting the Afghan people, and, secondly, to actually go into the other phase, namely, a political search — as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and, recently, President Obama have indicated, and as has President Karzai several times. Everybody recognizes that no military solution is conceivable in Afghanistan. We now need to move more effectively into a political search.

That means reconciliation. Where are we on that? Well, as is clear for all to see, there have been a lot of contacts. Unfortunately, there have also been leaks to the media, which have not helped those contacts. But there is clearly a need for dialogue, and we are getting indications that this will be resumed in a more concrete way very soon.

Meanwhile, the United Nations is doing its part, in close coordination with Afghan authorities and international stakeholders. We are focusing specifically only on what we are mandated to do, and where we perhaps have added value, that is, on confidence-building measures. These are important, because they are the measures that prepare for substantive discussion, which can only be carried out by the Afghans with the Afghans. They will actually have to do what we have always said, namely, ensure that this is Afghan-led.

But confidence-building measures do matter, especially at this stage. They include issues such as looking at civilian casualties and giving the Taliban a chance, if they want to be involved, to actually qualify by doing so with facts and not with words and by reducing the tremendous negative impact that they are having on the civilian population, especially in the most recent period.

Secondly, and I know this is personal judgment, but it is one based on the perception held by many in Kabul, the decision that the Council courageously took to split the list of the Committee established pursuant to resolution 1267 (1999) between Al-Qaida and the Taliban is certainly an indicator in the right direction, if we want to continue to push for reconciliation. To give one example, some of the members of the High Peace Council, which is the ultimate authority and to which we will refer when there is a substantive discussion, happen to still be on the list. That is very difficult to manage when we, as the United Nations and UNAMA, assist them logistically and substantively and try to travel with them and bring them around in order to make sure that we have meetings.

One area for confidence-building measures is certainly the possibility of establishing a venue — let us not call it an office — where meetings could eventually take place between the Taliban and stakeholders, in particular Afghan partners, without a feeling of insecurity and with an atmosphere of sufficient discretion. That is not yet there, but it is one of the areas.

Let me mention an additional area, which has come up in the past few weeks. It has to do with education. If there is one area that the international community and the Afghan authorities should be proud of, in terms of improvement after the departure of the Taliban, it is education. Seven million children are currently enrolled and going to school, many of them girls. We continuously witnessed the tragic decisions taken during the Taliban’s rule regarding schools in general and girls in particular. There are some indicators that they appear for the first time to be sending messages — even publicly through the Internet — that they might have learned from that mistake. We hope that this is not just a tactical decision and that they are in fact indicating their interest in not attacking schools.

There have been some contraindications. Some teachers have been affected recently, but on the whole our own research indicates that some 400 schools, newly established in certain areas that could clearly be influenced by a Taliban presence, have seen a substantial reduction of attacks. Minister Wardak has drawn my attention to this. We, together with UNICEF, will continue studying the situation; if this is a trend, we will recognize it as a confidence-building measure. But it needs to be verified.

There is one area that I think we need to refer to when we talk about reconciliation. That is reintegration. The institutional architecture is there, and all members of the Council have contributed substantially — some very substantially — to actually making sure that this is a real and well-prepared eventuality. So far, there has been some traction and momentum. More than 1,800 people are currently in the programme. But challenges exist.

First of all, it is clear that until real reconciliation takes place, it will be very difficult to see major momentum. But having it ready in order to attract and respond to possible changes is very important, and the proof is that figure of 1,800. We have some concerns and are working on how to ensure that there is sufficient vetting. I must share with the Council the fact that one of the preliminary indicators of the attack in Mazar-e-Sharif was that three out of the five people who violently and brutally killed my colleagues were actually reintegrated ex-Taliban. That shows, first of all, that we need to be very careful about vetting and that none of this is waterproof until there is a final reconciliation.

My next point is that, regardless of whether or not reconciliation takes place, without a regional context it will never be totally sustainable. That is why, over the past few months, we have been looking with great satisfaction and interest at the substantial increase in bilateral, trilateral and multilateral meetings, from the Shanghai process to the several meetings that have taken place between the Afghan, Pakistani and United States authorities. The same applies to the meetings taking place in Istanbul, in which Iran was included in addition to Pakistan and Afghanistan. We therefore hope and believe that the Istanbul meeting to take place on 2 November will be quite an opportunity for this to be addressed.

As members of the Council know, there is an international contact group. It is informal, but is growing in its impact and influence. We had a very good and constructive meeting in Kabul, where, apart from other major issues related to transition, Deputy Foreign Minister Ludin came up with an initiative that we are planning to support. The initiative will seek to determine whether we may come to some understanding in Istanbul on stability, along the lines of what was done in the Balkans some time ago or during the Helsinki process. In other words, it will seek something in writing that reassures all sides about mutually reinforced stability.

That would make more sense, of course, if there were also a mechanism to support it and a financial trust fund for regional incentives. All that may be on the table by the time of the Istanbul meeting, but we are certainly working seriously with the Afghan and Turkish authorities and all participants, regional and beyond, to get something moving in that regard.

There is no question that, at the moment, there are some clouds related to regional understandings, such as that currently prevailing on the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan. This should not be overly dramatized and should, frankly, be left to the Afghans and Pakistanis to discuss. They have recently held very constructive and useful meetings, both in Islamabad and in Afghanistan, and they will be neighbours forever. We will be there for a while, but they will always be there. So while we are looking at these events with concern, we are also hopeful that this type of bilateral discussion will be a move in the right direction.

There is another issue that is important in the context of the regional environment, and that is the concern of some regional neighbours over the ongoing ambiguity about the nature of the strategic pact or understanding that may be discussed between the Afghan authorities and, in particular, the United States. Some countries have been very concerned about the possibility of permanent, large foreign bases in Afghanistan. We have been trying to reassure everyone that this does not actually seem to be the case and that it is actually up to the Afghan authorities to reassure the neighbours about the real nature of whatever strategic agreement may be reached. Having travelled in the region, I recognize that it is still an issue that we believe would be better resolved with clarity before Istanbul. We hope it will. There have been statements issued by the United States authorities — even from the highest levels in the Pentagon — trying very rightly to offer reassurance in that regard, but some additional homework would probably help to dissipate that cloud.

That leads me to another issue — counternarcotics. At a time of possible gradual changes of focus on the part of the international community in Afghanistan, there is a concern that the so-called economic environment will be changing. That is proven by facts. The military drawdown will also reduce the impact of everything that is financially linked to a substantial military presence. The particular fear of my colleagues in the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, to which I draw the Council’s attention, is that the narco-economy may then become more appealing to some Afghans. There is therefore an important need for us not to forget that aspect, which as Council members know is substantively affecting not only Afghanistan but also, again, its neighbours.

That leads me to the issue of human rights. If there is one area where I believe the United Nations will be remembered in Afghanistan, it is probably the way it has held the fort and raised high the flag about the need to respect human rights. That is why the civilian casualties report is so important and has been a major irritant, frankly, particularly to the Taliban, who have told us many times that it is hurting them. We have been telling them that there is a way to avoid
that — by not hurting civilians.

This has also had an impact on the interventions of the International Security Assistance Force and NATO, particularly air raids. I know that the errors that have been made are increasingly drawing the attention of the United States and NATO authorities, whereas the horrors that the Taliban have been perpetrating in many places — such as the recent attacks on the bank and a hospital — have also drawn attention, and they are annoyed by that. We hope that this will help everyone, and the Taliban in particular, to understand that there is a moment when the popular support that they believe they enjoy is being affected by the level of civilian casualties they have been causing.

The issue of women is still very important. We have 69 women in Parliament. We count on them to be able to defend what has been achieved by women in Afghanistan, but we remain worried about the reports we are getting about the many cases of concern, such as the judiciary sometimes punishing women when they move out of their homes or decide not to marry.

The same thing obviously applies to the issue of children. There have been cases of children used as suicide bombers. There have been cases of children being attacked in a way that has drawn the attention of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict.

On the humanitarian side, there is one area to which I need to draw the Council’s attention. At the moment, the welfare programme is having a difficulty with resources. It is one of our own stars, trying to show the Afghan people that we will not abandon them at any time, as well as actually providing food to more than 6 million children. At the moment, it has had to substantially reduce the number of beneficiaries due to a lack of resources. I draw attention to that because it is an important issue for all.

Aid coherence is crucial, and it is also important to recognize that there is a body for aid coherence. It is called the Joint Coordination and Monitoring Board (JCMB). The JCMB is the best body; there is no need to invent a new one. The United Nations specializes in creating new bodies, so I would be reluctant to suggest one. Rather, the JCMB should be reinforced. The JCMB has the possibility and potential to deal with aid coherence. But there is a cloud — it is the Kabul Bank. I do not need to remind the Council of that, but it is an important issue that is, in a way, an obstacle to progress at the moment on the JCMB and even to the follow-up to the Kabul Conference.

That issue is not the Council’s responsibility, but that of the International Monetary Fund (IMF). The IMF is engaged and, to be fair to Minister Zakhilwal, eight out of the 10 indicators that were requested to be deployed in order to reassure the international community and the IMF have been addressed, but two remain. We hope and have been contributing to drawing the attention of the IMF to the possible consequences of an Afghan default, so to speak, which is not imminent if that is not approved but is certainly of concern. At the same time, Kabul Bank is a serious issue to the Afghan authorities — $800 million is not something to gloss over. Therefore, serious attention is being focused at the moment.

The same applies to the issue with which the Council is very familiar — the parliamentary crisis. We were hoping that would not take place 10 months after the elections and six months after the President had solemnly inaugurated the Parliament. We would then have been going through an election that, while imperfect, would be handled by the Afghan institutions during a continued political process.

Unfortunately, this has not been the case. A special court has indicated that 61 members of Parliament should perhaps leave their positions. There is a current tension, as the Council is aware. Our position is the position of the Security Council —
22 December. We will not change it. The second position is that, indeed, the judiciary has the right to prosecute anyone who has committed a crime, but not to change the outcome of elections, and that the solution must be an Afghan solution and a political solution, but not a judicial solution.

We are hopeful and will continue to work on behalf of the Council, together with the Afghan authorities, to avoid prolongation of that institutional crisis. Afghanistan needs checks and balances; it needs a Parliament, an executive and a judiciary that all work together. At the moment there is a cloud, but since I am an optimist, I am not expecting much rain, yet, on that issue.

The last point I will make, with the Council’s permission, is a message. This is a transition period in every sense. But there is also a message, which we must be certain the Afghans hear, that 2014 will not be 1989. They are worried, and rightly so, that for the third time during their recent history they will be graciously abandoned by the international community. I know that is not our intention and certainly not that of the United Nations or UNAMA. We are going to review our footprint. We will review the way that we must work, because transition is taking place everywhere. But we will be there — if everything is there and if the Afghans want us — for a long time. And I think that, from the international point of view, we need to constantly reassure the Afghans of that. That will help them to pass through the transition in this difficult period.