Friday, October 9, 2015

Security Council Debate on the Situation in Afghanistan

Statement by H.E. Dr. Zahir Tanin Ambassador, Permanent Representative of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan to the United Nations

Security Council Debate on the Situation in Afghanistan

17 September 2015


Thank you, Mr. President. I would like to offer my sincere congratulations on your leadership of the Council for this month. I thank the Secretary-General for his recent report on the Situation in Afghanistan and my good friend Special Representative of the Secretary-General and head of UNAMA, Mr. Nicholas Haysom for his comprehensive briefing. I also thank Mr. Yuri Fedotov, Director General of UNODC for his briefing and his presence today. I am very grateful for the role Spain is playing as the penholder on Afghanistan and for its capable work in the Security Council. This is my last statement at the Security Council on the situation on Afghanistan as I am leaving at the end of this month to assume my new responsibilities. As I stand in the midst of friends and colleagues in this noble council, I would like to express my heartfelt appreciation, especially to those I had the pleasure of working closely with in the past few years. Thank you for your friendship and cooperation.

Mr. President,

In recent months, Afghanistan has witnessed a challenging security situation in terms of increasing violence and heinous attacks by the Taliban and other terrorist and violent extremist groups. While the enemies of Afghanistan failed to achieve the aim of gaining control of territories and breaking the will of Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF), they have continued their brutal campaign of violence and coercion trying to destabilize the country and terrorize Afghan people. We saw these heinous attempts in a number of highly sophisticated recent terrorist attacks, like the one on August 7 that led to hundreds of causalities, including women and children. In the face of increasing violence and instability, ANDSF, who assumed full responsibility of security after the departure of thousands of international forces, through their sacrifices, patriotism, resilience, and commitment, have demonstrated time and again that they are ready to face the challenges posed by the Taliban, and other terrorist and violent extremist groups. The ANDSF is at the forefront of defense of the country and security of the Afghan people; they present a bulwark against letting Afghanistan slip into the chaos and destruction of the viscous civil war as happened in 1990s.

Mr. President,

The National Unity Government is committed to make every effort to move Afghanistan on a path of stability, peace, and security. The Government has reached out with the message of peace and reconciliation not only to the Afghan Taliban, those who are willing to stop fighting and join the peace process, but also to neighboring countries. One of the first steps taken by President Ghani was to embark on a process of ending the undeclared state of war between Afghanistan and Pakistan and start a new era of peace and cooperation. This process has been largely supported by the Afghan people and the first rounds of peace talks with the Taliban led to a surge of optimism about the prospects of peace and end of violence. The Government of Afghanistan believes that despite some of the apparent setbacks in the process of peace talks, following the declaration of the death of the Taliban leader Mullah Omar, and the benighted leadership changes in its ranks, we are hopeful that the prospect of political settlement will not be withered but it requires responsible attitude by all sides, mutual determination, and real commitment.

Mr. President,

The regional cooperation agenda is not just limited to peace and security but to economy, development, and prosperity as well, since the future of the region can only be fostered and strengthened through connectivity and greater cooperation. We all know that the stability of Afghanistan at the heart of Asia is essential for the stability of the wider region. Integrating Afghanistan as the center of economic hub focused on transit, transportation, and trade for the next two decades remain imperative to achieve economic self-sufficiency and shared economic prosperity. Afghanistan’s vision for advancing regional economic goals, whether through its role as the Asian roundabout between the energy suppliers in Central Asia and the energy consumers in South Asia, or through the growing number of cross-border agreements to share services in health, rural development, and training is bound up with its economic agenda for the transformation decade. The 6th RECCA conference earlier this month in Kabul also elaborated further on ways to develop and consolidate partnerships towards promoting regional economic cooperation in Afghanistan and across the region. We are looking forward to the next Ministerial level meeting of Heart of Asia- Istanbul Process in Islamabad as another important step of strengthening confidence building and partnership in the region.

Mr. President,

As we approach the first anniversary of the establishment of the national Unity government, there is a greater attention to ensure effective implementation of vital reforms to strengthen the economic growth, improve governance, eradicate corruption, bring electoral reforms, and protect human rights, particularly rights of women. The promotion of good governance is a cornerstone for the Government’s reform agenda. One of the central pillars for the reform agenda is to effectively tackle the scourge of corruption. The institutions created by the Government, like the National Procurement Commission, comprehensive reorganization and review of the Supreme Court and other measures dealing with institutions and individuals involved in corruption are essential for transformation of the anti-corruption efforts into practical, measurable outputs.

The efforts of the National Unity Government against corruption also includes a series of important measures in dealing with the illicit drug trade with its overall implications on economy, polity, society, and rule of law in all parts of the country. The Government is focused not only on curbing this illicit trade but tackling all financial channels that is providing the basis for criminal networks to be linked at all levels in the region and globally. In order to achieve this goal, the Government has formed an inter-ministerial commission to clamp down on narcotics trade and the moral as well as financial corruption that goes with it.

To further the reform process, the national unity government has taken important steps to revise the election law and presented its reform proposal to the Government. Recommendations from the Commission include the allotting of one-third of Parliament’s 250 seats to political parties; the restructuring of the current election commission; the creation of a clear voter identification system ahead of future polling; and moving to an electoral system that divides provinces into smaller voting districts that can be easily quarantined in case of fraud. Proper implementation of this reform process would bring about necessary changes in ensuring free and fair elections in the future. In order to reflect on these reforms, the election law has been revised earlier this week by a Presidential decree and the calendar of the parliamentary and district council election will also be announced in the near future.

Mr. President,

Afghanistan’s partnership with the international community has been paramount for the achievements of Afghanistan in last 14 years and is essential for the realization of the lasting goal of peace, stability, and prosperity for years to come. The engagement of the international community and the UN, be it in the form of aid, expertise, manpower, or sacrifices of soldiers and civilian workers, the progress seen in Afghanistan would not be possible today. Afghan people and the Government are grateful and recognize the contributions of the international community as a whole and particularly all Afghan partners.

Role of the UN has been pivotal in Afghanistan in last 14 years not only to coordinate international civilian activities for bringing peace and security but to support Government in all areas of political stability, good governance, institution building, human rights, and coordination of humanitarian needs. The Tripartite review commission and the Government of Afghanistan have embarked on full reexamination of the role, structure, and activities of all UN entities in Afghanistan and I am happy to state that Nicholas Haysom, SRSG for UNAMA, along with his colleagues played an important role in moving this process forward. The commission examined the UN engagement in the country focusing the areas where the UN brings most value and ensuring the UN serves to maximize the support of the international community for Afghanistan and its people. The discussion focused on 3 themes: UN principle of engagement, Government commitment and obligations, and future UN presence in Afghanistan. The Government is certain that the outcome of these efforts will provide the country, the security council, and the UN a framework for effective engagement of all UN activities in Afghanistan, including role of UNAMA and all UN agencies, funds, and programs in Afghanistan.The framework for review will allow the beginning of a new relationship between Afghanistan and the UN in the coming years.

The success of transformation decade is strongly based on the constant engagement and support from our international partners, not only today but in the future. To further this goal, the agreement reached during the Senior Official Meeting earlier this month on a refreshed mutual accountability framework is a significant milestone in Afghanistan’s relationships with the international community. Afghanistan looks forward to the future conferences on Afghanistan in Brussels and Warsaw.

Mr. President,

Though much has been gained in Afghanistan, much remain to be addressed. As President Ghani has noted, 2015 will test Afghanistan’s will and capacity as a nation to address reform across all sectors- social, economic, security and electoral process. I would like to reiterate that the challenges faced by Afghanistan are many; but the country and the people have proven, time and again, that we want peace over conflict, progress over repression, unity over factionalism, prosperity over hostility, and inclusive growth over isolation. Today Afghanistan’s vibrant civil society, free media, improved social indicators, successful democratic transition of power—all signal that there is significant potential to put the last three decades of devastation behind and move forward. In order to do so, Afghanistan must protect the gains made in the last 14 years, and present a united front against all agents who are working to destabilize the country. The role of our neighbours in the region, as well as the international community, is pivotal in supporting Afghanistan during its transformation decade to achieve lasting peace and stability.

Thank you very much.



H.E. Foreign Minister Dr. Zalmai Rassoul meets with H.E. Ban Ki-moon, Secretary General of the United Nations

Today, H.E. Foreign Minister Dr. Zalmai Rassoul of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan met with H.E. Ban Ki-moon, Secretary General of the United Nations.  The Foreign Minister was accompanied by Ambassador Zahir Tanin, Permanent Representative of Afghanistan to the United Nations and other members of Afghanistan’s official Delegation to the 68th General Assembly.  Issues discussed included the role of the United Nations, Afghanistan’s upcoming elections, the transition, and reconciliation.  The Secretary-General emphasized his support for   an Afghan-led political solution and the importance of credible Afghan led elections.

Briefing by the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Afghanistan Jan Kubis to Security Council, 19 September 2013

Mr President, Esteemed Members of the Security Council,

Last week Afghanistan’s first international football victory triggered exuberant celebrations of an historic achievement. In a display of national unity and national pride the streets filled with dancing, flag-waving crowds. Following decades of war which devastated the country’s institutional and social fabric, the South Asian Football Federation Championship win was a welcome sign of Afghanistan’s gradual return to normalcy and success on the international stage.

The three month since I last appeared before you have seen progress in Afghanistan’s political and security transitions. Considerable challenges remain and the situation is volatile, but efforts are on track.

In this period I personally have had a particular focus on regional issues. This recognizes the vital importance of the neighbours, and near neighbours, support for – and engagement with – Afghanistan. The stability and ultimate sustainability of transition processes depend upon it.

I travelled with the Secretary-General to Islamabad to meet with Pakistan’s new leadership. I represented the Secretary-General at the inauguration of Iran’s new President and at the council of the heads of state of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation in Kyrgyzstan. I also undertook working visits to Tajikistan, Russia, India and China.

Mr President,

Tranche Five, the final tranche, of the security transition was announced just the day before my last briefing.

Since then security incidents have increased on 2012 – but not to the record levels of 2011. A campaign of bloodshed by anti-Government elements has targeted mostly Afghans – both in uniform and civilians – including in previously calmer districts. They have however failed to achieve a significant military victory. The majority of violence takes places away from populated areas.

The Afghan army and police have shown courage and increased capability in rising to the challenge of security transition. They increasingly trust themselves and work to earn the trust of the population despite heavy casualties in the ranks. We are requested to trust them as well.

In recent meetings with senior Afghan military personnel I was pleased to hear that instilling public trust in the army’s capacity and cohesion is recognized as an institutional priority.

Yet, Afghan security forces capabilities are not yet fully developed nor completely sustainable. ISAF Commander General Dunford recently stated that international support will be required for at least the next five years in enabling entirely independent operations.

I welcome the numerous bilateral partnership agreements that now underlay multilateral commitments from Chicago. These are a demonstration of the seriousness and long-term nature of international support.

Mr President,

The 2014 elections remain at the forefront of political life in Afghanistan. More broadly, a stable leadership transition through timely elections in accordance with the Constitution is central to everything else to be achieved.

President Karzai recently again emphasized that polls will be held, recognizing that “retaining power without elections will raise questions about the systems’ legitimacy”.

The last three months have seen significant progress in technical preparations. This includes passage of two key laws, appointments to the two independent electoral management bodies, and rollout of the district-level voter registration update. A six-week extension of the registration effort will help ensure maximum participation, including that of women.

An acceleration in registration since Ramadan means that more than one million new voter cards have been issued, nearly 30 per cent of these to women. Numbers continue to grow steadily.

I welcome the attention Afghan authorities are giving to securing the elections. Improved coordination of security institutions; robust security assessments; planning and implementing risk mitigation measures; and instilling greater confidence through public awareness are necessary now.

Again, President Karzai has recognized that “any election is better than no election. We cannot delay elections for security considerations.”

With the launch of candidate registration earlier this week, the political contest is formally underway. Clear visions for the future of Afghanistan need to be articulated to allow voters to make their choices. Direct or indirect appeals to narrow ethnic or factional interests must be avoided. Democratic transfer of political authority should contribute to national unity.

A level playing field, including equal access to state resources as well as balance in media coverage will be important aspects of a fair process and help ensure a widely accepted result.

There is increasing concern over the slow progress in creating an appropriate legal framework for the media, especially in this election period. The legislation on the right to information and the media law have both been delayed while violence against journalists is seen to be on the rise. Press freedom is one of the success stories in Afghanistan and must be protected.


Mr President,

Across the region there is growing recognition of the need for constructive bilateral and multilateral engagement with Afghanistan. The transnational nature of challenges – including instability, terrorism, population displacement, and narcotics – as well as the opportunities – in trade, infrastructure and connectivity – seems to be understood.

I welcome the positive initial signals and engagements from the new leaderships in Iran and Pakistan.

President Karzai’s visit to Islamabad was of particular significance. A new tone in relations seems to be emerging, narrowing the trust deficit.

This was confirmed by statements of Sartaj Aziz, the Pakistan Prime Minister’s adviser, where he emphasized genuine efforts to facilitate an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace process. He stated that Pakistan has no favourites in Afghanistan and that the policy is one of “non-interference”.

Afghan officials are also “reasonably hopeful” of better cooperation with the new Government of Pakistan.

Confidence building measures including in the area of economic development can help build trust through shared interests and prosperity.

The Istanbul Process remains a valuable regional effort, placing Afghanistan at the very “Heart of Asia”. I look forward to the meeting here in New York on Monday to hear about progress since Almaty. And I welcome the People’s Republic of China’s preparations to host the 2014 ministerial. Beijing’ seriousness of intent was highlighted during my recent visit.

The Shanghai Cooperation Organisation is also positioning itself to play an increasing role in support of Afghanistan. At this month’s heads of state summit there was clear interest in moving beyond anxiety and expressions of concern about the situation post-2014. The emphasis was rather on shared responsibilities, with Afghanistan and the broader international community, in ensuring durable solutions, including through the increased engagement of regional countries.

Indeed, throughout my regional travels, it was clearly understood that political solutions will be the key to sustainable peace, security and economic prosperity in Afghanistan and the region. Most immediately for Afghanistan this means elections resulting in a legitimate and peaceful transfer of power. More broadly this must include early dialogue on peace and reconciliation.

The United Nations continues to support the need for dialogue. We hope that new, mutually accepted, modalities can be swiftly agreed.

Mr President,

Narcotics remain a key problem in Afghanistan and beyond. The annual Ministry of Counter Narcotics and UNODC survey found there was a reduction in cannabis cultivation in 2012 – although higher yields still saw increased production. I am extremely concerned at assessments that this year will see a significant rise – yet again – in opium cultivation and a continuing drop in “poppy-free” provinces.

Afghanistan is already by far the largest centre of opium production in the world. This is not an issue that can be compartmentalized. Narcotics are a source and symptom of violence and institutional weakness and threaten ever sphere: political, economic and security.

Farmers choose what they plant based on food security, access to markets and access to non-farm income. It is essential that counter-narcotics be main-streamed into agricultural policy.

Further up the value chain, narcotics trafficking engenders corruption, black markets and insecurity which risks undermining the very foundations of the state. Renewed attention to mainstreaming counter-narcotics efforts in every sector is essential. This is ultimately a matter of political will – by Afghan authorities, regional partners and international donors.

Mr President,

The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, was in Kabul this week meeting with President Karzai and senior officials as well as civil society representatives and human rights activists.

Ms Pillay noted commendable progress in some areas of human rights and the commitment of President Karzai. However she stated her concern that momentum of improvements in human rights may not only have peaked but is even waning. She urged additional efforts by the President and the Government to ensure that justice and human rights – in particular women’s rights – be preserved and consolidated rather than undermined or sacrificed to political expediency.

Issues of human rights and accountability need to be mainstreamed across all lines of effort – political, developmental and security related.

The rise in civilian casualties is of deep concern, the vast majority of these being at the hands of anti-Government elements and rogue or criminal armed groups. Targeted killings of civilians and the use of improvised explosive devices are increasingly frequent tactics.

Deaths during this period include the head of the Kunduz appellate court, the chief electoral officer in Kunduz, a district education head in Parwan, and a young woman taking part in vaccination campaigns in Jawzjan. Indeed, increasing attacks on women are of major concern. Only last Monday a courageous female police officer in Helmand, Lieutenant Nigara, was gunned down as was her predecessor Islam Bibi earlier this year.

A renegade Taliban militia brutally killed Sushmita Bannerjee – a well- known social worker and author of Indian origin married to an Afghan.

The Taliban movement continues to assert in its public statements that anyone associated with the Government, or seen to support it, constitutes a target. This includes educators, judicial official and civil servants in clear violation of international humanitarian law.

Mr President,

A further effect of heightened uncertainty and violence has been increased population displacement. The changing nature of conflict to more ground engagements has a concomitant impact on civilians. There are now half a million individuals internally displaced, over 100,000 of these during the first seven months of the year. At the same time, the number of refugees returning to Afghanistan decreased by 41 per cent compared to the same period in 2012.

This year’s humanitarian appeal has seen far higher levels of funding. Increasing humanitarian needs will however require more stable and flexible funding that will allow a rapid response to humanitarian crises. I am happy to note that there is now agreement and commitment from the international donor community to support a Common Humanitarian Fund for Afghanistan which should become operational in early 2014.

Mr President,

As Deputy Secretary General Jan Eliasson has already briefed you following his visit in this period, the key message from the people of Afghanistan is a desire for peace, justice, prosperity, and stability and the need to protect the gains made over the last decade. We are rightly requested to help.

Under-Secretary General Ray Kennedy of the Department of Safety and Security has also been to Afghanistan to see for himself the reality of a complex and volatile security situation and the implications for United Nations activities. The safety of personnel is a top priority in determining the means to stay and deliver.

There is clear progress in vital elements underpinning Afghanistan’s transition processes. At the same time challenges persist in the security and narcotics sectors in particular.

More needs to be done in meeting mutual commitments under the Tokyo Mutual Accountability Framework. A focus on election preparations must not draw attention away from issues like combatting corruption, the rule of law, and economic growth. This is what will ensure Afghanistan’s ultimate institutional and financial sustainability.

I welcome the signals of positive support of the region and ongoing commitment of the international community in ensuring continued momentum in strengthening Afghan institutions, Afghan sovereignty, and Afghan solutions.