Monday, September 22, 2014

General Assembly debate on agenda item 38 “The Situation in Afghanistan”

Statement by H.E. Dr. Zahir Tanin

Ambassador and Permanent Representative of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan

at the General Assembly debate on

agenda item 38 “The Situation in Afghanistan”

Mr. President,

Once more in this august hall, we are discussing the situation in Afghanistan: the cycle of suffering, the immensity of new challenges, and certainly the progress we have made thus far. For the past decade, the world has been extensively engaged in Afghanistan, in our ongoing struggle for peace and stability. We come together today, to adopt a resolution which will affirm, again, the support of the international community for ending a continued crisis that has long shaken the world and also our commitment to helping the Afghan people in their difficult struggle to finally arrive at peace and stability.

I thank all who have contributed to shaping the resolution, in particular, the German delegation headed by H. E. Ambassador Peter Wittig for their leadership and hard work throughout the process. We are especially appreciative of Mr. Elmar Eich for his role in facilitating the negotiations.

Mr. President,

We are leaving behind another year of national trauma: violence has, regrettably, remained a constant in the lives of many Afghans, resulting in significant loss of life. We have seen indiscriminate attacks on innocent civilians, targeted assassinations and the attempt to shatter what we have worked so hard to build. In fact, the terrorist attacks are aimed at breaking our determination, and attempting to undermine our national unity and historical integrity.

Afghans have been the prime victims of terrorism, but we are not alone; it is also our friends and partners that are hurt and losing their lives alongside our people. As the threat of terrorism originating from our region became global in character, the international community intervened to stop it. But we have not yet succeeded in ending the threat. The Taliban, who hijacked Afghanistan for years, hid their heads for some time, and are now reappearing with a barbaric and brutal face. Resuscitated by the continued existence of safe-havens in the region, they continue to hold Afghanistan hostage, killing our people, destroying the country, and threatening our gains, freedom and way of life.

Despite the recent increase in violent activities, the Afghan people are determined to continue their progress. And, fragile as the country may seem, substantial improvements have been made over the last decade. Afghanistan has risen from the ashes of a state disintegrated by decades of conflict, and millions of Afghans have rebuilt their lives and are moving forward. Thousands of new schools and universities have been built, with millions of enrolled students, nearly half of which are female. Hundreds of clinics and hospitals have been established and thousands of doctors and nurses trained. New roads have been constructed, benefitting travel within Afghanistan and enhancing partnerships and trade with those in our region and beyond. Our achievements are not only economic and social; good and democratic governance is being extended to areas where previously there was none. The rule of law is being strengthened; and we are working to rid our society of the cancer of corruption. With wider participation in political and social life, and a greater focus on human rights, including women’s rights, Afghanistan is becoming a home for all.

Not far from the burning memories of the bloody and destructive power-struggles of the 1990s, we drafted our new constitution, held two Presidential and two parliamentary elections, and now have our national and local administrations in place. These achievements have helped Afghanistan regain its legitimate place on the world stage, as a responsible member of the international community.

But, Mr. President,

This progress has not been easy – it is a constant struggle. Terrorism remains the main threat, exacerbating all other challenges. The terrorists and their insolent supporters continue to destroy the country and prevent us from living in peace and prosperity. Afghanistan’s enemies wanted to convince the world that success is not possible and all efforts are doomed to fail. But they must understand we are not in the Afghanistan of the 1990s – terrorist acts undermine our daily work, but will not force us back to where we were a decade ago.

Mr. President,

As we begin a new decade of international involvement in Afghanistan, ten years into the post-Taliban era, we are confronted with many questions: Where do we go from here? More specifically, how can Afghans stand on their own feet and maintain a stable society through the transition process as international forces continue their withdrawal?

Mr. President,

This year marked the historic start of the transition process, by which Afghans will assume full responsibility, ownership and leadership. Transition is about transforming the country from one suffering from violence and instability to a fully functioning state and a viable society. A comprehensive transition includes these six interlinked issues:

First is security. Security transition is on track. We are working with our international partners to assume full responsibility in all provinces by 2014 or possibly earlier. The gradual draw-down of international forces through 2014 is strongly linked to the training and equipping of Afghan forces and an ongoing strategic partnership over the next decade or more. While the numbers, capabilities, and self-confidence of the Afghan National Security Forces are growing, transition is not happening in a vacuum; continued international engagement through recruiting, training, and equipping Afghan forces will be essential through transition and beyond.

Second is good governance and rule of law. Building a better future for Afghanistan will require a stable, functioning and clean Government that is capable of turning opportunities into successes. Actions such as the release of the National Priority Programme on Law and Justice, which outlines the justice sector reform strategy for the next three years, highlight the important focus of strengthening rule of law in all provinces and districts. For transition to be successful the Government of Afghanistan must, and will, continue to enhance its efforts in improving services to the Afghan people, strengthening justice and rule of law, and fighting against corruption at all levels.

Third is social and economic development. Afghanistan is on its way to a sustainable, drug-free, and fully functional economy. Over the last year we have been finalising our national priority programs within the framework of the Afghanistan National Development Strategy. Agricultural development is the top priority, along with increasing investment in Afghanistan’s rich mineral resources and rebuilding infrastructure. Social development is reflected as well, for instance in the ten-year National Action Plan for the Women of Afghanistan, and a continuing focus on education and health. These programs will effectively address poverty and inequality, efficiently and without duplication of efforts. We urge the international community to ensure that the provision of development aid is transparent, accountable, and coordinated with Afghanistan’s priorities.

Fourth is reconciliation and reintegration. Transition is interlinked with the peace process, which can help put an end to violence and insecurity. This year, the peace process saw both significant steps forward and a major setback, with the assassination of Professor Rabbani, head of the High Peace Council. However, despite all attacks, the Afghan people want the peace process to continue. This is just what the Loya Jirga, the traditional grand assembly, which ended this weekend in Kabul, calls for. The Loya Jirga brought together 2,200 representatives, Afghans from all ethnic groups, North and South, East and West, and from all segments of society – parliamentarians, politicians, tribal elders, scholars and Afghan refugees – to discuss the peace process and the strategic partnership agreement with the United States. It was an inclusive process, which will inform the Government’s position and ensure a unified Afghan voice. It marked a significant step in the peace and reconciliation process and was a clear display of the will of Afghans, reaffirming that Afghanistan is ready to accept and build on a strategic alliance with United Sates as well as other real friends and partners.

Fifth is regional cooperation: Through a number of initiatives, Afghanistan is re-claiming our historic role as a trade, transport and economic hub and most importantly as a catalyst for wider collaboration in the ‘Heart of Asia’. Earlier this month, we saw the successful conclusion of the Istanbul Conference, generously hosted by our brother country, Turkey. Afghanistan sees the Istanbul Process as a new beginning for comprehensive regional inter-connectedness. We look forward to the first follow-up Ministerial Meeting in Kabul next June.

Before Istanbul we saw the finalisation and implementation of the Afghanistan-Pakistan Transit Trade Agreement, after decades of negotiations. This agreement is a tremendous and historic step forward. In September, thirty high-level delegations from the region and beyond convened here in New York to endorse the New Silk Road Initiative. We believe that this vision holds a real promise of attracting greater investment and trade and will provide economic opportunities for all countries in our wider region.

Security is the basis of regional cooperation, aimed at achieving regional and international peace and stability. The threat of terrorism comes from the region – in safe-havens beyond our borders, terrorists find sanctuary, training, broadened logistical support, and strategic guidance for preparing renewed attacks against Afghanistan and the international community. Unless the scourge of terrorism is eliminated, all our efforts – for economic development, for social and political progress – will be in vain.

That brings us to the sixth element of transition: strategic partnerships. We are now finalizing the Strategic Partnership Document, which will involve US support in training and assisting Afghan forces through 2014 and beyond. We have also signed a strategic partnership agreement with India, and negotiations for similar arrangements are under way with the UK, France, Australia, and the European Union. The basis for long-term partnership has also been established with NATO. These partnerships will continue to build on and redefine the ties we have formed with the international community, to guarantee the future success of the country.

In December, the Afghan leadership will come together with the international community in Bonn, Germany in order to assess progress and map out a long-term commitment for peace and security in Afghanistan. The Bonn conference will mark a new beginning at the start of a new decade of the international community’s partnership with Afghanistan. We thank Germany for their efforts and leadership in hosting what will no doubt become a milestone in our history.

Mr. President,

For Afghanistan, 2014 is not a solid endpoint set in stone. Instead it stands as a way marker for a new phase of the partnership between Afghanistan and the international community, with Afghanistan as a fully sovereign partner. We need to be realistic in understanding why the peace and prosperity of Afghanistan is important in an increasingly inter-connected world and a strategically crucial region. A successful transition, which addresses the six interwoven elements I outlined today, will lead us to a stable, reliable Afghanistan partnering in a mutually beneficial way with the international community.

Mr. President,

Often, we are presented with a grim picture of Afghanistan, one of disappointment and disengagement. Such scenarios raise doubts about the possibility of a successful transition in Afghanistan. But we Afghans and the international community have agreed on a different vision. We have a plan for a successful transition, with all elements and all partners acting in harmonious accord. We believe that with the support and goodwill of the Afghan people and the international community, it will succeed.

All of us are not here simply to see how the situation in Afghanistan will unfold, but to shape it and craft future history. We have a responsibility to act for success; we cannot simply sit back and wait in fear of failure in Afghanistan, though there are some out there who prefer to do so. Let us not insult the future, as it is said – instead, on the basis of the real progress of the past decade, let us stick to making a successful present day.

Thank you.

Statement of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Afghanistan and Head of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan, Staffan de Mistura, to the Security Council,

Mr. President, dear Foreign Minister Rassoul, and dear colleagues,Thank you first of all Mr. Minister Rassoul for being with us today. It is sending a strong signal to remind us, as you did, that this is the moment when a country like Afghanistan is going through a terrible loss. Your presence here reminds us of the departure of Professor Rabbani and we need to hear from you how Afghanistan once again will be confronting this difficult moment.

Special Representative for Afghanistan Briefs Security Council Staffan de Mistura, Special Representative for Afghanistan and Head of the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan, presents the Secretary-General’s latest report on that country to the Security Council.

We meet in fact today at a sad moment for the people of Afghanistan. The recent killing of former President and Head of the High Peace Council, Professor Rabbani, who was a friend of many of us, highly respected by all of us, was a shock for all of us. But as Afghanistan and the Afghans have shown so many times over thousands of years, the capacity, again and again, to recover from tragic and sad losses, we know and we feel that their resolve and search for peace will not be deterred. And that was said by President Karzai himself recently.

While still it is unclear who was behind this attack, we must, as Professor Rabbani’s son said at the funeral in Kabul, continue to work for peace, the same peace that Professor Rabbani had started and to which he had committed himself, sacrificed his life, in his role

as High Peace Council, Chairman.

History shows that reconciliation efforts are particularly vulnerable to attack when they start to get traction, and precisely for that reason. During the past years there has been an increased interest from many relevant parties in the idea of a peace process. Under Professor Rabbani’s leadership, the High Peace Council has in fact started to generate a form of dialogue that was definitely needed in order to address the trust deficit before talks can become more concrete.

Mr. President, the road to peace is never smooth, we know it. And the death of Professor Rabbani is not the end of the peace process; that was said by many Afghans in particular by the highest authorities in Afghanistan. It is a moment for the Afghans to recalibrate, yes; a moment that calls for national unity among the leaders and people of Afghanistan  as they are again resisting another tragic loss. I myself was recently invited to a showing of an Afghan film. That film was celebrating the achievement of four Afghans, four young Afghans, who, with no previous experience, and with the support of outsiders, were able to overcome the highest physical obstacle in Afghanistan and become the first team of Afghans to stand on the top of Mount Noshaq – which is the highest mountain in Afghanistan. Well, that is a reminder to all of us, that the Afghan Government and Afghan people, with the support from others, like all of us here, will eventually be able to work together to find a peaceful solution to their problems. There is no alternative to a political solution. And there has been a window of opportunity for talks to begin, albeit very narrow and clearly fragile and we need to pursue it.

Peace is a process not an event, a process in which in order to be sustainable and deliver lasting results must be broad-based including Afghans of all kinds, including civil society. The priority must continue to be a dialogue among Afghans themselves led by them, with non Afghans like all of us playing a supportive role, if and when required.

At the national level and as proof of their continued commitment to search for peace, we would be supporting and hoping that, and we know it is going to happen, that the Afghan Government, will be proceeding with a swift appointment of an authoritative voice, not to  replace, because Professor Rabbani is not replaceable, but to persist with the efforts he led within the High Peace Council.

Peace efforts are also very much about redressing local grievances. And here I would like pay respect, single out Minister Stanekzai, a friend, to whom we should be, and we are, wishing a swift recovery from his wounds. Efforts done by him to advance the APRP as a critical process at the local level have been crucial and need to continue as a dispute resolution mechanism, in addition to other similar mechanisms. That is why we want to praise and commend the timely convening of a recent conference on APRP in Kandahar.

Why, because in fact this is an opportunity to promote reintegration further, particularly in the south where, in all frankness, there has been less progress compared to the northern part of the country. And furthermore, regarding APRP, we should remain vigilant in ensuring a proper and rigorous vetting mechanism. Our recollection of the tragic events in Mazar-i-Sharif, and now with Professor Rabbani, are reminding us how important vetting can be and should be.

On a positive note, regarding the Afghan National Police and Afghan National Army we have noticed the positive progress in development both Afghan National Army and Afghan National Police and they have shown they are capable of enabling themselves of taking on more security responsibility and to become more self-sustaining and that is why in spite of all these incidents transition goes forward. Recent security incidents, while regrettable for the loss of life, have also shown the increased ability of the ANSF –which is the national security system, – to manage such incidents in a controlled and proportionate manner. I will give another personal example if I may: in August, among the many attacks which have taken place, there was an attack in Abdul Haq Square.

Well on that occasion, which lasted several hours, a Lt. Colonel called Safiullah, who was the Chief Policeman in the area, embraced the suicide attacker, who was moving towards the people in the square and exploded with him and died; by doing so, saving many lives including his own team. These are the type of example that make us foreigners in Kabul feel it is not rhetoric when we say that the Afghan National Police is growing in the respect of the people and in respect of its own functions. Human rights: The human cost in the lives of average Afghans is still too high, as President Karzai is constantly reminding us. While some security incidents -and certainly military incidents- may be fewer in numbers -and there is no question of that as compared

to the past- the overall level of civilian casualties unfortunately is still high, too high. And

one civilian casualty is one too many. We are increasingly concerned with these rising casualties and the use of certain tactics –particularly by the Taliban, frankly- that produce civilian casualties. There is therefore the need for a surge in protection of civilians. The Afghan state, which has done a lot, is to continue to distinguish itself by putting respect for universal human rights at the centre of their own policies and practices, including in the treatment of prisoners and detainees, where we are seeing encouraging movements in the right direction. And when they take place we should acknowledge that, like the most encouraging improved regulation on women’s shelters that can potentially go a long way in protecting Afghan women and girls who often have been suffering the risk of violence and abuse.

Today we are having an important meeting at a very sad and important moment in Afghan history. This is one of the meetings which are preparing for two crucial meetings taking place this year: one is Istanbul and the other one is Bonn. We hope they will be an opportunity for collective determination to support and reassure the Afghan Government and people that we will be with them in the long run. It is our responsibility to ensure that the upcoming conferences, particularly these two, are not ceremonial –and we know they are not going to be ceremonial – but complementary, substantive and forwardlooking.

Istanbul, 2nd November, an important rendezvous. That will be, we hope, the opportunity for the region to gather in Istanbul with the intent, and beyond, of setting in motion a means to establish what is being defined as a benign regional order, where Afghanistan and its own neighbours will exchange mutual assurances towards creating a stable and prosperous Heart of Asia. Afghanistan, according to their own feelings –and we share itshould not be the subject but the catalyst for this conference, where the region can discuss concrete –not theoretical- ways on how to develop confidence-building measures to address common challenges. There has been a lot of constructive work done already, particularly on the economic side, but I think Istanbul aspires to address, according to the Afghan desires – who are in charge of this- we want to thank the Turkish authorities for their hospitality and vision in offering this opportunity, to also address political and security issues, not economic ones only. At the upcoming –in two days time- preparatory meeting in Oslo we believe will help and ensure that there is a clear identity among

regional players -and beyond- about a possibility of a brainstorming on these ideas so that we do come up with a strong declaration -or something along those lines- which could come up in Istanbul and, possibly, some type of follow-up structural approach, in order to ensure that whatever will be discussed in Istanbul will not just be a statement.

UNAMA encourages and supports those efforts and is part of those but of course recognising the strong leadership of the two co-chairs, particularly Afghanistan and Turkey, and we are supporting very important initiatives such as the New Silk Road, which are in the interests of Afghanistan, its neighbours and the broader region and where we should be investing our attention. Only trust among Afghanistan and her neighbours and trust among individuals will create an atmosphere in which private investment, as we hope, will become more active and can thrive.

Bonn, on 5th December. We are looking forward to Bonn. It has the potential of having a historical impact although, as always, we should always be cautious in our expectations; but our hopes are very high. It is a crucial opportunity to assess Transition, which is moving and by that time we will have also other meetings in other fora indicating the wish by the Afghan authorities and ISAF on how to substantially, we hope, increase the transition momentum, promote support beyond 2014, because they need to feel they will not be abandoned once again, and facilitate whatever would be progress, hopefully, in the direction of reconciliation.

There were clouds last time I had the privilege to meet you here. These two clouds, one was the electoral follow-up and the parliamentary crisis and the other one was related to the Kabul bank. I do not want to be perceived as overly optimistic but I think that both clouds are dissipating. On the first one, thanks to a very courageous and wise decision by President Karzai, the Independent Electoral Commission was recognised as the final authority on electoral issues, like in any part of the world where democracy is moving in the right direction. And therefore we have now come to the conclusion of a difficult –but probably useful- journey related to the electoral process and I believe that we will be going in a much smoother direction to the next elections, because recognising that the Independent Electoral Commission is the final authority is a very good starting point for future elections and for the democratic process of separation of powers in Afghanistan.

So, good movement in the right direction, nothing is perfect anywhere, not only in Afghanistan; but in the right direction. The cloud, we are feeling, is moving away. On the Kabul bank we see light, light behind the cloud. There is a possibility of seeing an agreement in principle on an IMF programme and we believe that can be reached through the ongoing negotiations. An IMF technical mission actually is going to arrive in Kabul on 30th, tomorrow, and will stay there for 10 days to finalise discussions. An IMF Board meeting is scheduled for mid-November. That means also that another important element of what we call the ARTF, which basically is a special window of financial support to short term funding for key national priority programmes, is looking much more positive.

Additional funds are required but already many countries have been already indicating their continuation of it, while waiting for the cloud to totally disappear. And in that context I think that, with the Minister of Finance, we are likely to be able to co-chair and aim at co-chairing and convening a JCMB, which refers to a common board between the Government of Afghanistan and the international community on economic joint activities- which has been in suspension during this period, and do it in November, which means before Bonn. On the Review, which, as you know, we take very seriously and we know the Afghan authorities take rightly very seriously, we will continue to work in order to ensure that the Terms of Reference are satisfactory to everyone – and in particular to the Afghan authorities, to work in close cooperation with them and of course in close respect of the Security Council mandate.

On the humanitarian side, although we recognize that there are so many other areas in the world where humanitarian priorities need to draw your attention, we believe that the drought is an issue of concern and that the humanitarian community is going to be

required to keep a close eye, together with the Afghan authorities, to avoid that, in addition to insecurity, the price of drought may produce food shortages in the future. That is why we are looking forward to see the outcome of the 2011 CAP Emergency Revision, which is focussing also on the issue of drought. On the counter-narcotics, I will never stop reminding all of us and each one of us, that what is being done is not enough and that the issue remains serious both for the Afghans and frankly for neighbouring countries and their own people.

Finally, Mr. President, dear Minister Rassoul and dear friends, The next three months are likely to be very challenging. From a security point of view I am afraid the writing on the wall is clear: we will have to endure, resist and go forward, even if this pattern of security challenges is likely to be in place. We are also going to have other types of opportunities, such as transition – second tranche – Istanbul and Bonn. When in December I will have the honour to come back here to do my last briefing in my current capacity, I hope I will be able to bring you good news. The Afghans deserve nothing else.

Thank you Mr. President.

SHIFTING TACTICS DRIVE RECORD HIGH AFGHAN CIVILIAN DEATH TOLL IN FIRST HALF OF 2011

LANDMINE-LIKE “PRESSURE PLATE IEDS” A DEADLY, DISTURBING TREND

14 JULY 2011, KABUL – Afghanistan experienced a 15 per cent increase in conflict-related civilian deaths in the first six months of 2011, the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) said today in releasing its 2011 Mid-year Report on Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict. The dramatic growth was mainly due to the use of landmine-like pressure plate improvised explosive devices (IEDs) by Anti-Government Elements (AGEs).

UNAMA documented 1,462 civilian deaths in the period, with 80 per cent attributed to Anti-Government Elements, an increase of 28 percent in civilian deaths linked to AGEs from the same period in 2010. A further 14 per cent of civilian deaths were attributed to Pro-Government Forces (PGF), down nine per cent from the same span in 2010, while six per cent of civilian deaths were not attributed to any party to the conflict.

With 368 civilian deaths, May 2011 was the deadliest month for Afghan civilians since UNAMA began systematically documenting civilian casualties in 2007. In June 2011, a further 360 civilian deaths were recorded – 308 or 86 per cent of civilian deaths were attributed to AGEs, 18 deaths (five per cent) were linked to PGF and 34 deaths (nine per cent) were not attributed.

June also saw an all-time high in the number of security incidents in a single month and the highest-ever number of IED attacks recorded in a one-month period.

“Afghan children, women and men continue to be killed and injured at an alarming rate,” said Staffan de Mistura, Special Representative for the Secretary General.

IEDs and suicide attacks, tactics used by AGEs, accounted for nearly half (49 per cent) of all civilian deaths and injuries in the first six months of 2011. Civilian deaths from IEDs increased 17 per cent over the same period in 2010, making IEDs, with 444 victims, the single largest killer of Afghan civilians in the first half of 2011 and causing 30 per cent of all civilian deaths.

Air strikes remained the leading cause of Afghan civilian deaths by Pro-Government Forces, with an increasing proportion resulting from attacks by helicopters. In the first six months of 2011, 79 Afghan civilians were killed by air strikes, a 14 per cent increase in civilian deaths from air strikes compared to the same period in 2010. Forty-four of the total 79 civilian deaths from air strikes were from helicopter attacks (56 per cent). All aerial attacks in Afghanistan are carried out by the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF).

Civilian deaths from ground combat and armed clashes in the first half of 2011 increased by 36 per cent compared to the same period in 2010 (304 total civilian deaths with 188 attributed to AGEs, 66 to PGF and 50 deaths from crossfire). Two per cent of all civilian casualties occurred as a result of night raids, down slightly from the first half of 2010. UNAMA documented 30 civilian deaths during night raid operations in the first six months of 2011.
With responsibility for security transitioning from international military forces to Afghan forces in several parts of Afghanistan in July violence rose in the first half of 2011 as AGEs sought to disrupt this process. Combined with the efforts of various armed groups to undermine peace and reconciliation and intensified fighting between the conflicting parties, Afghans experienced a decrease in protection.

A shift in the tactics of Anti-Government Elements increased the severity of AGEs’ attacks on Afghan civilians, UNAMA’s analysis found.

“In 2011, Anti-Government Elements expanded their use of unlawful means of warfare, particularly victim-activated pressure plate IEDs that act like anti-personnel landmines and cannot distinguish between a military target and a civilian,” said Georgette Gagnon, Director of Human Rights for UNAMA. “This tactic violates Afghans’ basic right to life and contravenes the international humanitarian law principles that all parties to the conflict are bound to uphold to minimize civilian loss of life and injury.”

Two thirds of all IEDs used in Afghanistan, and the vast majority that kill civilians, are designed to be triggered by a weight of between 10-100 kilogrammes. This is the weight of a human, and in many instances that of a child, meaning that such IEDs function effectively as massive anti-personnel mines.

“Any civilian who steps on or drives over these IEDs has no defense against them and little chance of survival,” said Gagnon. “Any use by Taliban members of these pressure-plate IEDs violates the 1998 Taliban ban on any type of landmines. UNAMA calls on the Taliban to publicly reiterate a ban on these.”

Targeted killings of Afghan civilians by AGEs continued at last year’s high rate. Between January and June 2011, UNAMA documented 191 targeted killings compared to 181 in the same period in 2010. UNAMA called on AGEs to use the meaning of “civilian” that is consistent and in compliance with their obligations under international humanitarian law. Under international humanitarian law “civilians” are all persons who are not combatants (members of military or paramilitary forces) or members of organized armed groups of a party to the armed conflict. Parties to a conflict are required to always make a distinction in the conduct of military operations between combatants and civilians and must not attack civilians meaning persons who are not or no longer taking part in hostilities.

“All civilian deaths and injuries, no matter what party is responsible, have tragic and lasting impacts on families and communities,” said de Mistura. “Civilians will only ‘win’ in Afghanistan when civilian casualties decrease across the board.”

UNAMA urged parties to the conflict to do much more to respect civilians, strengthen civilian protection and fully comply with their legal obligations to reduce civilian casualties and harm to civilian communities.

Selected Accounts from Afghan Civilians:

“It was in the morning and I was at home when it happened. My daughter and my two nieces were going to the madrassa to learn the basics of Islam from a religious scholar. When they left in the morning, I saw they had the Holy Qur’an in their hands. Those were really happy girls, they were saying to me all the time that they will become doctors to serve our people, especially their parents. After the IED explosion, I found my beloved daughter and nieces were wounded. We took them to the hospital but the injuries of one of my nieces were too serious and she passed away. The other two were asking me about her. I was telling them that she is fine and that she is at home, but the fact is that she is no more with them, that they would not play or go to school together anymore. These children were not a part of the conflict, they had very hopeful aspirations for their future, but this useless war took their future dreams and lives.”
Tribal elder and father from Khost province describing to UNAMA the death and injuries of his daughter and two nieces ages 10, 10 and 12 years from an improvised explosive device on 15 March 2011.
“The Taliban come to any house they please, by force. Then they fire from the house and then ISAF and ANA (Afghan National Army) fire at the house. But if I tell the Taliban not to enter, the Taliban will kill me. So, what is the answer? Either ISAF kills me or the Taliban kills me. The people cannot live like this.”

UNAMA’s interview with a community leader from Marja district, Helmand province June 2011.

UNAMA’s 2011 Mid-Year Report on Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict makes the following recommendations to the parties to the conflict:

Anti-Government Elements:
· Prevent civilian casualties by complying with international humanitarian law including respect for the principles of distinction, proportionality and precautionary measures.
· Use the meaning of ‘civilian’ that is consistent and in compliance with international humanitarian law. Immediately cease targeting civilians who are protected against any attacks under international law, and withdraw orders that permit attacks and killings of civilians.
· Cease attacks on hospitals.
· Cease using pressure-plate IEDs, prohibit members from using them, and publicly commit to banning the use of these indiscriminate and therefore illegal weapons. Publicly restate the 1998 Taliban ban on landmines and reinforce the ban with all members.
· Implement and enforce codes of conduct and directives that instruct members to prevent civilian casualties and hold accountable those members who kill and injure civilians.
· Engage in a dialogue and information sharing on civilian casualties with UNAMA.

Government of Afghanistan:
· Establish a professional standing government body with powers to investigate, respond and report on incidents of civilian casualties.
· Create a civilian casualty tracking group similar to the ISAF Civilian Casualty Tracking Cell to ensure accurate and timely tracking of all incidents of civilian casualties caused by ANSF, to provide lessons learned, and to improve civilian protection, compensation, and accountability.
· Develop and implement with international military forces measures to protect civilians from being attacked and targeted.
· Ensure that all Afghan security forces (military and police) are properly trained in all elements of international humanitarian and human rights law and that such training is mandatory and integrated into all ANSF training programmes.
· Properly train and equip the Afghan National Police for crowd control including alternatives to lethal force. Ensure adequate training in the legal standards and implementation of such alternatives.

International Military Forces:
· Take all feasible precautions to prevent and minimize incidental loss of civilian life, injury to civilians and damage to civilian objects during the planning and implementation of military operations. Fully and promptly implement new directives.
· Ensure all helicopter crews are trained on the Tactical Directives for the use of force and ensure implementation of Tactical Directives for all helicopter close combat attack missions. Investigate reasons why civilian casualties from helicopters are rising and implement changes to improve civilian protection.
· Review the “Night Raids Tactical Directive” of 7 December 2010 to ensure all elements of the directive are constantly mandatory for every raid and not optional. Ensure any new night raids directive is more restrictive due to continued civilian casualties and that all night raids are led by ANSF.
· Ensure all troops are adequately trained in escalation of force procedures including on the standard operating procedures on escalation of force. Equip checkpoints and quick reaction forces with alternatives to lethal force. Implement public service announcements, on radio in particular, to increase awareness by Afghan civilians of proper checkpoint and convoy procedures.

NOTE TO EDITORS:
For further information please contact:
Strategic Communication and Spokespersons Unit
United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) Kabul, Afghanistan. All media contact details are online at: http://unama.unmissions.org