Statement by Dr. Zahir Tanin
Permanent Representative to the UN
At the General Assembly
On the Situation in Afghanistan
It is with great pleasure for me to address this august assembly, as we have gathered to consider the annual draft resolution of the General Assembly entitled “The Situation in Afghanistan.”
Today’s meeting, following the High-Level Meeting of 23 September – co-chaired by H.E. President Karzai and Secretary General Ban Ki Moon – and the Security Council’s Meeting of 15 October on Afghanistan is a clear indication of the ongoing commitment and support of the United Nations and the international community to ensure Afghanistan’s successful transition from war and conflict to peace and stability.
We are pleased that Afghanistan continues to be on the agenda of the General Assembly. Today’s gathering reaffirms that Afghanistan remains among the top priorities of the United Nations. It also indicates unwavering international support for efforts to consolidate the gains of the past six years towards the goal of a stable, moderate and prosperous Afghanistan.
As we speak, Afghanistan continues to make substantial progress in various areas, including institutional building, economic growth, education, health, road-building and rural development.
In the area of security, we have increased the size and strength of our national army and police, enabling our security forces to play a more efficient role in combat operations in various parts of Afghanistan. The Afghan national army, which will stand at 47,000 strong by the end of the year, is on track to meet the target strength of 72,000 by 2009. Additional progress is evident in disbanding illegal armed groups throughout the country.
Steady progress continues in improving the socio-economic conditions of our people. Eighty-five percent of the population has access to basic health service. We have built 4000 hospitals and clinics throughout the country. Increased access to health centers has saved the lives of 89,000 children and reduced maternal mortality by 40,000 this year. More than six million students – of which girls comprise 36 percent – are attending schools and universities.
The National Solidarity Program, as the largest effort to empower and develop rural areas, has brought development projects to over 18,000 communities throughout the country, touching the lives of 13 million villagers.
Afghanistan has taken important steps towards regaining its historic role as a facilitator of regional economic cooperation. This comes after years of economic isolation, resulting from years of armed-conflict and foreign occupations. Among other infrastructure projects completed, our national highway system – stretching 6,000 kilometers – will lead to increased trade with our neighbors.
Afghanistan’s inclusion in the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) in May of this year was a milestone development for our integration to regional markets. And most recently, we hosted the 17th Annual Meeting of the Council of Ministers of the Economic Cooperation Organization in the historic city of Herat with the purpose of maximizing Afghanistan’s potential to promote trade and development in the region.
The consolidation of our democratic institutions has enabled our citizens to enjoy more social, political and economic rights than ever before. The unprecedented number of women represented in our national assembly and presence of tens of political parties and numerous media outlet is clear testimony to this assessment. Hundreds of various publications and television and radio stations throughout the country have made Afghanistan one of the most liberal environments for independent media in the region.
The Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) continues to undertake important measures to protect and promote human rights for all citizens. In this regard, I am pleased to state that, among other initiatives, progress continues towards the implementation of the Action Plan for Peace, Reconciliation and Justice.
Despite remarkable achievements, we have not lost sight of the numerous challenges. Terrorism, illicit drugs, weak state institutions, poverty, socio-economic hardships, as well as the challenges associated with the situation in the region are among our main challenges. These are interdependent threats that have domestic, regional and international dimensions.
Terrorism remains the primary threat facing efforts to consolidate peace and stability in Afghanistan. This year, there has been a rise in violent terrorist activities of Taliban and Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan and the region. Terrorists are spreading fear and intimidation inside and outside Afghanistan. They rely on heinous and brutal acts aimed at undermining the security of our people and deterring the commitment of the international community to Afghanistan. That is why they have increased terrorist attacks in the form of abductions, intimidations, suicide bombings and use of sophisticated explosive devices, targeting and terrorizing a wide spectrum of society; children attending school, religious clerics, international aid workers, journalists and Afghan and international security forces.
Substantial progress continues in defeating terrorism and extremism. Recent military operations have weakened the command and control structure of terrorist networks by capturing or eliminating an increasing number of high and middle-level Taliban commanders who were responsible for organizing and carrying out numerous suicide bombings in various provinces. Our counter-terrorism efforts also include strengthening the international sanctions regime against terrorists.
Sustained success in the military campaign against terrorists is dependent on the level of technical and logistical assistance to bolster the capacity of our security institutions. A strong and professional national army and police is a pre-condition for long-term stability and security in Afghanistan. We call for increased efforts to accelerate the training of our security forces so that they become self-reliant and able to assume an independent role in addressing the security needs of our people.
Military means, by itself, is not the sole solution to Afghanistan’s security problems. An integrated military, political and development strategy is necessary for substantial and sustainable improvement of security in Afghanistan. As a complement to military action, we continue to increase efforts for political outreach to “non-terrorist” Taliban; those who are willing renounce violence and abide by the provisions of Afghanistan’s constitution.
Implementing development and infrastructure projects, particularly in areas threatened by Taliban and extremists, will have a direct impact on improving security. Therefore, every effort should be made to “maintain and win” the support of people by creating employment opportunities and ensuring the provision of basic services throughout the country. Without adequate development, employment opportunities and improved socio-economic conditions throughout the country, we will run the risk of ordinary citizens falling hostage to extremist groups.
Regional cooperation is indispensable for defeating terrorism and extremism, affecting stability in Afghanistan and the region. Close cooperation between Afghanistan and Pakistan continues at a bilateral and multi-lateral basis to eliminate this scourge jointly and resolutely. Just last week, we convened the first meeting of the Jirgah Commission as a follow-up to the Peace Jirga, held in Kabul in the month of August. The second meeting of Peace Jirgah will be held in Pakistan early next year. It is of utmost importance that the collaborative atmosphere in relations between Afghanistan and Pakistan continue. We are following the recent developments in Pakistan with concern, as security, stability and normalcy in Pakistan are critical for security and stability in the region.
For us, regional cooperation is not only the most effective strategy to address the challenges of terrorism and illicit drugs, but also underdevelopment, organized crime and natural disasters. It will also help in translating the region’s rich resources and potential into development and prosperity. There are many opportunities for regional cooperation in areas of trade, energy, transportation, transit, cultural and education, water management and joint investment projects. The opportunity must be seized.
Narcotics pose a threat to the stability and well-being of our societies. In our part, we have accelerated efforts to rid this menace from Afghanistan. Apart from those areas where the Taliban-Al-Qaeda poses a threat to security, approximately twenty-six thousand hectares of land have been cleared of poppy-cultivation, amounting to 13 poppy-free provinces. This is in addition to a substantial decrease of cultivation in 12 other provinces. With enhanced law enforcement, we have apprehended 85 traffickers at Kabul International Airport and 1016 cases of trafficking were submitted to the Office of the Attorney General this year. Other measures include facilitating the arrest of numerous international traffickers in foreign countries, with the support of Interpol.
Nevertheless, to achieve long-term and sustainable success in combating narcotics, we must take into account the networked character of illicit drugs, entailing farmers, producers, traffickers and consumers. In combating narcotics our strategy must address all the components. Active participation of transit and consuming countries, on the basis of shared responsibility, is critical for enabling us to contain the menace of illicit drugs. Providing Afghan farmers with alternative livelihoods should entail a key aspect of such a strategy. In this regard, we count on the sustained support of the international community to implement our national drug control strategy.
Afghanistan has taken numerous steps to enhance good-governance and the rule of law. We have launched reform strategies in various institutions, including the Supreme Court, Attorney General’s Office and Ministries of Interior and Justice, to enhance efficacy and professionalism in our civil service. To this end, our Civil Service Commission has finalized a revised public administration reform framework and implementation program to ensure a merit based appointment mechanism for civil servants. As part of the effort to ensure accountability in our institutions, we have arrested or detained numerous senior and mid-level officials engaged in illegal activities. These measures were complemented with the approval of the UN Convention against Corruption by the National Assembly in the month of August and ongoing preparations to present our National Justice Sector Strategy. In this context, we express our appreciation to the Government of Italy for co-hosting with Afghanistan and the United Nations the International Rome Conference on the Rule of Law and Justice in July.
However, our success in promoting good governance and the rule of law is interlinked with consolidation of a powerful and independent judiciary, effective state institutions, free media, functioning civil society, and a conducive environment for economic, social and cultural development of all citizens.
More than twenty-years of conflict resulted in dire socio-economic conditions which forced millions of our citizens to migrate abroad. We are grateful to all countries, particularly Pakistan and Iran, for having hosted millions of our compatriots during some of the most difficult times of our nation’s history. While expressing our earnest desire to have all our citizens’ back home, we call for sustained international assistance to create a feasible environment for their voluntary, gradual, safe and dignified return and reintegration.
The Afghanistan Compact remains the most viable framework to address our remaining challenges. Within the framework of the JCMB, we periodically evaluate our progress towards achieving vision of the Afghanistan Compact with our international partners. While expressing appreciation for the support of the international community to the Afghan process, we would like to stress need to ensure greater efficiency in the mobilization, coordination and utilization of assistance to implement our national development strategy.
Afghanistan continues to struggle with legacies of three decades of conflicts and emergence of the new challenges. As such, it will not be able to deal with its magnitude of problems on its own. It will need the long, sustained and adequate support of the international community for many years to come. The presence and commitment of the international community is an existential issue for Afghanistan. The international community should acknowledge the importance of its continuing commitment for peace and security in Afghanistan, the region and the global world. Neither complacency nor exaggerated pessimism will help our efforts to achieve a peaceful and stable Afghanistan.
The role of the United Nations in Afghanistan is of crucial importance for achieving lasting peace and stability in Afghanistan. We commend the role of UNAMA, under the ale leadership of Mr. Tom Koenigs, in promoting enhanced international engagement and coordination between the international community and Afghanistan to achieve vision of the Afghanistan Compact.
We are also grateful for the personal dedication and commitment of the Secretary General to Afghanistan. His visit to Kabul in the month of July, his participation in International Rome Conference on the Rule of Law and Justice in July, and initiative to convene the High-Level Meeting along the sidelines of the 62nd Session of the UNGA are very much welcomed by the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan.
We are also thankful to all countries that have committed troops to serve alongside forces of our national army and police to provide security to our people. We pay particular tribute to the families of those who made the ultimate sacrifice for the cause of peace in Afghanistan.
In conclusion, I should like to express my delegation’s appreciation to our colleagues at the German Mission for their tireless efforts in leading the consultations on the draft resolution before us today. Special thanks go out to Dr. Metcalf of the German Mission in that regard. We also extend our gratitude to all member-states that co-sponsored this year’s resolution.
Thank you Mr. President.