STATEMENT BY H.E. Mahmoud Saikal Ambassador, Permanent Representative of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan to the United Nations
Security Council Debate on the Situation in Afghanistan
December 21, 2017
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بسم الله الرحمن الرحیم
At the outset, I would like to thank you for convening today’s debate on the Situation in Afghanistan. We are also grateful to His Excellency, the Secretary General, for his comprehensive report, as well as to my good friend Special Representative Tadamichi Yamamoto for his comprehensive briefing. We also thank UNODC Executive Director Yury Fedotov and Mrs. Wazhma Frogh for joining us here today.
As always, these debates provide an opportunity to take stock of the situation in Afghanistan; progress in related fields and challenges that remain. But above all, it provides a clear reminder of the symbiotic link between peace and stability in Afghanistan and that of global security.
We are pleased with the new counter-terrorism focus on condition-based support to Afghanistan and addressing regional terrorist safe havens. This has brought new momentum, and more broadly, an opportunity for key regional and international partners to combat terrorism more decisively. As we speak, the so-called “fighting season” of the Taliban and other terrorist groups has nearly ended. Terrorists have failed to make any notable gains on the ground and have suffered heavy losses in terms of manpower and morale. Pressured militarily, they have desperately resorted to soft target attacks in urban areas. Our security forces have proven their effectiveness in countering terrorist elements in independently conducted operations. We continue to clear territory in different parts of Afghanistan from the presence of the Taliban, Daesh and other terrorist groups. As of late, a significant number of senior Taliban and Daesh figures have been eliminated and captured, including financiers, planners and recruiters, while scores of attacks were prevented and subverted. Alongside these gains, we are now working to double the size of our Special Forces and triple the size of our air-force, with support from our international partners.
Consolidating our gains and achieving sustainable peace requires a revamped diplomatic effort at the regional and global levels, and an inclusive process of democratization domestically, leading our country in the right direction. To accomplish these tasks, there is a growing need to increase dialogue among regional and global powers, leading to enhanced regional cooperation for developing mechanisms of verification and coordination to eliminate threats rising from terrorism and violent extremism. In this context, Afghanistan welcomes recent expressions of readiness by President Vladimir Putin of the Russian Federation to cooperate with the US in Afghanistan in the areas of counter-terrorism and narcotics. We have always deemed such cooperation to provide win-win opportunities to overcome shared challenges and achieve common gains. We hope this development will help generate a new spirit of cooperation among all regional countries, devoid of rivalry and competing interests. It is our earnest hope that Afghanistan is seen by all partner countries outside the prism of regional and international tensions. Let me assure you of Afghanistan’s sincere intent to be a platform of cordiality and fellowship for all.
Substantial improvements in the context of Afghanistan-Pakistan bilateral relations and cooperation remain an issue of crucial importance. Recent collaborative measures, including visit of a senior military delegation to Pakistan, and the visit of Pakistani parliamentary delegation to Kabul are noteworthy developments. We are awaiting positive outcomes on various outstanding issues, including violations across the Durand Line, which is currently a key hindrance in improving relations between our two countries. Under the pretext of receiving fire from our side, Pakistan’s violations across the Durand Line, including indiscriminate artillery shelling, has continued unabated throughout 2017, resulting in the loss of innocent lives and destruction of villages. Our proposal for engagement and operational coordination towards addressing these concerns has not seen any response. At the same time, Afghanistan has the will and the capacity to defend its territory and our patience should not be tested. We believe that confidence building measures can only be successful when violations of this nature come to a complete halt. In a similar vein, we are also in communication on the imperative of addressing terrorists’ regional safe havens and hope to see positive developments on this front soon. We look forward to the upcoming trilateral meeting in Beijing next week between the Foreign Ministers of Afghanistan, Pakistan, and China.
In the area of peace efforts, we remain focused on providing a peaceful, dignified, and fulfilling life to all Afghans, devoid of conflict and insecurity. The Kabul Process, now fully operational, provides an overarching framework to harmonize international and regional efforts to help advance peace efforts. We are looking forward to the next meeting of the Process in February where we will outline our renewed strategy to counter terrorism and extremism and promote peace. This will be an opportune moment for the Taliban to change course, denounce violence and join the peace process.
Aside from regional dynamics and peace efforts, we know that sustaining and consolidating past achievements requires steady progress in advancing our reform agenda, and strengthening political consensus and national unity. To this end, the comprehensive dialogue underway is geared to ensure the credibility and transparency of future elections, as well as to achieve common understanding on a number of other pressing national issues, all of which bear crucial importance for long-term stability in Afghanistan. Success in this endeavor requires collective efforts on the part of the Afghan Government and the international community.
In recent times, we have seen a more proactive and productive engagement at the highest level between the United Nations and Afghanistan. We welcome the Security Council Arria Formula meeting in November, “Partners for Afghanistan: Linking Security, Development and Peace in the Central Asian Region”, and the Counter-Terrorism Committee Executive Directorate’s (CTED) joint meeting with donor countries and Afghanistan, which underscored enhanced development and counter-terrorism measures. In the broader context of the UN’s engagement in Afghanistan, the “ONE UN” Vision is steadily progressing in collaboration with the UN team on the ground. An adjusted UN role will go a long way in ensuring greater coordination, coherence, and efficiency among relevant UN agencies, funds and programs in accordance with the reform agenda of our Government and that of the UN Secretary-General. Moreover, the adoption of the General Assembly resolution on Afghanistan in November once again symbolized the international community’s strong consensus on and support for stability and prosperity in my country. Further, our accomplishment in the Human Rights Council election and the successful adoption of two Afghan-initiated resolutions “Countering the Threat posed by Improvised Explosive Devices” and “International Day of Remembrance of and Tribute to the Victims of Terrorism,” show our active engagement and contribution at the global platform of the UN.
In order to uphold the General Assembly resolution on Afghanistan in letter and spirit, its effective implementation is imperative. In the area of security and counter-terrorism, the implementation of 1988 and 1989 Security Council Sanctions Regimes must improve to succeed to help turn the tide against terrorism. These sanctions regimes were put in place to constrict the operational capacity, freedom of movement as well as the flow of material resources in the region, including illicit arms and cash, which end up providing oxygen for terror to thrive. Yet, experience has shown that the sanctions regimes are lax at best, and struggles to achieve the results for which they were mandated. We hope necessary adjustments on the part of relevant members of the Security Council are made to enforce sanctions against terrorists and extremists. Among the outstanding issues to be addressed, the assets of former and current Taliban leaders must be frozen so that they do not fund the death and destruction of innocent civilians. Furthermore, listing and de-listing terrorist groups and associated elements must be based on existing evidence and proper technical appraisal, away from politicization and manipulation by certain states. We are looking forward to increasing our engagement with the Office of Counter Terrorism; a relationship of mutual trust between OCT and the Government of Afghanistan is pivotal, as we strengthen our reliable partnership to eliminate terrorism in all its forms.
2017 has seen major progress in the steady implementation of mega projects which have visualized Afghanistan as a land bridge, business hub, and trade and transit roundabout between Central Asia, South Asia, The Far East, and the Middle East. The Regional Economic Cooperation Conference on Afghanistan (RECCA) and the Heart of Asia-Istanbul Process, have progressed steadily and helped elevate regional economic cooperation and socio-cultural exchanges to new levels. Recently, we have signed bilateral and other agreements with various countries of the region, including Turkmenistan, India and Uzbekistan to scale up the level of trade, transit and other means of cooperation for mutual benefit. Materialization of multiple mega regional projects demonstrates that despite continuous attempts by some to turn our location into a destabilizing force for the region and the world, terror can not deter the course of development and prosperity of our country and the region.
In the area of human rights, we continue to make strides in civilian protection and promotion of human rights despite the effects of conflict. In this regard, we welcome UNAMA’s second annual Protection of Civilians civil-military dialogue in Kabul. We are gravely concerned about the increasing attacks on mosques and worshippers, and to combat this menace trying to sow discord amongst our population, we have introduced measures to protect places of worship at risk. Furthermore, the President has endorsed an additional Annex to the Presidential Decree on the Prohibition of Torture, thereby providing a legal avenue to victims of torture for redress. These developments are reflective of our resolve and commitment to uphold rule of law for civilian protection and promotion of equal rights for all in a free society. Consistent with SC Resolution 1325, the role of Afghan women is becoming more prominent in the peace process.
The ongoing cycle of violence has exacerbated conditions for internally displaced persons (IDP’s). In coordination with UNHCR, the voluntary repatriation and other programs are providing much needed assistance to returning refugees and IDP’s. Additionally, we are working to create economic opportunities and strengthen security, which would provide incentives for people to remain in the country and contribute to the rebuilding of their nation.
On the counter-narcotics front, we are working in close cooperation with UNODC to implement a National Drug Action Plan that aligns law enforcement, education, and public health. In light of existing challenges, we need a more sustained and integrated approach to better reduce the illicit production and trafficking of narcotics, and organized crime, including money laundering, corruption and financing of terrorism. In this regard, we remain committed to expanding our cooperation with our allies on related areas. By the same vein, the recent increase in production should be seen in the context of the symbiotic link between narcotic drugs industry and problem of terrorism and violence. We also reaffirm the need for a holistic approach to the drug problem, focusing on all facets, including production, trafficking and consumption, on the basis of the principle of shared responsibility.
As we approach the New Year, let us reaffirm our resolve to consolidate the many achievements made thus far, while bearing in mind that collective action, within the framework of a more collaborative effort among all stakeholders, particularly countries in our region and beyond, provides the surest guarantee for our joint success. Let us therefore seize the opportunity before us for the benefit of peace and security not just in Afghanistan, but rather for the stability of all our societies.