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
21 June 2016
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بسم الله الرحمن الرحیم
Merci Monsieur le Président. Veuillez accepter mes félicitations pour bien diriger la Conseil de Sécurité ce mois. I express gratitude to the Secretary-General for his recent report on the situation in my country. I would like to thank my friend Mr. Nicholas Haysom for his last briefing as Special Representative of the Secretary General. I pay tribute to his contribution to the life of our country during the crucial years of transition. I would also like to welcome another good friend Ambassador Tadamichi Yamamoto as incoming Special Representative of the Secretary General, whom I have had the pleasure of working with in Kabul.
I also convey my deepest condolences on the tragic Orlando atrocity last week and yesterday’s attacks in Kabul and Badakhshan. Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families. We welcome the Security Council’s condemnation statement issued on these attacks.
I am pleased to report that since the March deliberation of the Council on Afghanistan, the country has shown better resilience to counter the ongoing challenges. As I speak here today, we have just left behind us the spring season with high casualties and setbacks for the Taliban and other terrorist groups. Afghanistan’s region, along with international partners, are coming together to give a more collective response to violent extremism and terrorism, emanating from the region. A number of multinational development projects have either come to fruition or have taken off, creating new hope for regional peaceful coexistence, connectivity, and prosperity. Afghanistan and its regional and international partners appear more determined than ever to prevent the continuation of violence to take development hostage. The reemergence of Afghanistan as a symbol of international cooperation and partnership is gaining momentum. Nevertheless, increased civilian casualties, internal displacement and the ramifications of the cowardly behavior of the Taliban and their supporters to compensate for their losses, have been alarming.
Last winter, the Quadrilateral Coordination Group (QCG) comprising of Afghanistan, Pakistan, China, and the United States finalized a roadmap for the peace process. New opportunities were presented to those willing to engage in talks. The QCG members agreed to take all necessary measures against those who refuse to engage in political resolution of the conflict in Afghanistan.
The expectation was that the Taliban would use this opportunity and join the process. Sadly on 12 April they responded with their so-called spring offensive simultaneously across 42 different locations in our country, causing heavy civilian suffering, and proving once again that they are irreconcilable to peaceful political initiatives. Given the brilliant performance of our National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF) the Taliban have suffered heavy losses during the first stage of their onslaught. To avenge their losses, the Taliban plotted and claimed responsibility for the deadly Kabul terrorist attack on 19 April, killing and wounding 411, mostly civilians.
On 25 April, President Ashraf Ghani addressed a joint sitting of the National Assembly of Afghanistan. He called on Pakistan to respect the QCG agreements and take action against terrorists who — according to credible intelligence from our own agencies as well as our international partners, also publicly recorded confessions by Pakistani authorities themselves — have their bases and leaders in the neighboring country. He said “if Pakistan refuses to carry out military operations in its soil against the terrorists, then it should surrender them to our courts to face justice”. We believe that there is a need for political will and honest police action — rather than nuclear deals or F-16s — to fulfill the task.
President Ghani added that despite our desire and efforts to advance regional cooperation, we will have no choice but to refer the case to the UN Security Council and take serious diplomatic measures unless there is a change in policy of using terrorist proxies against Afghanistan.
In contrast to the unforthcoming attitude of a certain neighbouring country, other QCG members have remained committed or even given effect to their words. On 22 May Taliban leader Mullah Akhtar Mansour was tracked and killed in the Balochistan province of Pakistan by a United States airstrike. The incident also exposed his Pakistani passport with a fake name, using which he had flown numerous times from Pakistani airports. Despite this, the charade of plausible deniability, duplicity, and blame of Afghan weaknesses continues, which must come to an end if we are to succeed in counter-terrorism.
In the past fifteen years, numerous leading figures of terrorism, including the Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden and Taliban leaders Mullah Omar and Mullah Akhtar Mansour have lived and died in Pakistan. The fact that notorious terrorist leaders were found and killed in their safe havens there is a clear proof that the country has violated the sovereignty of other nations. This constitutes a flagrant violation of the UN Security Council Resolution 1373 and Resolution 2255 on the Sanction Regime against the Taliban. We believe that there is an urgent need for proper implementation of the existing counter terrorism resolutions of the UN Security Council.
Following the failure of their so-called spring offensive, the Taliban have resorted to increasing highway banditry, killing, or kidnapping civilians. In late May, they kidnapped 130 civilian bus passengers in Kunduz, the fate of some of whom is still unknown. Earlier today, the Taliban again took multiple travelers hostage in the province of Helmand.
Meanwhile, provocative actions along the de-facto separation line including illegal construction of military installations, abuse of our nationals and restrictions on trade and transit have escalated by our neighbour. In the past three months, the violation of our sovereignty and territorial integrity continued with over 820 foreign artillery shelling of our eastern provinces of Nangarhar, Khost, Paktika, Kunar and Nouristan, causing civilian casualties and material loss.
Most recently, and in contravention of bilaterally agreed consultation mechanisms, our neighbour attempted to build new infrastructure at Torkham Pass, thereby provoking a needless military clash with casualties on both sides. The situation, a threat to international peace and security, remains tense with devastating impact on trade and transit.
As a responsible member of the UN, and under Article 33 of the UN Charter, Afghanistan has submitted 19 protest notes to Pakistan and summoned its head of mission in Kabul three times in the past three months. Meanwhile, Afghanistan’s Government and parliament have called for diplomatic solution to the illegal construction at Torkham Pass. An Afghan delegation was sent to Islamabad, exploring a diplomatic breakthrough. We hope the voice of reason will prevail but our message is very clear: make no mistake, I repeat, make no mistake, the proud Government and people of Afghanistan have not, do not and will not surrender to intimidation, violence, and aggression. Our history is a testimony to this!
Apart from the Taliban, the constantly morphing global and regional terrorist groups seek to turn Afghanistan into a launching pad against Central Asia, South Asia, West Asia and the Far East. It is imperative that we remain vigilant and proactive against them. Despite the recent ANDSF heavy blows to ISIL and AL-Qaeda, they continue to position themselves to reemerge in Afghanistan. Al-Qaeda has gone dark and deep. Other regional terrorist networks, with links to Central Asian republics, Chechnya and China are highly active in our region. Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan, in coordination with other terror groups, remains a long-term threat to the security and stability of our region. What is more important, most of these terrorist groups and networks enjoy the facilitation and orchestration services of elements within the state structure of Pakistan who believe in the use of violence in pursuit of political objectives. Any country contemplating the use of good and bad terrorists against each other and against others is playing with fire which will catch itself. It is imperative that the international community undertake an initiative to establish objective criteria to identify and confront state sponsorship of terrorism in our neighborhood.
Despite the challenges, Afghanistan remains committed to the peace process with reconcilable Afghan elements in parallel to strengthening its defense and security capabilities. However, it is important that we remain vigilant against the instrumentalisation and misuse of the peace process to buy time and refuel the war machine of the Taliban by their supporters. One can only talk about peace with those who value genuine and results-oriented negotiations, but the world is yet to see sincerity on the part of the Taliban and their supporters.
Here, I must pay particular tribute to the brave men and women of ANDSF. I am pleased to report that ANDSF, despite suffering high casualty rates, continues to move from strength to strength, proving an invaluable asset and partner in the global struggle against terrorism. We are grateful for the continuing partnership of the international community. We welcome last week’s US announcement on further ground and air support to the ANDSF. We are looking forward to the Warsaw Summit of NATO in two weeks time, which will review international support for the Afghan security forces, and reiterate the pledges of our international partners.
Afghanistan has moved to complete or attain progress on a number of major national and regional projects on energy and trade. Recently, we signed agreement with a Turkish company to explore expanding Kajaki dam in Helmand. Afghanistan and India inaugurated the Salma irrigation and power Dam in Herat. Another historic occasion was the signing of a transit trade agreement for the Chabahar Port between Afghanistan, India, and Iran. We have already started to export agricultural products through this new trade route. Leaders of Afghanistan, Tajikistan, Pakistan and Kyrgyzstan launched the construction of the CASA1000 project. Afghanistan is determined to continue its outreach to all regional partners for mutual growth and prosperity, but at the same time remains steadfast in not allowing obstructive policies in the neighbourhood to dictate its direction. We are currently working on the development strategy framework, in line with Agenda 2030, to be presented at the Brussels Conference on Afghanistan in October. We look forward to generous investments from the international community towards the implementation of this strategy.
We are committed to the full implementation of the September 2014 Agreement on the formation of the National Unity Government. We are working with all stakeholders to identify and remove the obstacles and expedite the electoral reform and convocation of the constitutional amendment Loya Jirga.
As we approach the Brussels Conference, I am pleased to report that over 90 per cent of Afghanistan’s 2015-2016 commitments in the Self-Reliance through Mutual Accountability Framework (SMAF) are either complete or nearing completion. Afghanistan created the High Council on Governance, Justice and Anti-Corruption which supervises the National Anti-corruption Strategy, and implemented anti-corruption measures in the justice sector, which are bound to improve governance. The Parliament has given vote of confidence to new Ministers of Interior and Defense, Attorney-General and Head of National Directorate of Security.
Despite rising civilian casualties due to attacks by extremist factions, the determination of ANDSF to protect civilian lives remains steadfast. The Government has reiterated its commitment to promoting human rights and continues to work on revising the penal code, professionalize the Afghan National Police, and submitted its first periodic report to the United Nations Committee Against Torture. Children’s protection units are operational in different regions of the country to prevent recruitment of children in the armed forces. Multiple women’s protection and family guidance centers for survivors of domestic violence are open and functional, which shows the Government’s continued support in rehabilitating victims of violence.
The humanitarian situation remains fragile, with an increase in conflict related displacements in extreme weather conditions. Earlier this year, I was very pleased to sign the Climate Agreement on behalf of my Government, which I believe puts us on the right track to make progress towards environmental and social integrity. Afghanistan is ranked among the most vulnerable countries facing adverse impacts of climate change, and this affects our economic situation as well.
The flight of Afghans still leaving the country remains a cause of concern, along with significant numbers of internally displaced, as against a decrease in voluntary repatriations. Terrorist attacks on various aid organizations have hampered humanitarian assistance in several cases, and rendered refugee resettlement programs more precarious. However, our Government is fully committed to sustainable solutions for the repatriation of Afghan refugees with the support of the international community. I welcome the deliberations at the World Humanitarian Summit, and assure that Afghanistan will work with our international partners to address this serious humanitarian situation.
According to UNODC’s socioeconomic analysis of its Afghanistan Opium Survey 2015, the estimated gross value of opiates in Afghanistan decreased, which represented seven per cent of the country’s gross domestic product, compared to 13 per cent in 2014. This demonstrates our commitment to curb the menace of narcotics and we will continue to work with the international community to garner support on the Afghan National Drug Action Plan to counter the threat of illicit drugs.
Let me conclude by saying that 2015, the first post-transition year, was the year of survival for Afghanistan, but 2016 has inaugurated the era of consolidation of the gains that we have collectively made in the past fifteen years. Together, we will pave the way for long term sustainability of progress in our country. Let me thank every one of you around this table and almost all other member states of the UN who have been part of our journey either in sweat and toil or spirit so far.