Thursday, November 23, 2017

Remarks by Ambassador Tanin at the open discussion entitled, Afghanistan: Is a Negotiated Settlement Possible

United Nations, NY, February 11, 2011: H.E. Ambassador Zahir Tanin, Permanent Representative of Afghanistan to the United Nations, joined a panel of fellow ambassadors in an open discussion entitled, “Afghanistan: Is a Negotiated Settlement Possible?” Jeffrey Laurenti, Senior Fellow and Director of Foreign Policy Programs at the Century Foundation facilitated the panel and Co-hosted, the event along with Jeanne Betsock Stillman, President of the United Nations Association Southern New York State Division.  The panel was a part of a day-long event organized by the Century Foundation and Mid-Atlantic region of the United Nations Association of the United States.

Former American Ambassador to Afghanistan, H.E. Robert Finn responded to questions about the changing role of the Taliban after international forces intervened in Afghanistan.  He explained that there is a need to focus on rebuilding infrastructure and strengthening security in the country. The US Military, he says, considers the progress of the Afghan army to be successful thus far, and that the Taliban does not have the “upper-hand.”

H.E. Ambassador Zahir Tanin responded to questions about possible negotiations with the Taliban.  He emphasized that “there is no military solution alone” in Afghanistan, and that it is the responsibility of the Afghan government and international forces to work together to bring peace and stability to the country. “The road to peace,” he said, “is through reconciliation.” The Afghan government is not yet engaged in formal talks with the Taliban, but supports reconciliation with those Taliban who are willing to disassociate with Al-Qaeda and terrorism, renounce violence, and accept the Afghan constitution.  “The reconciliation is not an end, it is a means,” Ambassador Tanin explained.  He highlighted three underlying issues that must remain central in the context of reconciliation: The ‘end state’ of the stabilization process, according to Ambassador Tanin, is defined by the end of the war, and establishing the Afghan leadership and ownership. The constitutional framework of the country, including human rights and democracy must be protected. Finally, International and regional partnerships must be balanced throughout the transition to Afghan-led security efforts through 2014 and beyond.

When asked about the potential for Pakistan delivering Taliban members as negotiators, H.E. Abdullah Hussein Haroon, Pakistan Ambassador to the United Nations, emphasized that the Taliban and Al Qaeda are separate entities. He explained that it is difficult for Pakistan’s government to stop the Taliban from entering Pakistan, comparing it to the US’s border control struggle with Mexico. However, the Afghan and Pakistani governments are working together to control the situation, he said, and Pakistan has a stake in the security and stability of its neighbor.

A lively question and answer session followed the debate. Key themes of this discussion included speculations about the potential for peace in the country’s future, a recognition of the thriving intellectual and cultural Afghanistan of the 1960s, and a debate about the effectiveness of international involvement in the country.

The full text of the opening remarks given by Ambassador Tanin are below:

How Afghanistan Views Negotiation with the Taliban

“As we know, there is no military solution alone in Afghanistan. At the same time it the prime responsibility of the Afghan government and of international forces present in Afghanistan to end the war and bring peace and security to the Afghan people after decades of suffering. It is our understanding that the road to peace is through reconciliation.

This year with the beginning of the transition to Afghan leadership, particularly the step by step takeover of the responsibility of security, talks with the Taliban are becoming an essential part of the stabilization efforts.

The government of Afghanistan is not yet engaged in formal talks with the Taliban but it has taken all necessary steps to widen its contact with those Taliban that can be reconciled.  The representatives of all political and social groups of the country through the High Peace Council have started to engage in peace talks.

In fact, a mutually reinforcing military and political stabilization effort will eventually lead to the beginning of negotiations with the Taliban. This is a position that both civilian and military leaders continue to support.

The official position of the government of Afghanistan on reconciliation is simple and clear: we want to talk to and reconcile all those Taliban who are ready to join the peace process in the country.

Our red lines for the negotiation to start and an agreement to work are based on a principled minimal proposition: disassociation with Al-Qaeda and terrorism, renouncing the violence and accepting the constitutional framework. Such a position provides a reasonable foundation for any solemn settlement.

The reconciliation is not an end, it is a means. As such, it should not be seen in isolation from three underlined issues:

A.    The “end state” of the stabilization process is defined by the end of the war, and establishing the Afghan leadership and Afghan ownership.

B.    The constitutional framework of the country which guarantees the human and fundamental rights of people; a peaceful and democratic basis of governance; and regular, peaceful transfer of leadership.

C.    The regional (rather international-regional) context. Peace and stability in Afghanistan is closely linked with a balance of relations between Afghanistan, its international partners and its neighbors.

The debate about the negotiation is based on different perceptions about a political solution. Obviously, we are not expected to negotiate a military exit from Afghanistan. The negotiation is aimed at engaging the armed opposition in a peace process to end the conflict. A peace agreement would allow the Taliban a safe return, security, and peace dividends. It is not about an anti-constitutional suggestion for power-sharing or establishing a coalition government. But reconciliation will provide the Taliban, from the low ranks to military leaders, with the prospect of taking part as a political force in political process, including elections, and social and economic life of the country.

Our history did not begin in 2001 and will not end in 2014.  As President Karzai has suggested, 2014 is the date that Afghans will take the lead of security of the country. 2014 is not the last rendezvous in Afghanistan. The partnership between the US, NATO and Afghanistan will endure for a long time beyond 2014. We signed an enduring partnership document with NATO in Lisbon in November 2010. We are now working with the relevant authorities of the US to prepare a new strategic partnership document in the coming months. These historical agreements, hopefully, will frame a secure prospect of lasting relations between Afghanistan, the US and NATO.”

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Forests for people, United Nations Forum on Forests

Statement by H.E. Dr. Zahir Tanin

Ambassador and Permanent Representative of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan

Round table 1: Forests for people

9th Session, United Nations Forum on Forests

Mr. Chairman,

I thank you for convening this meeting early in 2011, our International Year of Forests and I would also like to indicate Afghanistan’s desire for active participation in relevant forums and activities in conjunction with the International year.

The pictures of arid and barren landscapes of Afghanistan we see today make it difficult for us to imagine that the country once had much more extensive forests, with cedars, firs and pines in high-alpine areas and coniferous mountain forests, as well as pistachios and almonds in dry woodlands. As a result of the absence of forest management and poor agricultural practices amongst other contributing factors due to decades of conflict and instability, forests cover less than 3% of total land area in Afghanistan today. UN Environmental Protection experts predict that at the current rate of deforestation, Afghanistan’s forests will disappear within 30 years if collective action is not taken to reverse the destruction. As a consequence of thirty years of war, around 50-60% of pistachio forests were destroyed. The provinces of Paktya, Khost and Paktika once had 450,000 hectares of forest, nearly 70% of which has been destroyed.  Most of the destruction in these Eastern provinces is due to illegal logging, even though this practice has been banned since 2006.

Healthy, functioning forests are the primary energy source in the form of fuelwood for rural communities, which make up 80% of our total population. Non-timber forest products, particularly fruits, supplement rural income. However, current rates of deforestation are threatening the existence of our remaining woodlands, and thereby indirectly threatening the livelihoods of our people.

Mr. Chairman,

The government of Afghanistan has taken steps to prevent further destruction of forests. An approach based on a national plan has been adopted by the government, including policies such as a Reintegration Program in 5 provinces of Afghanistan, the announcement of 9 national protection areas, rehabilitation of pistachio forests, community based natural resource management, the prevention of illegal logging and a new legislation for the management of forests. Among major challenges are security, lack of expertise, smuggling of timbers to neighboring countries and lack of donor interests to support forest related projects.

Afforestation projects represent valuable opportunities in reducing the level of poverty by generating employment, as well as providing products that will improve local economic conditions and diversify Afghanistan’s potential commodities for export. The key concerns of energy and food security in rural communities are also addressed in participatory afforestation programs. The return of forest and vegetation to our landscape is also crucial in our efforts to combat desertification. Vital ecosystem services provided by forests can also reduce the water stress Afghanistan faces, and sequester carbon in addressing the global problem of climate change.

Forests and sustainable forest management can contribute significantly to Afghanistan’s efforts in pursuing sustainable development, poverty eradication and the achievement of internationally agreed development goals including the Millennium Development Goals. Together with our development partners, Afghanistan is ready to facilitate knowledge sharing and improve our human and institutional capacity for sustainable forest management.

Thank you

United Nations Security Council Debate on Post-conflict Peacebuilding: Institution Building

Statement By H.E. Dr. Zahir Tanin

Ambassador and Permanent Representative of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan

at the Security Council Debate on Post-conflict Peacebuilding: Institution Building

Mr. President,

Please allow me to begin by congratulating you and your delegation for assuming the presidency of the Council for the month of January. I thank you for convening today’s important meeting on post-conflict peacebuilding and institution building and I wish to express my appreciation for the informative concept paper which you provided on 4 January. Thank you also to the Secretary General for his remarks. I would like to thank His Excellency, Vice Prime Minister Jose Luis Guterres, who spoke on behalf of G7+ of which Afghanistan is a member. The voices of conflict-affected and fragile states provided a unique and crucial perspective on peacebuilding and institution building. Thank you to His Excellency, Ambassador Peter Wittig for addressing the council on behalf of the Peacebuilding Commission.

Mr. President,

Institution building is one of the essential components of establishing a peaceful and sustainable future in any post-conflict situation. The necessary requirements for successful institution building in post-conflict settings include: recognizing unique contexts; steady resourcing; growth of human capital; national, regional, and international cooperation; and strategic patience through the transition period. In Afghanistan we have learned firsthand the importance of each of these requirements.

Mr. President,

In the ubiquitous debate on the current situation in Afghanistan, it is easy to overlook the thirty years of conflict that Afghanistan has overcome in order to reach a point at which, today, we can discuss institution building and post-conflict peacebuilding. Let us not underestimate the time it takes to surpass the challenges of history. An environment such as Afghanistan’s, which has faced complex conflict, power struggles, and ongoing violence for decades cannot be changed overnight. As we engage in each and every discussion about the training of the Afghan army and police, the timeline for military engagement, or international partnerships, we must keep this context in mind.

Mr. President,

In 2001, Afghanistan was considered to be the most failed state in the world. The fall of the Taliban left a weakly governed state with no professional police or army to quell the ongoing fighting around the country. In 2001 Afghanistan lacked state institutions and had a budget of merely $27 million. After having hundreds of thousands of military and nonmilitary government employees in the early 1990s, educated and skilled workers fled the country and its government was left with less than 2,000 employees with higher educations. Many government institutions were nonfunctional because basic staffing and resourcing needs were not met.

Mr. President,

Given the magnitude of destruction, stabilization efforts in Afghanistan have produced impressive results. Despite its uphill climb from the time of Taliban rule, Afghanistan has experienced political transformation and development over the last decade, achieved through the support of the international community. The political process for the continued growth of the country is in place. Nearly 7 million refugees have returned. Women’s roles in politics have steadily increased. Civil society has emerged triumphantly in a more unified and organized manner. There are many areas in the country where we are witnessing governance for the first time in decades. Progress in the area of infrastructure development including building and paving roads and increased access to water, education, and health care has been among the most rapid of any post-conflict nation in decades. Women and girls now have equal educational access.

Security institutions have developed, supporting the emergence of Afghan national ownership. The last year has shown that it is possible to increase the Afghan National Army substantially and simultaneously see its planning and combat abilities improve. Local administrations have increased their involvement in security efforts, particularly through the engagement of Afghan people, especially elders, in defense programs in villages.

Mr. President,

As a measure to end violence and achieve lasting peace, we in Afghanistan have prioritized reintegration and reconciliation. We continue to encourage members of the armed-opposition to put down their weapons, choose the path of peace, and join efforts for stabilization and rehabilitation in the country. Progress continues toward implementing the recommendations of our national consultative peace-jirga, which constitutes the core of our reconciliation efforts. Now that we have come halfway, it is the Taliban’s turn to fulfill its responsibility. If the Taliban wants to join the peace talks, it must end violence and terrorist attacks, including suicide bombings, IEDs, kidnappings, targeted assassinations and sever ties with Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups.

Mr. President,

We must also anticipate the challenges we will face going forward. The biggest issue is the sustainability of peace, not just for Afghanistan, but for any post-conflict country. The functionality of institutions is necessary; a country must have the resources, the human capital, and capacity to stop the threat of insurgency or avoid relapsing into conflict. Capacity building is essential if state institutions are to operate effectively; empowering state institutions means enabling national government to provide services for its citizens.

Mr. President,

In any post-conflict setting, maintained international engagement in the institution building stages, beyond military involvement, is necessary for the endurance of peacebuilding efforts. In Afghanistan, an additional component of the stabilization process is effective regional cooperation. Progress is at risk of unraveling if these partnerships do not remain strong.

Democratization in post-conflict countries is a multidimensional challenge. We have learned from our experience that the democratization process requires sustained security as well as political, and development support. However, as it has been emphasized time and again “democracy grows from within and external actors can only support it.” The international community and key national stakeholders must work collaboratively, with integrative strategies, to provide effective support for democratization.

Mr. President,

In the coming years, national ownership and leadership with continued international partnerships will be key for Afghanistan. The adoption of the Kabul Process involves more Afghan responsibility for security, development and governance in the country. The significant increase in the amount of international funding channeled through the Afghan Government reflects renewed support for national ownership. The Afghan Government is committed to assuming full responsibility for security efforts with the support of the international community by the end of 2014. It is a gradual and condition-based process, which relies upon support to build Afghan security forces’ size, strength and operational capability.

Mr. President,

Building peace through developing institutions can help address the causes of conflict. However, it is necessary to end violence in order to create an environment in which institutions can flourish. Progress can be destroyed when conflict flares up. We must not forget the lessons we have learned in Afghanistan: A school or clinic built in six months can be destroyed in only six minutes by the Taliban or other extremists.

Furthermore, the importance of effective international partnership during post-conflict situations cannot be overestimated. In this regard, adequate resourcing and capacity building are preconditions for ensuring lasting peace.

Thank you.

Permanent Mission of Afghanistan