Saturday, December 3, 2016

Security Council Debate on the Situation in Afghanistan

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

15 March 2016

بسم الله الرحمن الرحیم

Thank you Mr. President. I congratulate Angola on its successful leadership of the Council this month. I would like to take this opportunity to thank Mr. Nicholas Haysom, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and head of UNAMA, for his briefing and for his outstanding leadership of the UN’s work in Afghanistan. I thank the Secretary-General for his recent report on the situation in Afghanistan, which offers a lucid overview of the prevailing situation in my country.

 Mr. President,

Since the Council’s last deliberation on Afghanistan in December last year, we have witnessed important gains in several key areas. Enhanced regional and global cooperation has brought renewed hope in our peace efforts with the armed groups; the sustainability and enabling needs of our security forces have received fresh attention with good deliveries from regional and global partners; our security forces have conducted large-scale operations and flushed out terrorists and extremists in several districts and villages across the country; Government inclusivity and social outreach has improved political stability; the Government has met human rights benchmarks through multiple progressive legislations; electoral reform has received fresh momentum; a number of key senior appointments has increased professionalism in governance;  measures to increase revenue mobilization have brought results; increased rate of voluntary return of our nationals prove that more people are returning to Afghanistan; also, there has been substantial reduction in opium cultivation and production. With the Afghan New Year just days away, these developments give hope for more promising times for us.

Mr. President,

The renewal of UNAMA’s mandate is another affirmation of the strong partnership between Afghanistan and the United Nations. On this occasion, we are grateful for the UN’s vital contributions to our security, development, and rehabilitation. We welcome the reflection of the recommendations of the Tripartite Review Commission in the renewed mandate of UNAMA. Using this opportunity, let me thank Ambassador Román Oyarzun Marchesi and his entire team for doing a fantastic job on the negotiations.

With preparations in progress for security, political, and development discussions on Afghanistan at the forthcoming NATO Summit in Warsaw and the Brussels Conference, there are clear signs that Afghanistan once again is turning into a symbol of international cooperation with the National Unity Government as a trusted partner for all. We look forward to continuing our partnership with the international community over the coming years, and are confident that our joint success in stabilizing the situation and achieving peace and prosperity is inevitable.

We continue to face challenges from the Taliban, Daeish, Al-Qaeda, and other violent extremist and terrorist groups. Their human rights violations persisted during the usual winter lull, resulting in high civilian causality rates, massive internal displacement, and increasing instability in different parts of the country. In the face of mounting struggles, Afghans have remained united in a commitment to thwart these groups.

Mr. President,

Following last December’s Ministerial Conference of Heart of Asia-Istanbul Process in Islamabad and its side meetings, increased efforts have aimed to restore peace talks. The Quadrilateral Coordination Group (QCG), consisting of Afghanistan, Pakistan, China, and the United States, has met four times in two months in Islamabad and Kabul, and succeeded in finalizing a road map for the next steps forward. Moreover, the appointment of a new leadership team for the High Peace Council inside Afghanistan has reinvigorated the promotion of peace. We will spare no efforts to grant our citizens their fundamental right to live peaceful and dignified lives.

Despite these important developments, we are cognizant of the challenges ahead of us. So far, QCG’s call for peace talks have received mixed reactions.  Some groups have expressed readiness to attend the talks, some are weighing their options and some are attempting to raise the stakes. Two weeks ago, Mr. Sartaj Aziz, Foreign Affairs Adviser to Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, publicly stated that his Government had “influence on the Taliban” because their leadership, together with their families, live in Pakistan. Mr. Aziz’s statement speaks volumes about the crucial need for Pakistan to play its role in helping to facilitate direct talks between authorized representatives of the Taliban and the Afghan Government.

We repeat our call to the Taliban to engage in the peace talks and to give up violence. We assure them that they will be among the first beneficiaries of the peace dividend. At the same time, let me make it clear in no uncertain terms, that those elements who choose the path of violence and terror will face the full might of our security forces, and be held accountable, no matter whose protection they enjoy.

Mr. President,

We welcome the growing voice of reason within Pakistan calling for a change in the right direction. In light of that, we want an immediate end to regular incursions along the Durand Line, which cannot and will not be tolerated by Afghanistan. In the last three months alone, we have documented at least 56 instances of violation to the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Afghanistan across the Durand Line, breaching article 2 (4) of the UN Charter and contrary to UN resolution 2131. This jeopardizes Afghanistan-Pakistan relations at a time when making peace with Pakistan is essential to making peace with the Taliban.

Mr. President,

Despite our high ambitions and political will, we have realistic expectations from the peace process. Success depends on a number of factors at national, regional, and international levels, including adequate handling of spoilers of peace.

At the national level, violence must decrease so that we can win the confidence of our people, especially women, over the process. Ultimately, the peace process should further unite Afghans rather than divide us. Every effort must be made to eliminate those elements of the armed groups that oppose peace. We anticipate clear and decisive steps towards this objective.

At regional and international levels, we should aim for minimizing negative state rivalries and maximizing cooperation.  States have the right to be concerned about their interests; however, they don’t have the right to pursue them through violent means and proxies in others’ territories. The price of greatness to regional and global powers is responsibility and better coordination of legitimate interests of all. Given its sensitive geostrategic location, history of turmoil and current embroiling with global violent extremism and terrorism, Afghanistan must continue to remain a symbol of international cooperation.

Mr. President,

While we deliberate, terrorists and violent extremist groups, including Daeish and Al-Qaeda, continue to threaten the foundations of our society. Everything we cherish– equality, democracy, justice, and human rights is under attack from their daily onslaught of violence. We are in a constant battle between legality and illegality, civilization and darkness. For our part, we will continue our more than two decade long struggle against the menace of terrorism. We will do so as a matter of national and strategic priority. Having said that, ridding this menace from Afghanistan, our region and beyond, demands more robust efforts, regionally and globally, by all States – particularly those in which extremist groups originate. The time is now to strengthen the overall international architecture against terrorism. Afghanistan has long advocated the conclusion of the draft Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism. As we struggle to reach a common definition of terrorism, we must remind ourselves of the enormous pain and suffering that extremism inflicts on the civilized world. Think about the loved ones of 146 people who have either lost their lives or have become wounded in the terrorist attacks of the past couple of days in Ankara and Ivory Coast.

 This Council should ensure that all States meet their international obligations with respect to implementation of the relevant counter-terrorism and sanction regime resolutions of the General Assembly and Security Council, in particular resolutions 1373, 1624, 2178, 2253 and 2255 and present genuine and regular compliance reports.

Mr. President,

While we press for the success of the Peace Process, Afghanistan must be able to defend its sovereignty and territorial integrity, and protect its citizens. While we agree there is no military solution to the security problems imposed on us, we firmly believe that without an effective defense and security system, there will be no solution.

In the past three months, despite limited resources, the initiative has very much remained in the hands of our security forces. They have had success in a number of provinces including Nangarhar, Baghlan, Helmand, Badakhshan, Takhar, and Faryab. In Helmand, our forces have repelled sizeable enemy attacks, despite sustaining heavy casualties.

However, the cost of war imposed upon us is massive, and way beyond our own capacity. Sustainability, proper training, right enablers, reform, and high morale of the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF) are crucial in facing the regional and global terror threat.

Lately, the United States, India, China, and the Russian Federation have contributed to the delivery of the right enablers to ANDSF. We are looking forward to the Warsaw Summit of NATO in July, where the long-term sustainability of the ANDSF will be discussed.

Mr. President,

Afghanistan continues to make strides in civilian protection and promotion of human rights, especially protecting the rights of our children, which has always been our priority. We will continue to implement the “Road Map to Compliance” to prevent recruitment of child soldiers, having already endorsed the National Age Assessment Guidelines to ensure we bring an end to practices that put the lives and futures of our children at risk. The recent Afghanistan visit of Ms. Leila Zerrougui, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, provided an excellent opportunity for a first hand assessment of the situation. Our pledge to empower women and ensure their equal rights is bearing fruit. Multiple Government initiatives continue to encourage women’s participation in all sectors while the strengthening of existing laws on violence against women help to create a just society.

In the past three months, we have witnessed multiple attacks on civilians, including slaying of journalists of a popular television network. Following this incident, President Ghani has affirmed his commitment to freedom of expression by issuing a decree to prevent the intimidation.

There is significant political will to consolidate the progress made in the past years. However, the high price paid by Afghans due to the imposed conflict pulls us in a downward spiral. The Council must note that our Government’s policy is to protect civilians at any cost. ANDSF operates under strict rules of engagement based on principles of justifiability and proportionality, provide compensation and support to victims of violence, and never use any civilian facilities for military purposes.

Mr. President,

Afghanistan is currently suffering a humanitarian crisis of epic proportions. The number of internally displaced people is at its highest since 2002, but the rate of voluntary returns under the repatriation program has seen a significant increase since 2014. However, the continuous flow of Afghans out of the country is a source of concern as they contribute to the migrant crisis in Europe, constituting the second largest group of arrivals via the Mediterranean Sea route. Compounding the crisis, several European countries have started rejecting Afghan asylum petitions. It is our Government’s policy to improve conditions in Afghanistan so that we can create economic opportunities and strengthen security, to incentivize people to stay and contribute to their nation. We call upon our friends from the international community to work with us in achieving this goal.

 Mr. President,

Countering the menace of narcotics trade and breaking down the nexus of criminality and drugs are key priorities for us. Our success is evident from the findings of the 2015 Afghanistan Drug Report, which emphasizes significant reductions in opium cultivation and production, and slight increases in drug seizures. 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.

Mr. President,

 No country can achieve self-reliance without economic self-sufficiency, and Afghanistan has been adopting concrete measures to move in that direction. In line with Sustainable Development Goals, we are in the process of drafting a new National Development Strategy, the guiding document on strategies for security, governance, economic growth, poverty reduction and employment. We are serious in dealing with corruption because it negatively impacts economic growth. In this regard, the Government has implemented multiple anti-corruption strategies, and started programs that would ensure transparency of recruitment in public service and prevent nepotism.

In October, the Brussels 2016 Conference on Afghanistan is expected to convey a message of strong political support for our reform and state building process, commit development assistance in support of Afghanistan’s reform process within an updated Mutual Accountability Framework, and create a political momentum of reinforced regional cooperation. We invite member states to take an active part in this conference as investing in Afghan stability would create safety dividends worldwide.

Thank you Mr. President.

United Nations Security Council Debate on the Situation in Afghanistan

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

بسم الله الرحمن الرحیم

Thank you Madam President. I would like to thank the United States for its leadership of the council this month, and for organizing this very important debate. Taking this opportunity let me thank the Secretary-General for his recent report on the situation in Afghanistan. I would like to extend my sincere appreciation to Mr. Nicholas Haysom, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and head of UNAMA, and his team for their tireless efforts and hard work in Afghanistan, a reflection of which can be seen in the Secretary-General’s report.

H.E. Mahmoud Saikal, Permanent Representative of Afghanistan to the UN, addresses the Security Council meeting on the situation in Afghanistan.

H.E. Mahmoud Saikal, Permanent Representative of Afghanistan to the UN, addresses the Security Council meeting on the situation in Afghanistan.

We recognize the importance of General Assembly resolution 68/11 and Security Council Resolution 2210 requesting the Secretary-General to report on the situation in Afghanistan every three months. These reports, which generally align with our insights on the realities in Afghanistan, provide a comprehensive account of daily developments in the country, covering a wide range of issues. The Security Council’s quarterly deliberations on Afghanistan ensure that member states remain informed about the evolving security and socio-political dynamics in Afghanistan. It is also helpful for the National Unity Government of Afghanistan in its working relationship with the international community. In addition to immense wealth of information, the Secretary General’s quarterly reports identify problem areas relevant to the Security Council’s mandate. We hope the Council would take these debates a step forward and deliver relevant required actions for the problems raised.

As we deliberate here today, the first post-transition year of Afghanistan is coming to an end. Despite some skepticism fuelled by extensive terrorist attacks this year and our high casualty rates, Afghanistan remains united with its national resolve against terrorism and violent extremism stronger than ever before. The National Unity Government has become an enduring phenomenon, spreading its wings over the governance of the country, aiming to be more inclusive through its outreach policies. We are continuing our key goal of improving security through the overarching two-track policy of pursuing the peace process through regional and international efforts and increasing Afghanistan’s defensive capacity through national reform and Resolute Support Mission, in order to protect our people and keep the region and the world safe. Afghanistan is greatly appreciative of the continued support that the International Community has provided for our ongoing transition towards a stable, secure, and prosperous nation.

Madam President, Members of the Council,

Throughout the year, the National Unity Government continued its efforts to build trust, improve bilateral ties, and engage with the countries of the region to foster effective partnership. It invested considerable political capital towards the peace process.

On December 9, through the Heart of Asia-Istanbul Process Ministerial Conference in Islamabad and the adoption of the UN General Assembly resolution “The Situation in Afghanistan” here in New York, the region and the world at large acknowledged that Afghanistan has been fighting regional and international terrorist groups. They recognized that a peace process backed by regional actors in particular Pakistan and supported by the international community, is essential for achieving long-term peace and stability in Afghanistan.

The participants of Islamabad Conference recognized that “achieving peace and security is a shared responsibility in which each regional country must play its role”. They agreed to “put into practice specific measures necessary for countering and eliminating the menace of terrorism, curbing the spread of violent extremism and promotion of violence as a means of achieving political objectives”. They further agreed to take actions to deny terrorists’ access to financial and material resources, to dismantle their sanctuaries and training facilities, to curtail their ability to recruit and train, and to curb their movements. They urged all Afghan Taliban groups and all other armed opposition groups to enter into peace talks with the Afghan Government. They also resolved to begin the process of identifying and countering the threats associated with terrorism, transnational criminal narcotics, and weapon smuggling networks. The Conference decided to explore a collective security approach through adopting a common counter-terrorism strategy. It tasked the Heart of Asia relevant Senior Officials to meet in the first half of 2016 and come up with measures on security issues and counter terrorism.

Along the margins of the Conference, during bilateral, trilateral, and quadrilateral meetings held between the Afghan President, Pakistani Prime Minister, Chinese Foreign Minister, and US Deputy Secretary of State, the parties stressed on the need for enhancing mutual trust and cooperation between Pakistan and Afghanistan. It was clear that friendly, mutually respectful relations between Afghanistan and Pakistan are necessary to create an enabling environment for the peace process and to ensure the security, stability, prosperity, and national interests of both states.

We once again heard and welcomed the leadership of Pakistan’s statements, that Pakistan will play a genuine and constructive role in support of security, and facilitating peace talks with the Taliban.

President Ghani hoped the Heart of Asia-Istanbul Process, in association with regional and international security organizations, could reach an agreement on a mechanism of verification of what type of actors threaten our common interests and how to deal with them in an effective manner.

Madam President, Members of the Council,

Talking to the Taliban is not new. We have been talking to them since they appeared in the political landscape of our country in 1994. We have experienced the seasonality and tactical use of war and peace. The latest potential diplomatic breakthrough in putting the peace process back on track and opening an effective and sustainable regional and global approach is a sign of hope, but can only become meaningful if words are translated to deeds. This is the moment of truth; we must see a genuine paradigm shift in the part of regional orchestrators of our insecurity. The recent attacks in Kandahar and Helmand provinces have shown that better relations with neighbors can only be possible when foreign based sanctuaries are dismantled and violence is reduced inside Afghanistan and across the region.

Foreign planning, logistic support, safe havens, abundance of cash and deadly weapons, and suicide bombers are key enablers driving terrorism and violent extremism. The motivation for this level of support for terror within state circles, contrary to the Security Council Resolution 1373, must be questioned, identified, and addressed. In Afghanistan’s region, apart from other root causes of terrorism, states’ trust deficit and negative rivalry, fuming hate and excessive obsession and suspicion are causes of serious concern. Furthermore, tension between military and civilian control in domestic politics have instigated policies that use violence in pursuit of political objectives. This has turned our country into a theatre of proxy war for others and has provided a comfort zone within which terrorists and violent extremist groups operate at national, regional, and international levels. Targeting the promoters and drivers of such policies within the state structures through specific reform programs, especially in the security apparatus, as well as travel and financial sanctions would certainly make the world safer. We also hope the update and expansion of sanction regimes through resolutions 1267 and 1988 will further tighten the noose on the activities of Al-Qaeda, ISIS and the Taliban.

The incursions of different kinds across the Durand Line continued throughout 2015, which are in clear violation of Article 2(4) of the UN Charter and UN resolution 2131. The flow of militant infiltrations and large-scale weapons smugglings in our region, providing manpower, firearms, and ammunitions to the terrorist networks must be disrupted. Deriding Afghanistan for its genuine concerns over the violation of UN Charter and resolutions is not helpful for any healthy dialogue. We expect better treatment for our concerns than routinely branding them “rhetoric from Kabul” or “blame game”.

The rapid growth of Daeish or ISIS in Eastern and other parts of Afghanistan should be a serious concern for all of us. Some sections of the Taliban have sworn allegiance to ISIS. The recent inhumane attacks in California, Paris, Beirut, Nairobi, and the bombing of the Russian Airliner, have demonstrated how a new brand of terrorism has evolved into the leading global non-state terrorist actor, and can no longer be confined in the Middle East or our region. We need a unified response to strengthen global collaboration and develop strategies to denounce the extremist ideology of ISIS and their like, and combat terrorism in all its forms.

Madam President,

Despite continued challenges, fifteen years of collaborative work and joint sacrifices of Afghanistan and the international community has had significant gains of which we should all be proud. Given the emerging challenges, today we fight the war of the world against international terrorism and violent extremism, with an average of 30-40 civilian causalities a day. The consolidation and sustainability of our gains are absolutely vital. The cost of an insecure Afghanistan and its consequences is far greater than a secure Afghanistan. Handling the fresh flow of Afghan refugees in Europe is a reminder of that. Removing the drivers of threats and making Afghanistan capable to defend itself and its citizen is in fact an investment in the safety of the world. The Afghan National Defense and Security Forces, better known as ANDSF, need sustainability and the right enablers to face the imposed war. We welcome the 1st December NATO decision to sustain its training mission in Afghanistan during 2016 and secure funding for ANDSF until the end of 2020 and look forward to the 2016 Warsaw NATO Summit deliberation on Afghanistan.

Madam President, Members of the Council,

Beside the security challenges, the National Unity Government of Afghanistan has remained focused on economic issues, in particular addressing the fiscal gap, poverty, unemployment and delivery of basic services, through a series of initiatives within the Self-reliance through Mutual Accountability Framework (SMAF) and in line with 2030 Agenda. Our efforts in the promotion and advancement of regional economic cooperation within the RECCA Process have already yielded results. The recent start of construction of TAPI gas pipeline, our accession to WTO and establishment of a series of Special Economic Zones in the country as part of Afghanistan’s economic development plan are great news for our people, our partners in the region, and around the world. Our Self-reliance reform plan needs effective use of development aid and increase in national revenue. We look forward to discuss our more vigorous programs with the international community during the 2016 Brussels international conference on Afghanistan. The relevant actors in our region should realize that they can benefit from the peace dividend of Afghanistan.

We are diligently working to strengthen good governance and the rule of law; protect and promote the rights of all Afghans, and enhance the fight against narcotics. In this effort, we are enhancing the internal capabilities of our nation. We are making progress in the restoration of credibility in the electoral process. We have already begun to implement the recommendations of the Special Electoral Reform Commission.

In conclusion, I would like to reiterate that despite constant attacks on our sovereignty and people, Afghanistan stands strong and united in the face of terror. We will not be defeated by extremist elements who want to destroy the progress that we have collectively achieved since 2001. We have demonstrated time and again that we are willing and committed to work on the road towards peace. Currently, extremism worldwide threatens our core values and aims to divide us.  Afghanistan is fighting terrorist threats every day, and we expect stronger global partnership to holistically address the root causes of such activities. We must ensure that the voice of reason prevails and we must present a unified front against terrorism, in all its aspects and wherever it exist. In this regard, we are very grateful for your unconditional support in the past, and look forward to a fruitful and effective relationship in the future to create a world of justice and peace.

I would like to take this opportunity to pay tribute to the courageous men and women of so many nations that have served, and sacrificed their lives alongside their Afghan comrades and partners, in combating terrorism and seeking a better future for the people of Afghanistan. We shall best honor their courage and memory by finishing our task at hand. We also extend our heartfelt condolences to the families of those civilians who tragically lost their lives during the recent barbaric attacks by Daesh, in various parts of the world.

As a new representative of a transformed Afghanistan with a strong popular mandate and high expectations from the United Nations, I hope this noble Council could continue to act on the plight of millions of my people who have seen nearly four decades of imposed conflicts. Let us therefore reaffirm our longstanding commitment to ensure an Afghanistan that stands in peace and security, for its implications are by all accounts far-reaching and essential for global peace and security.

Thank you Madam President.

Statement by H.E. Mahmoud Saikal Ambassador, Permanent Representative of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan to the United Nations  Plenary Session on the Situation in Afghanistan

30 November 2015

New York

بسم الله الرحمن الرحیم

Mr. President,

At the outset, I would like to thank all member states for their unanimous support for the resolution entitled “The Situation in Afghanistan.” We are particularly thankful to German Ambassador Harald Braun and his team for their hard work as penholder and their generous facilitation of the negotiations. Given the current global context, with Afghanistan at the forefront of the war against terrorism, unanimous global consensus and support are crucial for the triumph of universal values of tolerance and co-existence over terror and violent extremism. We hope this important resolution will guide member states in addressing the difficult challenges facing Afghanistan.

Afghan Delegates to the United Nations in New York.

Afghan Delegates to the United Nations in New York.

Before I elaborate on the situation in Afghanistan today, I would invite each one of you to think back to Afghanistan in 2001. Decades of foreign invasions and meddling resulting in political instability had left behind a country in ruins. The long road we have travelled together since 2001, with a focus on reconstruction and transformation of the country, is incredible. Despite continued challenges, Afghanistan’s overall progress in the last fifteen years stands as a symbol of international cooperation, for which the Afghans are truly grateful. Indeed, we all should be proud of the gains we have made – gains which are unprecedented in the history of Afghanistan and which would not be possible without your continuous support and sacrifice. At this moment, it is essential that we work together and focus on the consolidation and sustainability of these gains.

Today, I stand before you as a new representative of a transformed Afghanistan with a strong popular mandate and high expectations from this world body, the United Nations.

Mr. President,

This post-transition year of 2015 has been eventful in every respect for Afghanistan, with enormous challenges, few opportunities, and glimpses of hope for a better future.

Security, political stability, and the peace process in Afghanistan are interlinked and have a huge impact on the national, regional, and global stability, as well as the geopolitical architecture at large.

This year has been the bloodiest in Afghanistan since 2001, with a sharp increase in civilian and military casualties. We have come under high levels of attacks from foreign-based Taliban including the Haqqani network, Al Qaida, ISIS (Daeish), Hekmatyar’s faction, and other extremist groups. The peak of this was the Taliban’s temporary capture of Kunduz city in late September, during which together with hundreds of international terrorists they unleashed their reign of terror on the population. The foreign orchestrators of this years’ ferocious attacks had taken advantage of three factors: (1) the withdrawal of international forces, and the strong belief of the terrorists that their attacks would make the political system collapse, (2) the lack of coordination of Pakistan’s untimely counter-terrorism operations with Afghanistan, allowing part of international terrorists to enter our soil; (3) Afghanistan’s preoccupation with its 2014 political transition, involving two rounds of elections, which slowed down governance.

Alongside these threats, in 2015 Afghanistan continued to face regular attacks across the Durand Line by Pakistani security forces in clear violation of our sovereignty and territorial integrity. As a result of heavy artillery shelling in the eastern provinces many civilian and border police lives have been lost, and our citizens live in fear. Pursuant to Article 33 of the UN Charter, we have discussed these issues with the Government of Pakistan yet no action has been taken to rectify the situation.

654844newThis year, the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF) have faced these challenges on their own, with international partners playing only a supporting role. However, given the magnitude of challenges, our forces are overstretched with law enforcement police heavily engaged in the war on terror. We have had good success when provided with air cover but the lack of effective air force and other enablers have led to high casualties. Thanks to the arrival of cold weather, the fighting season has now temporarily ceased.

ANDSF has managed to keep Afghanistan mostly intact and has repelled almost all attacks with courage, competence, and resilience. During the Kunduz incident, our national resolve was tested and this only strengthened the bond between civilians and our brave defense forces. The terrorist groups might have made some gains in the short term, but they have no chance of holding ground and sustaining such gains. Naturally, ANDSF need sustainability and the right enablers to confront the enemy.

In this respect, we welcome the October US announcement to support the ANDSF and counter-terrorism operations beyond 2016, and hope it will be complimented by other NATO members during the forthcoming NATO Foreign Ministers meeting in Brussels. This will further prevent safe havens for terrorist groups and enhance the enduring security partnership with Afghanistan.

It is important to note that without foreign planning, logistic support, safe havens, abundance of deadly weapons and suicide bombers, the Afghan elements of the Taliban would be just another political group whose grievances could be easily addressed by the Constitution and through legitimate political processes.

External support to the Taliban and other terrorist groups is primarily motivated by regional rivalry, with excessive and unnecessary anxiety and suspicion of one state over its rival’s otherwise ordinary relations with Afghanistan. This has resulted in an unsavory policy of using violent proxies in pursuit of political objectives, which has created a significant trust deficit between Pakistan and Afghanistan and provides oxygen for terror to breath.

The peace process can only bear fruit if there is a paradigm shift and these issues are addressed. We appeal to Pakistan to increase direct bilateral contacts with Afghanistan away from lens of tension with other states. It is time to establish a special platform upon which genuine representatives of the two countries can address the trust deficit and move towards a friendly and sustainable neighborly cooperation. It is only then that progress can be seen in the peace process.

Afghanistan has taken a number of initiatives to build trust with Pakistan. A year back, President Ghani traveled to Pakistan during one of his first overseas visits. In an unprecedented move, we sent a small team of security officers for training to Pakistan. We were ready to negotiate the Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) for security management of the Durand Line and open our arms for coordination of military operations. We presented a white paper which reflected our views on improving relations between the two countries. In response, facilitated by China and the United States, Pakistan moved to assist in the Murray talks between representatives of the Taliban leader and the Afghan Government. However, soon it was realized that we were negotiating with the representatives of a leader who had died two years earlier in a hospital in Karachi, Pakistan. So, as you can see, there has been a lack of reciprocity to our trust building initiatives.

The National Unity Government of Afghanistan is currently following a two track policy. 1)  Pursue the peace process through regional and international efforts. 2)   Increase Afghanistan’s security capacity, so that we can defend our people and keep the region and the world safe.

Implementation of most of the contents of the September 2014 Agreement on the National Unity Government has already improved political stability in the country. As President Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah further progress with the implementation of the agreement, we continue to see improvements in the security and development sectors.

Mr. President,

Good governance, respect for rule of law, and the promotion and protection of human rights for all are key to enhancing the internal capabilities of our nation.

Integral to the cause of democratization is the restoration of credibility in the electoral process.  We have established the Special Electoral Reform Commission this year and have already begun to implement its recommendations at the governmental level.

Fighting corruption and reinstating the integrity of our justice system is important for the Government of Afghanistan. A reliable judiciary that responds to the needs of its people, regardless of ethnicity, language, or gender, is critical in any democracy. As such, we have initiated a systematic performance review of the judiciary across the country. This year a significant number of female judges have taken the oath of office.

Promoting women to positions of leadership is especially important, given the grave human rights abuses that they have suffered in Afghanistan. This year, our people have experienced some of the worst brutalities, including beheading of our nationals at the hands of terrorist groups and stoning of women to death. Women require protection from the continued violence they face, and this must be facilitated by increased access to necessary resources. We are committed to the implementation of Security Council Resolution 1325 on women, peace and security.

We are also focused on bringing reform to the delivery of services in preventive health, quality of education, supply of water and electricity, as well as provision of services for returnees and internally displaced persons (IDPs).

Issues of social and economic development cannot be addressed without tackling our fiscal gap, 36% poverty and around 50% unemployment. Currently, they form the top priorities of our Self-reliance reform plan.  Our economic situation has worsened by a shrinking economy of war, departure of foreign troops, and reduction in foreign aid. We ask member states to renew their financial support, so that we can continue to utilize funds in ways that could generate more income for our people and increase our national revenue. Procurement streamlining has brought more transparency. We have launched a comprehensive National Employment Program with a focus on generating jobs through a series of agricultural, irrigation, livestock, energy, housing, environmental, and rural development initiatives. We encourage small and medium-sized enterprises in their endeavors and continue to attract investment with the aim to trigger local productivity and ultimately transform the import-consuming economy to a local productive one.

Currently, four categories of our nationals are associated with refugee crisis: (1) those who have recently arrived in Europe where they make up the second largest group, after Syrians; (2) long-time Afghan refugees in neighboring Pakistan and Iran; (3) those who are currently making arrangements to leave the country for security and/or economic reasons; and (4) Afghan diaspora settled in developed countries but living in fear of retribution for recent terrorist attacks and increasing Islamophobia.

Regarding the first two categories, the obligation of host governments with respect to the protection of refugees under 1951 Convention is paramount. Concerning category three, the international community needs to invest more to bring peace, stability, and economic prosperity to Afghanistan, as this will prevent the outflow of our nationals from the country. Category four needs member states’ united front in countering violent extremism and terrorism, and denying the extremists’ call for clash between Islam and the West.

President Ghani is currently in Europe shoring up international coordination in war against terror, bilateral relations and proper treatment of the refugees.

Considering Afghanistan’s geopolitical location in between regional and global powers, regional cooperation through continued security, political, economic and social cooperation with the neighbors and near neighboring states is of importance to us. Currently, Afghanistan is leading two regional dialogue processes: the politically and security-oriented Istanbul Process (Heart of Asia), with its fifth Ministerial Conference due in Islamabad next week, and the economically-oriented Regional Economic Cooperation Conference on Afghanistan (RECCA), which had its sixth successful Ministerial Conference in Kabul last September. We are also pursuing common regional objectives through existing regional organizations and programs.

The connection between criminality, terrorism, and opium production is obvious as Taliban and various international terrorist groups benefit from it. We have recently adopted the Afghanistan’s National Drug Action Plan which integrates alternative development, eradication, drug treatment and prevention programs into a broader effort aimed at furthering good governance, economic development, and security. However, I would like to remind you that the narcotics issue is a global threat, and therefore increased cooperation between Afghanistan, its neighbors, and international partners is essential for an effective drug eradication strategy.

In conclusion, at a time of heightened conflict, with daily assaults and casualties, it is difficult to have patience in the slow process of transformation. But it is clear that our country has travelled a long way since its days of darkness. Just as Afghanistan has stood since 2001 as a symbol of international cooperation, a failed Afghanistan could entail far-reaching repercussions globally.

With this in mind, I want to reiterate my sincere gratitude to each member state for supporting Afghanistan on its path to democracy, freedom, and development; I want to remind you all that our Decade of Transformation has just begun. Peace in Afghanistan does not begin or end in Kabul. It requires sustained commitment of regional and international partners to work collectively to achieve this objective.

Thank you.