Ambassador Mahmoud Saikal, Permanent Representative of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan to the UN
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
10 March 2017
(check against delivery)
بسم الله الرحمن الرحیم
Thank you Mr. President. Let me congratulate the United Kingdom on its leadership of the Council this month. I thank the Secretary General, Antonio Guterres, for presenting his first report on the situation in Afghanistan. Also, allow me to thank the SRSG, Ambassador Tadamichi Yamamoto, and Afghanistan’s Independent Human Rights Commissioner, Dr. Sima Samar, for their briefings.
Given the severity of the situation in my country, I would like to dedicate my statement today to the challenging security situation, hidden agendas, the peace process and the ever-increasing necessity for regional and global cooperation.
In recent months, dozens of terrorist attacks across Afghanistan have claimed scores of innocent lives. In January, three simultaneous terrorist attacks in Kabul, Kandahar, and Helmand provinces killed and maimed over 160, including six UAE diplomats. In February, the Supreme Court, our symbol of justice, was attacked, causing numerous fatalities. Last week, two separate attacks in the heart of Kabul killed many civilians. Finally, just two days ago Afghanistan’s largest hospital was attacked, leaving over 140 killed and wounded, many of whom were doctors, nurses, and patients. The Taliban have claimed responsibility for most of these attacks, but regardless of whose names are being labeled on these attacks, our own investigations have clearly established that they were generally plotted beyond our frontiers, on the other side of the Durand Line. This, Mr. President, is the fundamental factor which needs to be addressed.
The UN Security Council issued prompt statements condemning these attacks in strongest terms, for which we are thankful. The statements underlined – and I quote: “the need to bring perpetrators, organizers, financiers and sponsors of these reprehensible acts of terrorism to justice”. It also urged “all States, in accordance with their obligations under international law and relevant Security Council resolutions, to cooperate actively with the Afghan authorities in this regard.” This is indeed what Afghanistan has been asking for many years. My Government and people would like to know why, after countless terrorist atrocities and specific Security Council statements condemning them, we are still witness to impunity for perpetrators and orchestrators of endless violence?
Let me be very clear. The conflict in our country is not homegrown, as some desperately and deceptively try to portray. On the contrary, it is the nexus of illicit narcotics, violent extremism, and state sponsorship of terrorism with regional dimensions and global consequences. Tragically, it has morphed into an undeclared war by a neighboring state that has for many years, and still continues to coordinate, facilitate, and orchestrate violence through proxy forces and more than 20 terrorist networks. These groups benefit from a full-fledged external infrastructure to keep Afghanistan off-balance for motives that are inconsistent with our desire to live in a peaceful and prospering region.
In earlier statements to this Council, we have emphasized, time and again, on Pakistani actions that sustain terrorist activities in our country. Today, let me quote leading Pakistani officials themselves. General Pervez Musharraf, who led Pakistan for eight years as President, proudly commented in a 2015 interview with The Guardian newspaper that “Pakistan’s Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) had given birth to the Taliban to counter Indian action against Pakistan”. Last year, Mr. Sartaj Aziz, Pakistan Prime Minister’s Adviser on Foreign Affairs, went on record to say that Taliban leaders reside in Pakistan and that they have influence over them. A couple of weeks ago, Mr. Ashraf Jehangir Qazi, former ambassador of Pakistan to the US, Russia, China, and India and UN SRSG to Iraq and Sudan, wrote in the Herald Magazine of Pakistan: “after the Soviet defeat and withdrawal, we (wittingly or unwittingly) unleashed a ruinous civil war and imposed a barbaric and medieval Taliban upon the hapless Afghan people.” His words are but confirmation of the truth that “Pakistan talks one policy, but walks the other”. Mr. Husain Haqqani, another former Ambassador of Pakistan to the US and Sri Lanka, categorizes in clear terms, in a NYT 2013 article, the links between Pakistan’s state apparatus and the Taliban over time, and mentions in the context of peace talks that “the Taliban and their Pakistani mentors have hardly changed their arguments or their tendency to fudge facts”. These quotes and admissions that I just read were not “rhetoric from Kabul” or “blame game” as often claimed by a known member state. This was Pakistan talking!
Against this backdrop, in February, a series of unfortunate terrorist attacks in Pakistan killed dozens and wounded many more innocent men, women, and children. As is the case, Afghans always share the pain and anguish of our Pakistani brothers and sisters. However, the Government of Pakistan, immediately and without any regard for an investigative process or clear facts, blamed Afghanistan for the attacks and resorted to increased breaches of our territorial integrity, the closing of the main border crossings, blockading trade and transit, and harassing our nationals traveling to or living in their country. Such measures constitute a clear violation of principles of WTO and the rights of land locked countries, including their access to sea.
From January till today, we recorded at least 59 instances of violations of Afghan territory by Pakistan military forces, including three violations of our air space, over 1375 cross-frontier artillery shellings that caused dozens of casualties, displacement of 450 families in the middle of cold winter in our eastern provinces, burning of our forests, illegal construction of infrastructure near the frontier region, and hostile maneuvering of tanks and heavy weaponry.
The travesty of decorum in neighborly relations did not cease there, as the familiar pattern of obfuscation of facts and diversionary tactics took over. We were then issued by the Government of Pakistan a list of, so-called, 76 suspected terrorists in Afghanistan, which after close inspection by us and our international partners, was found to be in desperate need of verification.
Our reaction to all these provocations has been sober and methodical. We have submitted 25 protest notes to the Government of Pakistan and, in the past few weeks, summoned their ambassador to Kabul on three occasions. We have submitted to their Government a list of 86 known terrorists and 32 Taliban training centers, including Haqqani network centers, asking for their immediate closure. We have asked for a third-party verification of the two sides’ efforts. No response has yet been received. The UN Secretary General, this noble Council, and other international partners are all appraised of these developments.
While terrorist attacks in Pakistan are strongly deplored by our Government, we are surely witnessing the blowback effects of using violent proxies as instruments of foreign policy, which was adopted by decision-making circles in that country in the 1980s, and is still being pursued to this day. In other words, the chickens are coming home to roost! We have reminded our Pakistani counterparts on many occasions that “you reap what you sow”. We say once again, it is time to change that failed policy for your own sake, desist from using radical terrorists as a foreign policy accessory, and genuinely join the international fight against all forms and shades of terrorism.
By bleeding Afghanistan, Pakistan is not only trying to create a stalemate on the battlefield, but it is also hindering the political track. Hoping to gain legitimacy for groups such as the Taliban, Pakistani decision-makers continue to use “plausible deniability” and shifting blame, as part of their defensive tactics while manipulating geo-political fault lines to their advantage.
They forget that legitimacy in my country flows through the people and a constitutional order, not through acts of terror, intimidation, and forced imposition of extremist thinking and radical behavior by misinterpreting and misusing our sacred religion of Islam.
Talks leading to a peace process can only succeed when policy is revised, the use of sanctuaries is prohibited, terrorist financing is curbed, and violence is renounced. Peace cannot be achieved by paying lip service and pretending to be a selective victim.
As we speak, the Afghanistan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF) are battling, with great resilience and determination, a network of regional and global terrorist groups, who have come to Afghanistan for various objectives. In 2016, our forces prevented the Taliban and terrorist affiliates to capture major population centers. In January, we adopted a four year National Security Strategy, which focuses on bolstering combat capabilities, leadership development, and improving unity and coordination of command. The fight against terrorism will continue with even greater resolve, on the basis of our security strategy. That said, continued support from our international partners remains critical for the sustainability of our forces over the long haul. In that light, I wish to reiterate, here again, that Afghanistan’s strategic partnerships will, in no way, serve a detriment to any country within our region or beyond. On the contrary, investments in Afghanistan’s security are in fact an investment in regional and global security.
For years, the lack of a meaningful and result-oriented channel of dialogue aimed at addressing root causes of tension between Kabul and Islamabad has created a huge trust deficit. Reducing this deficit requires political will and healthy interactions between our two countries. On our part, if we look at the record, Afghanistan has always been ready to engage in constructive and result-oriented dialogue.
We welcome any earnest and transparent initiative to help us reach that stage of dialogue. In our view, the Quadrilateral Coordination Group (QCG) and the recent six-party Moscow conference on Afghanistan can serve useful in that endeavor, if utilized and coordinated properly. These initiatives, among others, emphasize a set of guiding principles, most notably that any peace process should be Afghan-led and that the region must support the Afghan Government in its quest for sustainable peace. Moreover, they also recognize the importance of having all relevant regional and global actors on board in a constructive manner.
We know from previous experience that any prospect of success in peace efforts rests on a number of important principles:
(1) Any attempt at resolving current and/or historic issues between governments require strong national political will and an impartial and agreed upon international arbitrator in good standing;
(2) All sides need to define and agree on the scope of dialogue and negotiations, leading to a specific set of deliverables and outcomes that can be supported by regional stakeholders, and eventually guaranteed by the international community;
(3) All sides need to be willing to address the root causes of conflict, not its by-products, and resolve areas of contention by adhering to and making use of international law, pragmatic precedence, and/or other best practice and judicial norms, and void of presumed realpolitik assumptions;
(4) Given Afghanistan’s sensitive geopolitical position, all peace-building and anti-terrorism efforts, in the long-run, need to have all key stakeholders on board, take the complexities of an evolving regional and global security architecture into account, and agree to a status that assures stability, balance, non-interference, sovereignty, and positive engagement in Afghanistan; and
(5) Keeping principles of sovereignty and non-interference central to our objectives, this requires Afghanistan to turn into a symbol of international cooperation, where global and regional powers set aside their rivalries and short-term interests, by agreeing to cooperate in a spirit of confidence for long-term mutual benefit.
Finally, in a few days we will celebrate Nowruz – start of our New Year and the first day of Spring – a festive occasion that symbolizes peace, solidarity, and togetherness among our people and the wider region at-large. But as recent attacks have shown, Afghans will celebrate with a heavy heart. On the other hand, with their planned so-called spring offensive, the Taliban and other terrorist groups are adamantly focused on producing more horror, panic, and fear, leaving little room for joy among our men, women, and children.
This time, we hope to collectively counter their new season of murder and mayhem. Our brave and courageous national security forces are ready and highly determined to defend our people with full confidence and strength. We survived the post-transition 2015; we countered and defeated every major plan of the terrorist groups and their foreign backers to capture and control main population centers in 2016; and in 2017, we will, with your support, and by the Grace of God Almighty, humiliate and destroy the enemies of peace and security in Afghanistan. We are fully committed to making sure that our New Year will be one in which we will open the way for durable peace in our country, our region, and around the world. We join Secretary-General Antonio Guterres in his appeal to the international community for making 2017 a year of peace. For us, it starts at home.
Thank You Mr. President.
STATEMENT BY H.E. Mahmoud Saikal
Ambassador, Permanent Representative of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan to the United Nations
Statement at the Security Council Debate on Conflict Prevention and Sustaining Peace
(Check against delivery)
10 January 2017
بسم الله الرحمن الرحیم
Afghanistan wishes to thank Her Excellency Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom of the Kingdom of Sweden and her delegation for convening today’s important debate. We hope it will mark the start of a new phase in the UN’s efforts to embed conflict prevention at the core of its “Peace and Security Architecture.” We are also particularly grateful to Secretary General Antonio Guterres for his visionary and inspiring statement.
Today, we witnessed yet another bloody day in my country. The Taliban waged multiple terrorist attacks in Kabul, Kandahar, and Helmand provinces of Afghanistan. Based on the most recent reports, around 135 people, mostly civilians including women and children have been killed and wounded in this carnage. Among the wounded are our Governor of Kandahar, Ambassador of UAE to Afghanistan, and a number of other diplomatic colleagues. We pray for those who lost their lives and wish a quick recovery of those injured.
These attacks in my country, and today’s debate illustrates in clear terms that sustaining peace is a complex undertaking, requiring consistency across multiple lines of effort. It also highlights that the UN is simultaneously preoccupied with an unprecedented number of security and humanitarian crises, and more focus is needed to overcome current conflicts and prevent those of tomorrow.
A glimpse at the current international landscape reveals that violent extremism and terrorism feature dominantly in several conflicts around the world. These two threats violate human rights, undermine stability and development, and take the lives of scores of innocent people worldwide. We believe terrorism can only be defeated with a multi-dimensional approach that focuses on both of their internal and external drivers.
The UN Plan of Action to Prevent Violent Extremism (PVE) constitutes a key preventive tool, to address some internal drivers of violent extremism at the societal level, beyond security and military measures. Addressing social grievances, ensuring inclusive and egalitarian communities; empowering the youth with economic opportunities; and countering the terrorist narrative at the national and local levels are all essential to address some of the drivers of violent extremist activity. We in Afghanistan have incorporated the goals of the PVE action plan into our national counter terrorism activities.
That said, the UN must also afford greater attention to some of the external drivers of these phenomenon. The cycle of violence and insecurity in Afghanistan and our part of the world is inextricably linked to the presence of sanctuaries and safe havens in the region, from which extremist groups are sustained and enjoy an incessant flow of political, financial, material, and logistical support for the continuation of their malicious activities. In this light, the UN, and this Council in particular, can devise a viable approach to identify situations where elements in some “State institutions” facilitate violence and extremist activities by non-state proxies as a means to advance their foreign policy agenda.
We concur that the Sustaining Peace Agenda goes hand in hand with 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), providing a key tool in helping to prevent conditions that may give rise to conflict and instability, such as poverty, lack of development and dire humanitarian conditions. Consistent with Goal 17, the continued partnership of the international community, particularly for developing, land-locked developing and fragile countries, remains crucial for helping States to implement their national development goals.
National dialogue, mediation and reconciliation, aimed at fostering understanding to prevent conflicts, as well as resolve them through peaceful means are other important components of the “conflict prevention and sustaining peace” agenda. In our own case, the Government of National Unity is making every effort to ensure lasting peace for our peoples. In that effort, we are reaching out to reconcilable elements of Afghan armed groups willing to give up violence and embrace a new future as peaceful and law-abiding citizens.
We are pleased that our peace efforts enjoy broad support from regional and international partners, which is imperative for the success of our endeavor. That said, whether in our case, or any other peace process, it is imperative that the “principle of national leadership and ownership” are fully upheld, in accordance with the provisions of the UN Charter, including the principle of respect for national sovereignty and territorial integrity of States. In this context, we have expressed strong reservations in regards to open declarations by some in our region of their counter-productive contacts with armed opposition groups active in Afghanistan, without the consent of the Afghan Government. Let me reassert, any kind of talks on the situation in my country has neither any value nor legitimacy without the participation and approval of our Government which is the most democratically elected administration in the history of our nation.
What additional steps are required by the Security Council and the UN system to bolster existing efforts, and how can current preventive tools be better utilized to prevent conflict and sustain peace?
The UN is well positioned to help address trust deficit associated with negative state rivalries which often leads to conflict, and wherein some actors go at all lengths, including the use of violent proxy forces in pursuit of political, security and economic objectives. This phenomenon is predominant in our region. The UN, and the Security Council in particular, can play an important role in addressing “root causes and structural drivers of conflict,” and in furthering efforts to foster mutual trust and confidence for common gain, at the national, regional and international levels.
Unity and consensus in the Council and ensuring justice are imperative for conflict prevention and sustaining peace. Far too often, lack of consensus in the Council has prevented necessary and effective action to avoid the exacerbation of a particular conflict, as well as the creation of fertile ground for healthy dialogue on the peace and negotiations front. Moreover, strengthening the UN’s early warning system requires greater coordination between relevant UN offices to monitor fluid and conflict prone settings to identify viable approaches to avert potential crises. We believe the role of the Department of Political Affairs (DPA) and its regional UN offices are of particular importance. In this respect new focus should be given to identifying aggressors who in fact are mainly responsible for fueling conflicts.
Afghanistan welcomes the focus with which the Security Council and the overall UN system are seeking to advance the role of women peace and security agenda. Experience has shown that peaceful settlement of conflicts is most probable when women have a clear and decisive role in peace processes. In that light, we have made sure to include women in all stages of our peace efforts, including in the decision making phase.
In conclusion, we hope 2017 will mark the start of a new era of the UN’s advantageous efforts to place prevention and the sustainability of peace at the forefront in its efforts to ensure a more peaceful and prosperous international landscape for humanity as a whole. We fully support the vision of the Secretary General presented today on conflict prevention and sustaining peace and look forward to work with him on its implementation.