Sunday, July 23, 2017

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.

Statement by H.E. Mahmuod Saikal  Ambassador, Permanent Representative of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan to the United Nations At the General Debate of the First Committee 70th Session

Madame Chairperson,

Allow me to congratulate you on your election as Chairman of this session. My delegation is fully committed to the successful fulfillment of the work of the Committee, and assures you of our full support and cooperation.

The Islamic Republic of Afghanistan aligns itself fully with the statement delivered on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement. However, I would like to draw attention to a few specific points in my national capacity.

As history has repeatedly shown, political decisions incur the worst ramifications when made unilaterally, without consultations or consideration of the needs of all actors involved. It is for this reason Afghanistan wishes to reiterate its commitment to multilateral diplomacy as a crucial principle for advancing the global disarmament agenda. Only with all sides demonstrating political will we can achieve the goal of arms control, reduction, disarmament and total elimination of all types of Weapons of Mass Destruction, including nuclear weapons. In this context, we welcome the successful conclusions between the Islamic Republic of Iran and P5+1, which will benefit security and stability in our wider region. Going forward, it will be imperative that the concerned parties fulfill commitments to implement the agreement. Only through strong collective political will we can reach our collective desired goal of a nuclear-free world.

Madame Chairperson,

Afghanistan strongly and consistently supports all initiatives in the sphere of nuclear disarmament. As such Afghanistan is party to Non-Proliferation Treaty, the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, among many other treaties calling for the total elimination of nuclear weapons as well as weapons of mass destruction.

We are of the firm belief that full utilization of these existing international mechanisms is the only guarantee to the security of our world, and doing so requires their universal adherence. Afghanistan is not alone in urging all states to fulfill their international responsibilities in signing, ratifying, and actively supporting all efforts to promote the goals of all multilateral treaties relating to disarmament and non-proliferation.

The failure to agree on an outcome document at the 2015 NPT Review Conference represents an increasingly grave need for more effective action and leadership on the part of NPT member states. The division exists on a number of urgent issues which have, in our opinion, otherwise clear-cut solutions, is a worrisome reality and should serve as a wake-up call for the international community to renew its commitments and turn words into action.

In the same manner, we would like to express our strong disappointment at the failure to convene a conference on the establishment of the Middle East as a zone free of Nuclear Weapons and all Weapons of Mass Destruction. As the political turmoil in the Middle East threatens to spill over into its neighbouring regions, Afghanistan wishes to highlight the need for immediate action to be taken by the international community to prevent looming humanitarian and political catastrophe and overcome diplomatic stalemates.

Afghanistan is extremely disturbed at the humanitarian threat posed by the continued existence of nuclear weapons, and the possibility of their use, intentionally or accidentally. It is for this reason that we welcome the outcome of the third and final Conference on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons, which recognizes that total elimination of all nuclear weapons is the only definite safeguard against a nuclear explosion. Despite this collective understanding, there has been inadequate progress by Nuclear Weapons States in fulfilling their commitments to eliminate their nuclear stockpiles, and we echo the calls for these states to abolish their dangerous nuclear doctrines, which include the practice of refurbishing or modernizing existing nuclear stockpiles and related facilities, and using the global existence of nuclear-weapons as an excuse for maintaining or proliferating one’s own stockpiles.

Madame Chairperson,

Enduring conflict has facilitated one of the most destructive developments in Afghanistan. The mass illicit trafficking of arms, mainly small and light weapons, facilitating their easy access and ample abundance in procurement along the Durand Line has enabled the terrorists and extremists to cause the Afghan people tremendous suffering for decades and must be put to an end. We embrace the Program of Action to Prevent, Combat, and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons but believe that it must be accompanied with a deeper understanding of the complex realities on the ground, closer follow up of its implementation, and integration with the mandate of the Arms Trade Treaty.

We are also grateful for the recommendations made by the 2015 Open-ended Meeting of Governmental Experts, and their thoughtful insights on developments and emerging needs for the Programme of Action, including new considerations that need to be reviewed in light of evolving modern technologies and the importance of marking weapons for tracing purposes.

Subsequent brutal wars over the past few decades have left Afghanistan heavily mined, which has claimed the lives of hundreds of thousands of our civilians. We remain one of the most heavily mined countries in the world; despite the fact over 80 percent of minefields have been cleared thanks to international efforts. For the year of 2014, an average of 38 civilians were killed or injured each month, and nearly 1 million Afghans still live within 500 meters of landmines. The continued existence of minefields also poses a threat to the development process in Afghanistan, as they delay the construction of national infrastructure projects until clearance.

The use of anti-personnel landmines in Afghanistan is used freely to the benefit of brutal terrorists who have no regard for the children they maim, the lives they destroy, or the country they devastate. It is for this reason that the work of the United Nations Mine Action Service in Afghanistan, which transferred full responsibility for mine action entirely to the Afghan government in 2012, is critical. While Afghanistan’s Mine Action Programme has produced excellent results, funding cuts threaten the goal we set in line with the Ottawa Treaty for fully ridding Afghanistan of mines by 2023, if further conflict and furnishing mines are prevented. However, we thank the generous donations made from Member states to UNMAS, aid that is invaluable to achieving our goals, but still far from what is needed. We look forward to the successful completion of the Fourteenth Meeting of States Parties to the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on Their Destruction. We are committed to the full realization of the goals adopted at the Third Review Conference of the Convention in Maputo.

And finally Madame Chairperson, Afghanistan is gravely concerned about the continued existence of Improvised Explosive Devices – IEDs around the globe. IEDs are responsible for thousands of civilian casualties every year; they have become the primary weapon for non-state armed groups across many conflicts. Their impact on the security and stability of states are profound, as they do not only damage the political, social, and economic development of a country, but also prevent the ability of necessary humanitarian aid to reach afflicted areas. Due to the lack of a comprehensive, systematic approach to countering the use of IEDs, which is relatively simple in its manufacturing, acquirement, and transfer, we call for an international mechanism to be established which seeks to eradicate the creation and proliferation of IEDs. Therefore, my delegation is tabling a resolution at this committee during the current session. The resolution, inter alia, includes the consistent collection of data, awareness raising, regulation of components, and international technical assistance and cooperation, and victim assistance. In this regard we held our first informal consultations with the member states and my delegation seeks further your full cooperation and support, so the resolution could be adopted by consensus.

Madame Chairperson,

In conclusion, I would like to state that this year; we share a special responsibility to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the atomic attack on Nagasaki and Hiroshima that killed many lives and hopes across generations. Remembering this catastrophe brings an ample occasion to remind ourselves of the dire humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons. In this context, my delegation has supported the initiative of Austria on the Humanitarian Consequences of Nuclear Weapons during this year’s NPT Review Conference.

My delegation sadly notes that, despite the many positive developments in the work of international diplomacy for the disarmament of nuclear weapons, we still face threats to human security and sustainability of a scale similar to what the generation before us have faced. The global and regional climate of terrorism has made the call for nuclear disarmament as well as that of the weapons, including small and light arms the more urgent.

I thank you for your kind attention.

Measures to Eliminate International Terrorism

Check against delivery

Statement by H.E. Mahmoud Saikal

Designated Ambassador and Permanent Representative of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan to the United Nations

At the Sixth Committee Meeting on Measures to Eliminate International Terrorism (4th meeting)

Agenda item 108

Thank you Mr. Chairman.

Let me join other delegations in congratulating you on your assumption of Chairmanship of the sixth committee of the 70th session of the UNGA and your bureau members for their well-deserved elections. We look forward to working closely with you and assure you of our full support and cooperation throughout the deliberations of issues concerned to this committee.

My delegation aligns itself with the statements delivered on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation and the Non-Aligned Movement.

I would like to offer my heartfelt condolences to the people and Government of Turkey for the barbaric terrorist attack in Ankara at a peace rally. Afghanistan has faced terrorism and extremism for a very long time, and we stand beside Turkey in this critical hour.

Mr. Chairman,

H.E. Mahmoud Saikal Designated Ambassador and Permanent Representative of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan to the United Nations

H.E. Mahmoud Saikal
Designated Ambassador and Permanent Representative of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan to the United Nations

Violent extremism and conflict not only threaten the collective security of all member states but also pose a serious challenge to our fundamental values of equality, tolerance, justice, and human dignity. With the continued persistence of destructive conflicts around the world, the international community now witnesses the emergence of increasingly violent forms of extremism that disproportionately affects civilians, especially women and children. These threats are neither constrained by international borders nor limited to any single ideology; these groups misrepresent and abuse religious edicts to achieve their objectives. We are faced with international terrorism that is far more violent, organized, well positioned (in some cases, even within state structures), well financed and often transcending international boundaries. The rise in conflicts worldwide, especially in the Middle East, Afghanistan, and parts of Africa is especially troublesome because civilian populations continue to pay the price in the form of dislocation and collapse of government services, particularly education, healthcare and economic development. According to a 2014 UNHCR report, worldwide displacement is at its highest at 59.5 million as conflict and persecution force more people than at any other time to flee their homes and seek refuge and safety elsewhere. The unprecedented movement of refugees across parts of Asia, the Middle East and Europe is a testament to this unfolding catastrophe.

The current global scenario of rise of various non-state actors promoting extremism indicates that terrorist organizations are increasingly replacing traditional groups with more sophisticated forms of operations that include political structures, administrative units, social media propaganda, and new forms of technology-based coordination, in addition to access to funding and recruits. Despite ongoing efforts by the international community, increasing conflicts worldwide, especially in the Middle East, and growing indoctrination and radicalization of impressionable young men and women, as evident from the sustained flow of foreign terrorist fighters to conflicts in various countries, make it imperative to find political solutions to conflicts and ensure peace and stability for all citizens. There is a pressing need for all member states to cooperate closely to address the issues of terrorism, violent extremism, and indoctrination; further implementation of United Nations Security Council Resolution 2178 would be beneficial to achieve this goal.

Mr. Chairman,

In 2015, following the withdrawal of tens of thousands of international troops and the establishment of the National Unity Government of Afghanistan, Taliban and other terrorist groups accelerated their brutal campaign through the so called spring and summer offensives against the Afghan people. Subsequent to the belated announcement of the mysterious death of the fabricated leader of the Taliban, leadership struggles and factional infighting within the Taliban due to a lack of a leader intensified. In order to divert the focus and unify their ranks, the Taliban increased the number of violent, brazen attacks that have taken the lives of many civilians and Afghan National Defense and Security Forces.

Our security forces are at the forefront of the international war on terrorism; they have defended Afghanistan, the region and the world at large against various external terrorist elements and have fought with bravery in the face of tremendous hardships. Today they continue to fight thousands of international terrorists and groups such as Taliban and the Haqqani Network, the Islamic State or Daesh, the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan among others. Despite heavy causalities during the recent offensives of these terrorist groups, our security forces have derailed and prevented many terrorist plots and succeeded in killing and capturing scores of enemy combatants, including significant number of foreign terrorist fighters. Generally, the terrorists have not managed to hold the ground they gain anywhere in Afghanistan.

Mr. Chairman,

We firmly believe that militancy and extremism will never serve the long-term interests of any country. It is unfortunate that these terrorists fighting in Afghanistan still receive support and guidance, as well as find sanctuaries outside our borders. The use of violent non-state actors and terrorists for proxy wars must come to an end. Rival states should not turn a third country into a battleground to advance their agenda. No doubt, states are naturally concerned about advancing their national and regional interests; but it must be noted that states have no right whatsoever to pursue their interests through violence and extremism. In the past 20 years, Afghanistan has been a victim of regional state orchestrated violence leading to insecurity and tremendous suffering for our people. Unless the mentality of using violence in pursuit of political objective changes, achieving peace in Afghanistan will be very difficult.

Mr. Chairman,

Afghanistan strongly supports a comprehensive approach in addressing these threats. In our pursuit of lasting peace, our counter-terrorism and diplomatic efforts will continue unabated. The National Unity Government of Afghanistan continues to engage its neighbours to promote regional cooperation and provide a comprehensive approach in addressing the threat from terrorism. Regional organizations and processes play an important role in fulfilling our aims in this regard. The Heart of Asia-Istanbul Process addresses this initiative. Strengthening border cooperation, inter-agency coordination and most importantly building confidence and trust among our neighbours, in particular with Pakistan, and other countries in the region is of utmost importance to our shared efforts in defeating terrorism.

Mr. Chairman,

A comprehensive strategy to combat terrorism and violent extremism needs to be long-term and multilateral in nature. This strategy must deal with poverty, marginalization, and economic inequality that provide the enabling conditions for recruitment and promote education and critical thinking. We look forward to the Action Plan which the Secretary General will be presenting to the General Assembly this year. I would also like to highlight the need to achieve the early conclusion of a Comprehensive Convention for Combating International Terrorism. Finally we welcome the Fifth Biennial Review Process of the UN Global Counter Terrorism Strategy which is to take place in June next year.

As a country that has long suffered from the menace of international terrorism and resulting violence, Afghanistan strongly condemns terrorism in all its forms and manifestations and remains firmly committed to continue the fight at the forefront of the global campaign against international terrorism.

Thank you Mr. Chairman.

Permanent Mission of Afghanistan