Thursday, April 26, 2018

Security Council: The situation in Afghanistan (8199th meeting)

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

March 8, 2018


(Please check against delivery)

بسم الله الرحمن الرحیم

Madame President,

Let me begin by congratulating the Netherlands on assuming the Presidency of the Council, and thanking you for convening today’s debate on Afghanistan, which coincides with International Women’s Day. Today, we pay tribute to important contributions of women in promoting stable and prosperous societies. This day is an occasion to focus on what more needs to be done to empower women against many challenges that they face, particularly in conflict and post-conflict societies.

I am pleased that Her Excellency Julie Bishop, Foreign Minister of Australia, will be joining our meeting later, and my good colleague Dr. Habiba Sarabi, Deputy Chairperson of the High Peace Council of Afghanistan is among us today. I thank SRSG Ambassador Tadamichi Yamamoto for his briefing.

Madame President,

Today’s meeting provides another occasion to assess the overall situation in Afghanistan.

I am pleased to report that in the course of the past three months, the imperatives of Afghanistan’s security, stability and development received added international attention, with particular focus on addressing the root causes of the conflict and strengthening our defensive and security capabilities in parallel with efforts to devise a more practical peace plan. Our security forces, with better support from international partners, have increased pressure on terrorist groups across the country. Nevertheless, regional sponsors of terrorism, having faced international pressure and setbacks in the countryside, remain belligerent, as reflected by their efforts to engineer violent attacks in urban centers with high numbers of civilian casualties. Despite this, governance reform and economic development have continued unabated. A national dialogue among various political forces has been underway on issues that are crucial to our unity and political stability, the success of our peace efforts, and preparations for holding timely and transparent parliamentary elections this year.

Madame President,

Afghanistan has always emphasized that our partnership with the international community has been a strategic asset for advancing shared goals of defeating terrorism and achieving stability.  In this light, the UN Security Council’s January 13-15 visit to Kabul and its high-level meeting on January 19 on the security and development of Afghanistan and Central Asia, were clear signs of international support at the highest level. We are grateful to all members of the Council for their collective commitment and improved consensus on a more focused engagement on key issues related to Afghanistan’s security, stability and development. We wish to offer a special debt of gratitude to my esteemed friend and colleague Ambassador Kairat Umarov for his personal efforts in this regard as President of the Council in January.

During the Kabul visit, this Council discussed a range of security, political, economic and social issues with Afghanistan’s leadership in government, parliament, judiciary, High Peace Council, political parties and civil society. One common request pertained to effective Council action to address the sponsorship of terrorist outfits and the problem of their regional safe-havens, as a priority need for security and stability in Afghanistan, which was also reflected in the recent report of the Secretary-General on the Situation in Afghanistan.

Of late, we have seen new measures at the international level to shift the calculus and promote genuine and productive counter-terrorism cooperation. In this regard, recent decisions including the reduction of financial aid to the concerned State, and inclusion in the watch list of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) represent a renewed attempt to encourage genuine action on the crucially important goal of defeating terrorism effectively. We hope that this trend continues and the response to these measures is positive, in the interest of peace and security in Afghanistan and the region. 

Madame President,

Days after the Security Council’s visit and almost immediately after the January 19 high-level meeting of the Council, regional sponsors of terrorism, through their trained violent proxies unleashed a new wave of terrorist attacks. The sheer level of savagery in these despicable and heinous attacks was startling. Armed gunmen from the Taliban’s Haqqani network attacked the Intercontinental Hotel in Kabul, killing 18, including 14 foreign nationals, and wounding many more. The subsequent week witnessed two more barbaric attacks; one in Jalalabad’s compound of the international NGO “Save the Children,” where 27 people died; second, an explosive-laden ambulance detonated next to a major civilian hospital in the heart of Kabul. The blast destroyed vehicles, shops, and buildings nearby, killing at least 105 civilians, and injuring 235. The use of an ambulance for such a ghastly attack is a war crime under international law, including international humanitarian law. This Council condemned the attacks and cited the need to hold the perpetrators, organizers and financiers of the attacks to account. Yet, despite all the evidence linking these attacks to regional sponsors, once again, the question is when will that happen?

Madame President,

Last week, Afghanistan convened the 2nd meeting of the Kabul Process for Peace and Security Cooperation. This marked a major development in the context of peace efforts aimed at ending the conflict and achieving a credible and just peace that conforms to the aspirations of all Afghans. In recognition of our people’s demand for ending violence, President Ghani reached out to the Taliban in an unprecedented manner, calling for direct talks without preconditions.  Should our call receive a positive response, they will be granted the chance to become normal citizens, allowed to compete peacefully in politics through democratic procedures, be relieved from UNSC sanctions measures, besides enjoying the benefits of other positive measures. In turn, they have to give up on their long-standing path of violence. Moreover, our peace process aims to “protect and expand” not diminish, the rights of our people, especially women. The time is now for the Taliban to respond affirmatively and seize the historic opportunity before them.

We are inspired by the international community’s level of support to our new peace plan. The conference renewed the call for tangible measures in combating terrorism, in accordance with obligations stipulated in the UN Global Counter Terrorism Strategy, and various Security Council counter-terrorism resolutions. We hope that States who failed in this endeavor will adopt a new approach, based on expressed commitments, for the benefit of regional security.  

Madame President,

For too long the debate on state-sponsored terrorism has been kept away from international forums, including the United Nations. Beyond the intelligence networks, the rest of the world knows little about the behavior of this aspect of terrorism at national, regional and international levels. 

The regional state sponsors of terror outfits exported to our country have recently pursued new methods of denial and belligerence by playing reverse psychology and attempting to distort narratives.

Irrefutable evidence of complicity in facilitating safe havens and logistical support to terrorists has been responded to by failed methods of counter-narration – accusing Afghanistan of “providing safe havens to terrorists.” Exploiting the democratic political dynamics of Afghanistan, they attempt to sow discord among our people, victimize refugees by unfairly linking them to terrorism, and portray their orchestrated terror attacks as “civil war.” Meanwhile, according to the latest UN report, we have suffered more than 10,000 civilian casualties yearly, over the past four years, mainly caused by terrorist attacks plotted beyond our frontiers.

In desperation they don’t even hold back from such heavily risk-prone attempts as to abuse and manipulate ironclad and all-weather friendships in international relations in favor of concealing the evidence of their sponsorship of terrorism, obfuscating facts and distorting narratives at regional and global forums.

In light of increased terrorist activities around the world, the time has come that we openly debate the regional state sponsorship of terror outfits exported to our country and let the world know more of its behavior.

The Kabul Process is not just about outreach to the Taliban. It is about ending the conflict, achieving peace and preserving the democratic order for which numerous Afghans and allies have sacrificed their lives. Moreover, the Taliban should not be permitted to misuse the opportunity presented as they have done so in the past.

Madame President,

As we grapple with security challenges, we are working to achieve important objectives, stipulated in the agreement that founded the National Unity Government, witnessed and welcomed by the international community. This is essential for our national unity and political stability as along with the success of our new peace plan. The effort is carried out within the parameters of a broad-based dialogue, with a view to advance the national interest of Afghanistan, in conformity with the spirit of our constitution. Our overall objective is to advance national unity, strengthen social cohesion, and inclusivity to achieve a just and peaceful society, fully grounded in the rule of law where our youth can fulfill their national aspirations. We are confident that our efforts will soon yield positive outcomes. 

Madame President,

On today’s special occasion, I reaffirm the National Unity Government’s commitment to empower women’s role in all facets of our society and polity. Dr. Sarabi’s presentation offered a clear perspective on progress made against the benchmarks of our national strategy and resolution 1325 and the challenges ahead of us. We now have female ministers, deputy ministers, MPs, peace makers, civil society activists, and ambassadors serving as proactive public agents for the development of Afghanistan. Two weeks ago, in a historic occasion, Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah, represented Afghanistan at the inaugural session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva. This symbolized Afghanistan’s overall commitment to universal human rights principles. Despite the progress, we know that our achievements for promotion and protection of human rights need consolidation, as manifested in the UNAMA report on civilian casualties that I mentioned earlier.

Madame President,

Against all odds, Afghanistan has progressed steadily on the path of economic cooperation, increased regional connectivity, and shared prosperity. We have expanded on multidimensional relations with our Central Asian neighbors, resulting in numerous agreements in the areas of trade, connectivity and economic cooperation. The inauguration of Afghanistan’s segment of the TAPI project in Herat by President Ghani and leaders and senior officials of Pakistan, Turkmenistan and India, after over a decade of preparatory work has generated new incentives for cooperation and opportunities for mutual trust and confidence.  Additionally, other regional projects aim to boost productivity and economic cooperation for common gains. We are looking forward to the forthcoming Tashkent conference on Afghanistan.

We wish to expand relations with all partners, including the UN. We are grateful for the crucial assistance role of UNAMA, which have been a catalyst in bringing change to the lives of our people. We welcome the adoption of the UNAMA mandate renewal, and underscore once again, the imperative of ONE-UN approach for optimum efficiency and coherence. Let me re-convey our appreciation for the dedicated efforts and leadership of SRSG Ambassador Yamamoto, a dear friend.

Combating the illicit network of narcotics, money laundering, and terrorism finance remain a key priority for us. Based on our National Drug Action Plan, we have continued eradication operations, and opiate seizures have reached highest levels since 2012. We will continue to expand cooperation with our allies to strengthen relevant law-enforcement agencies, greater intelligence sharing, and drawing effective mechanisms to curtail drug trafficking.

Additionally, refugee repatriation from neighboring countries remains operational. We are working in close collaboration with the UNHCR to provide assistance and much needed services to this vulnerable group. We call for continued international support for the joint  Humanitarian Response Plan 2018 – 2021, which requires  $437 million for 2018 to assist 2.8 million people in need. However, security and durable peace are fundamental solutions to tackle this humanitarian challenge, which require comprehensive national, regional, and global commitment and action.

Madame President,

Two weeks from now, 21st of March will mark the onset of Nowruz, the Afghan New Year. We are starting this new spring season with hope, determination and confidence. As international pressure on addressing the root causes of violence in our country intensifies, our defense and security forces stand capable as before to protect and defend Afghanistan against international terrorism. That said we have taken a historic step for the restoration of a durable peace in our country. In this light, we look to international partners, this Council included, to remain beside us in this endeavor.





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 during his speech at the UN Security Council Debate on the Situation in Afghanistan

United Nations Security Council Debate on the Situation in Afghanistan


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.

Mr. President, 

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?

Mr. President,

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!

Mr. President,

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.    

Mr. President,

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.

Mr. President,

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. 

Mr. President,

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.

Mr. President,

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.



Permanent Mission of Afghanistan