Sunday, May 27, 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

NEW YORK

(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.

 

 

 

 

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

June 21, 2017

NEW YORK

(check against delivery)

بسم الله الرحمن الرحیم

Mr. President,

Let me begin by congratulating you on Bolivia’s assumption of the Council’s Presidency in June. We thank you for convening today’s open debate on the Situation in Afghanistan to take stock of the overall situation in our country.  I am pleased at the presence of Special Representative of the Secretary-General Ambassador Yamamoto among us and we thank him for the comprehensive briefing.

We meet at a time when Afghanistan is undergoing another phase in our test to overcome adversity. Much has happened since the Council’s March deliberation on Afghanistan. 

I will focus my remarks on some of the most pressing issues of Afghanistan’s security and stability as well as regional and international cooperation.

Mr. President,

After almost four decades of imposed conflict with hundreds of thousands of casualties and millions of displaced people, I do wish to emphasize on millions of displaced people, our country continues to remain under almost constant attack.

Earlier this year, given the effective measures taken by our security forces and their preemptive strikes, the so-called Taliban spring offensive came later than expected and faced heavy blows in different parts of the country. Unable to confront our forces directly, the orchestrators of our insecurity resorted to desperate urban terrorist attacks on soft targets and attempts to sow discord among our people.

During the recent months we have seen attacks of an unprecedented nature across Afghanistan, on streets, hospitals, cemeteries, mosques, diplomatic missions and political institutions. Since the start of 2017, major terrorist attacks in urban centers have caused significant loss of lives and property- over 500 killed and over 1100 wounded in Kabul, Mazar-i-Sharif, Kandahar, Lashkar-gha, Khost, and Herat.  The most recent barbarous attack took place last week when worshippers were offering evening prayers in a Kabul mosque. 

While all attacks are equally condemnable, the sheer carnage of the 31st May was unprecedented in its kind in the history of Afghanistan. The truck-bombing in the heart of Kabul was by all accounts a crime against humanity and Islamic values, spreading horror instead of peace and piety during the holy month of Ramadan. More than 150 innocent souls were lost, including women, children, and journalists. Several disappeared without a trace from the impact of the explosion. Many were burnt beyond recognition; their identities still to be verified. Hundreds were left severely maimed and wounded – their lives changed forever. In fact, this morning I was watching television and I saw one mother searching for her husband and children, no one knows what happened to them. The nation went in deep mourning. The attack reaffirmed the obvious – that the enemies of Afghanistan know no limit in their brutality to break our pride and prevent peace and stability from taking root in our society.  Beyond the human tragedy, the local economy lost millions of dollars and several diplomatic missions suffered damages.

The attack triggered the culmination of social frustration and a wave of angry protests seeking security reform, which unfortunately has been leaving more death and injury, including a triple terrorist attack at one of the slain protester’s funeral. We firmly believe in the constitutional right of people to protest and know that if the door of dialogue is shut down between Government and protestors, violence will increase. No element of Afghan security forces, supported by national and international taxpayers, should ever inflict unnecessary harm upon civilians. Given recent events, the commander of Kabul garrison and police chief have been suspended and the incidents are being investigated. We remain committed to reassuring our people that our security forces are there to protect all Afghans and are at their disposal and service. In short, what transpired on that dreadful Wednesday morning was an attack on our people, our democracy, our economy, and on our partnership with the international community.

While Afghanistan continues to bleed, we witnessed increased terrorist attacks in United Kingdom, France, Turkey, Iraq, Syria, Mali, Russia, Sweden, and Egypt, that prove that terrorism has no boundaries and continue to threaten people everywhere.

It is important that the civilized world, in its modern meaning, stands united in defiance of terror and secure peace and prosperity for current and future generations. We Afghans will do so in a spirit of national and global unity which has enabled us to overcome difficult moments in our nation’s life.

Mr. President,

Reversing the tide against terror is contingent on eliminating support centers beyond our frontiers that produce, nurture, and empower terrorists operating in Afghanistan. The recently released outcome of a joint investigation by Afghanistan, United Arab Emirates and United States clearly established that the January 10 Kandahar attack was planned in Quetta, Pakistan. Similarly, early investigations verified the link between the Kabul truck bombing of May 31 and the Haqqani Network based in Pakistan. A joint Afghan-German comprehensive investigation on the attack is currently underway. We shall release the outcome in due course.  

The other external threat to Afghan sovereignty is the number of cross frontier violations, which have increased dramatically – almost four-fold – since my last March presentation to this Council.  These violations, ranging from firing of artillery shells, air-space violations, construction of military posts and barriers, to digging of deep ditches – all of which exacerbate the current situation, if left unaddressed will undoubtedly continue to undermine peace and security in our region.

In this Council, we have heard from a known neighboring state that our Government “should not externalize its internal problems and blame others for its own failures.” It is the same state that has been highly determined to do everything possible at its disposal to weaken and destabilize our country while accusing us of weakness. Let me remind everyone that those who want to attribute Afghanistan’s security and other challenges solely to internal issues are doing so to detract focus and attention on their long-standing policy of propagating violence and disorder in our country. 

Mr. President,

In dealing with the situation, we have been pursuing a three-pronged strategy: 1) strengthening global counter-terrorism consensus with a focus on engaging Pakistan in genuine cooperation, ending cross-frontier violations and facilitating the peace process; 2) strengthening our security and defensive capabilities; and 3) improving national unity, governance and service delivery to our people. Given the nature of the conflict, the success of our strategy depends on collaborative and sustained work at national, regional and global levels.  

Despite the enormous violence imposed on us over nearly four decades, especially this year, we remain firmly committed to the goal of sustaining peace. In that light, the June 6 Kabul Process conference marked the resumption of an important initiative for stability in Afghanistan.  The Conference brought together regional countries, key international partners, and relevant international institutions to focus on two imperatives: 1) garnering a new level of commitment in support of our peace agenda; and 2) identifying a common approach to end the cycle of terror and violence in the country.

We are pleased with the outcome of that Conference, which reinstated cooperation mechanisms to promote peace and security.  Naturally, Pakistan has an important role to play in ending violent extremism and promoting peace.  We hope it will seize the opportunity for the benefit of its own citizens and stability in the region.  Meeting on the margins of the recent SCO Summit in Astana, President Ghani and Prime Minister Sharif agreed to hold a bilateral working group meeting in Kabul in the near future on confronting terrorism.  Moreover, we also look forward to additional discussion within the framework of the Quadrilateral Coordination Group (QCG), with the participation of China and the United States.

Despite the difficult situation in the country, our security forces stand vigilant, protecting our people and infrastructure, and preventing terrorists from capturing and establishing a presence in different provinces. They have responded robustly despite various logistical constraints in terms of resources, heavy weaponry, and air-capability. Let me pay tribute to the commitment and professionalism of those police officers who sacrificed their lives to prevent both the truck bomber of May 31 and last week’s Kabul mosque attackers from reaching their intended targets and causing maximum casualties. The enemy is doing its best to stage so called “Green on Blue” attacks in order to undermine international training programs and support of our security forces. Also, through selective targeting and careful allocation of responsibility claims for terrorist attacks, the handlers of terrorism in the neighborhood seek to create discord and distrust between our people and security forces. We will leave no room for any possible enemy infiltrators in our security forces.

The Government of National Unity is currently in the process of a national dialogue to strengthen consensus on relevant issues and address political grievances. We believe good governance can only flourish in an environment free of any particular ethnic or linguistic consideration.  We will continue to focus on the greater task at hand – working towards economic self sufficiency, tackling corruption, and humanitarian relief for our people.  Increasing economic development opportunities, with a focus on alleviating poverty and creating jobs, remain our key priority. Recent projects such as the Afghanistan-India air cargo corridor, inauguration of public transport infrastructure in Kabul, and the World Bank’s $500 million financing for various development sector investments are few examples.

Mr. President,

Today, the world faces an enemy united in its sole desire to bring death and destruction, dismantle state institutions, and create chaos. Hence, it is imperative that the UN acts decisively on its mandate – to maintain international peace and security. Last week, Secretary-General Guterres paid a visit to Kabul to express his solidarity with and support for the people and government of Afghanistan. This was a strong sign of his personal commitment to peace and security in our country, for which we are deeply grateful.  In the broader context, his visit reaffirmed that the UN would remain beside us over the coming years as we continue our journey towards prosperity. We welcome the creation of the UN Office for Counter Terrorism and hope that its activities and mandate will help bring real and tangible change in counter terrorism efforts in Afghanistan and elsewhere.

In the past two years, we have reiterated time and again two key concerns for Afghanistan: 1) concrete action against regional safe havens and logistical support to terrorists; and 2) cross frontier violations, which I referred to before.  On both issues, we have provided full briefings to the Secretary General and the UNSC. The UNSC is yet to take necessary and appropriate actions to address these two concerning issues. In our view, had it done so in the past, the situation would be different today. Another outstanding issue for the Council to act upon is the strict enforcement and strengthening of the Sanctions regimes. Further, the irreconcilable Taliban should be recognized as a terrorist group after their failure to engage meaningfully in the peace talks. Also, the UN must specify concrete criteria to clearly define state sponsorship of terrorism.

I take this opportunity to thank the Security Council for initiating a review of UNAMA’s structure, resources, and activities. We consider it a necessary initiative for ensuring a more efficient and effective UN support role in the country. During the review process, we highlighted the imperative of One UN and an adjusted assistance role that would be in conformity with the principles of Afghan ownership and leadership, as well as the priority needs of Afghanistan. We wholeheartedly thank Under Secretary-General Jan Kubis for leading the review process in the most able manner and also the UN team on the ground for their contributions to the process.

Mr. President,

In conclusion, despite all challenges, our people are looking to the future with confidence. They have made enormous sacrifices to come so far. As such, failure is not an option.  That said, the support of the international community, including this body will be critically important for our success. 

I would like to reiterate our gratitude for this Council’s expression of firm support for the stability and prosperity of Afghanistan. Today, as we stand at a cross-road in our stabilization efforts, we look up to you to help us overcome our security challenges by confronting the source of the ongoing conflict and not dealing with the consequences.  In this connection, the need of an appropriate response by this Council to the task at hand cannot be overstated. We hope this is realized so that our people are able to meet their basic aspiration of living in peace and security – free of terror, violence and destruction.

I Thank You.

 

Ambassador Mahmoud Saikal, Permanent Representative of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan to the UN

amb_3102017

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

Permanent Mission of Afghanistan