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
(check against delivery)
14 September 2016
بسم الله الرحمن الرحیم
Thank you Mr. President. At the outset, let me congratulate New Zealand for its successful leadership of the Council this month. We express our gratitude to the Secretary-General for his recent report on the situation in my country. We welcome Ambassador Tadamichi Yamamoto as the new Special Representative of the Secretary General and thank him for his first briefing to the Council. We look forward to working closely with him, and wish him every success in the important task.
Since the Council’s last deliberations on Afghanistan on June 21, the country has seen increased armed clashes and suicide attacks, with high civilian casualties, testing our resilience and bringing the peace process to an impasse. During the same time, thanks to continuing support of the international community, we have maintained steady progress to enhance the capacity, capability, professionalism, and sustainability of Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF).
In the midst of vibrant democratic debates as a key feature of recent political developments, the reform agenda of the National Unity Government (NUG), in line with Agenda 2030, is bearing fruit. Afghanistan has achieved progress in regional trade and infrastructure connectivity, anti-corruption, governance, rule of law and human rights, legal reform, restoring fiscal sustainability and integrity of public finance, commercial banking, development planning, social inclusion, and private sector development.
During this summer, the world witnessed terror spread wildly across the globe, with major attacks in nearly twenty countries in three continents. From Libya to Afghanistan, Somalia, Iraq, Yemen, Turkey, Syria, Bangladesh, France, Mali, Germany, India, Angola, Congo, Pakistan, Nigeria, and the Philippines, terrorist attacks took many innocent lives and inflicted huge damage.
It is clear that as terrorist groups face international pressure in the core, they attempt to strengthen their symbiotic networks and resort to more desperate attacks far and wide.
Afghanistan has also seen an increase in large scale terrorist attacks. In June, Daesh affiliates terrorized villagers in Nangarhar. A few days later, the Taliban targeted new police recruits outside Kabul. In July, Daesh affiliates struck again, this time against a peaceful civilian demonstration in Kabul. In August, Taliban targeted tourist buses in Heart, followed by an attack on university students in Kabul. In September, they targeted civilians, security officials, and an aid group in Kabul. All together, around 180 people, predominantly civilians lost their lives and 435 were wounded in these attacks, with extensive damage to infrastructure. Among the victims were scores of our educated and talented youth who were committed to the rehabilitation and development of their country.
President Ashraf Ghani on August 25 called Pakistan’s Chief of Army Staff and asked for serious and practical measures against the organizers of the attack on the American University of Afghanistan in Kabul.
The savage attacks in populated urban centers showcased the cowardly behavior of the terrorist groups and their supporters to compensate for their so-called spring offensive losses. We have evidence that most of these attacks were orchestrated outside Afghanistan. Last week, we seized two trailer trucks entering Afghanistan from Pakistan with 35,700 kg of ammonium nitrate – an amount nearly twenty times larger than what was used in the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995. Let us take a second to imagine the magnitude of devastation, had the attack(s) been carried out against us or our allies.
Judging from previous experience, as we approach the UN General Assembly Session, the second anniversary of the NUG of Afghanistan and the forthcoming Brussels Conference on Afghanistan, the Taliban and other terrorist groups may escalate their attacks to gain international visibility.
Growing violent extremism and terror worldwide is proof that the current pace of counter-terrorism efforts is at best, lax, compared to the magnitude of the threat. Current efforts remain scattered, slow, and at times static, and have proven incapable to match the sophistication and ever changing tactics of global terror for its eventual defeat, as far as Afghanistan’s experience is concerned. As a strategic imperative, we must move beyond rhetoric and address the enablers of terrorism, including the role of state elements in orchestrating and facilitating the growth of terror. We need to review the state of UN counter-terrorism efforts to identify and address gaps in the implementation, and assess what needs to be done by relevant UN agencies to achieve results and effectively fulfill their mandates.
The Taliban’s brutal attacks have continued in different parts of the country, with particular focus on Helmand, Kunduz and Paktia provinces. Their aim is to create a durable political geography inside Afghanistan for the Quetta Shura and Haqqani leadership.
The response from the ANDSF has been remarkable. Successive Taliban and Daesh attacks were repulsed in different parts of the country, which proves that these extremist factions do not have the capacity to hold territory anywhere in Afghanistan. However, we are putting in place measures to preempt rather than react to their attacks. I am pleased to report that in line with my government’s five-year National Campaign Plan, focusing on reconciliation, security and stability, the mobility and effectiveness of our security forces have further improved Afghanistan’s resilience to the ongoing security challenges.
Moving forward, the continued support of our international partners remains critically important. We welcome the outcome of the NATO Warsaw Summit last July, which extended the Resolute Support Mission beyond 2016, reaffirmed continuing national contributions to the financial sustainment of the ANDSF until the end of 2020 and enhanced our enduring partnership with NATO. We have committed to further strengthen our security institutions and ensure service delivery within the rule of law. We will continue to increase our financial contribution to ANDSF. The empowerment of women will continue in all aspects of Afghan society, including service in ANDSF and political processes, as well as full implementation of Afghanistan’s National Action Plan on UNSCR 1325. We have already taken necessary measures to protect children from the effects of armed conflict and have witnessed good, measurable results.
Despite our constant outreach and efforts at the Quadrilateral Coordination Group (QCG), Pakistan is yet to utilize the opportunity to play genuine peacemaker. It deserves attention that based on the QCG roadmap they must take necessary measures against irreconcilable Taliban elements to win international community’s due recognition as a serious and genuine partner in the fight against terrorism.
We thank the Organization of Islamic Cooperation for its renewed focus on promoting peace in Afghanistan. We welcome the upcoming Ulema Conference in Mecca and Medina which will bring together global Islamic scholars to denounce violence in Afghanistan.
On 21 September we will celebrate the second anniversary of the signing of the Agreement of National Unity Government of Afghanistan. We are committed to the full implementation of the Agreement. Discussions are ongoing among the leadership of the NUG to address the overdue commitments stipulated in the Agreement.
Let me assure this Council that our entire political elite, irrespective of ethnic and linguistic backgrounds, and political standing, is committed to preserving the national interest of Afghanistan, with full support behind our national security forces. Developments, perceived by some as “tensions” in the National Unity Government, and “rising pressures” by political opposition groups, are part of a routine exercise of democratic debate, and a hallmark of our vibrant society, where citizens express their views in accordance with their democratic rights. The 2016 World Press Freedom Index ranks Afghanistan higher than all its neighbors and 4th among 13 countries of South and Central Asia, in terms of ensuring a culture of free speech. We will work to improve political stability through healthy dialogue over outstanding issues.
I am pleased to present the highlights of our achievements from the past three months. Afghanistan’s development needs are being driven by our extensive reform measures to curb corruption, improve service delivery, and promote transparency. Our collaboration with regional partners has resulted in projects that would transform the economic landscape of our part of the world. We have already seen the inauguration of TAPI, CASA-1000, and Chabahar Port Agreement, all of which present opportunities for regional cooperation at an unprecedented scale.
In August, we completed a major housing project of 2015 residential units in Kabul. Additional projects are underway to provide over 11000 residential units, with support from China and Qatar.
Last week, for the first time in the history of Sino-Afghan relations, a special cargo train between the two countries was officially welcomed in Hairatan of Afghanistan. Also as part of Khaf-Herat railway project, an Iranian train entered Afghan soil, offering new opportunities for increased economic activity. Such developments reflect a spirit of constructive cooperation for mutual benefit in our region. We urge other neighbors to adopt a similar approach, and to avoid measures which undermine relations, such as the closing of entry ports, trade blockades, shelling and illegal construction activities along our south eastern territory.
We urge the Government of Pakistan to choose the path of cooperation to reinforce constructive relations and trust-building, a fundamental pre-condition for peace and stability for both our countries. To this effect, we note with satisfaction the announcement on the completion of Pakistan-funded health projects in Afghanistan by year’s end.
As a principle component of our foreign policy, we are convinced that regional cooperation and multilateralism are catalysts for peace and prosperity. In this respect, we look forward to the upcoming Afghanistan-India-US trilateral meeting, to be held on the margins of the 71st UNGA. Let me just inform the Council that President Ghani is now in New Delhi and India just announced $1 billion dollars of aid towards development in Afghanistan. We thank India for that.
The Anti-Corruption Justice Center and High Council on Governance, Rule of Law and Anti-Corruption are already operational, addressing Government corruption cases. Our judicial sector is being revitalized by a set of bold measures. More than 600 judges have been replaced, with 60 judicial officials being prosecuted for corruption and mal-practice. We have also announced new appointments and conducted performance reviews to instill a culture of transparency in our state-institutions.
In tandem with our economic achievements, our social sector is reaching new heights, with women increasingly assuming leadership positions at different levels of government. There are more women in senior government positions now than at any other time in Afghan history. Among them there are four ministers, nine deputy ministers, one governor, one deputy head of the High Peace Council and a number of senior diplomats at leadership level. The Ministry of Interior has opened six new child protection units in police recruitment centers, bringing the total to 13 in the country. We are committed to the protection of children and have prohibited security forces from using schools for military purposes. We are working on the national policy on civilian casualty mitigation which will be adopted across all Government institutions to better protect our citizens.
However, mainly due to continuous attacks by the Taliban and other terrorist groups, the number of internally displaced people has risen, especially in rural areas. Food insecurity and lack of adequate healthcare remains a challenge within this group, and the Government is focusing its resources to mitigate this crisis. Under the voluntary repatriation program, the number of returnees has increased significantly. The number of Afghan migrants to Europe has also fallen compared to 2015. We are grateful to the UN and our international partners for the continued humanitarian assistance.
On counter-narcotics, despite some increase in production and cultivation of opium, we are focused on continuing eradication efforts despite the security challenges. We are pleased with the outcome of the 9th session of the Regional Working Group of Precursors meeting, which, among other issues, identified next steps forward in precursor trafficking.
The forthcoming Brussels Conference on Afghanistan will be an opportunity to showcase our long fought and hard won achievements to the global community. The focus will be on the joint international and Afghan efforts to increase the effectiveness of sustained international support, multiple Afghan reform measures, including public finance management and anti-corruption, as well as regional efforts to achieve peace and economic prosperity. The preparations for this conference are ongoing and we have presented the Afghanistan National Peace and Development Framework to our partners for their final inputs.
In conclusion, the global security scenario is undergoing significant changes and Afghanistan’s role in the fight against terrorism remains pivotal. We have long suffered at the hands of extremists and paid a very steep price through the blood and sacrifices of our people in standing up against it. For innumerable Afghans, the promise of a peaceful future has been robbed due to years of instability. However, in the past fifteen years, the Government of Afghanistan, along with many of our international friends, including the United Nations have worked hard to revive faith in the values we cherish—freedom, democracy, good governance, rule of law and human rights for all. We look forward to seeing you at the Brussels conference to reiterate pledges of support to Afghanistan, and refocus on the long road ahead in the fight against terrorism and violent extremism. A win for Afghanistan in this realm would be a win for the world, and we would be safer and prosperous together.
Thank You Mr. President.