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
(check against delivery)
بسم الله الرحمن الرحیم
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.