STATEMENT BY H.E. Adela Raz
Ambassador, Permanent Representative of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan to the United Nations
At the UN Security Council Debate on the Situation in Afghanistan
19 June 2019
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Let me first begin by congratulating you, as a representative of the brotherly nation of the State of Kuwait, on assuming the Presidency of the Council for the month of June.
We’re pleased to have Ambassador Yamamoto here today, and would like to thank him for his dedicated efforts in Afghanistan, as the Special Representative of the Secretary General.
I am glad we have Dr. Sima Samar with us as a briefer, who is doing an important work as the head of Afghanistan’s Independent Human Rights Commission.
Today’s meeting on the Situation in Afghanistan comes at a crucial moment, as we’re engaged in the delicate task of carefully steering two important national processes, the Election and the Peace Talks. We desire to end the decades-long conflict by virtue of a comprehensive settlement, accepted by all Afghans; and a presidential election, to consolidate and ensure the continuity of democracy, governance and the rule of law in our society.
At this critical juncture, we are confident that both of these objectives can be attained, with adequate international support, and with patience and commitment.
First, on peace efforts, the Government of National Unity has long believed that the prospects for peace can only be achieved through a process that enjoys the support and consensus of all Afghans.
The momentum for peace has grown stronger, as a result of increased engagement and activities in Afghanistan and abroad. Last month, a Consultative Peace Loya Jirga brought together 3200 elected members from across the country, from political parties, tribal & religious figures, women, youth and civil society, to build consensus and create a mandate for peace talks with Taliban. Women and youth played a prominent role in the Jirga, as women led 13 working committees, out of 50, and they made 30 percent of all participants.
The outcome was the adoption of a declaration that created a parameter and roadmap for talks with the Taliban. The declaration called for an immediate and permanent ceasefire; upholding the values & essence of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan; the preservation of democratic gains and the constitutional rights of people, especially women; the start of direct peace talks between the government of Afghanistan and Taliban; the preservation & strengthening of Afghanistan national security forces; the continuation of support from the international community; and having a feasible timetable for a responsible withdrawal of international security forces.
Protecting the essence of our constitution, especially equal rights for men and women and human rights, is the core element of today’s Afghanistan, and also a strong desire of the Afghan public. Therefore, we should ensure that the outcome of any potential agreement will only retain, expand and strengthen women’s right for the purpose of a sustainable and durable peace.
For our part, we continue to stand ready to engage in comprehensive talks that reflect the views and overall position of the people of Afghanistan. We thank all of our international partners, from within the region and beyond, in supporting our efforts for a durable, dignified and lasting peace.
In this regard, we highlight the efforts of the United States and other partners in support of peace, including the recent decision of the Government of Germany to take a more proactive role in peace efforts, and helping to facilitate direct talks, which we eagerly anticipate to take place very soon.
The best measure of progress in advancing peace negotiations is not only to the extent to which the Taliban reduces their violence, but rather they end it entirely through a permanent ceasefire, and their decision to engage in direct talks with the government; the intra-Afghan dialogue is a good start leading to direct discussions.
We also must not forget the important role the region can play in facilitating direct peace negotiations for a successful agreement. Building a regional consensus for peace has been vital for Afghanistan; and to do such the government has taken various steps in reaching out to the region to build a greater engagement & establish the needed consensus.
The commitment of the Afghan government for peace, is clear and genuine. This is demonstrated by the Government’s decision to release close to 900 Taliban prisoners, following the Eid religious holiday as part of the demands from the Peace Jirga participants, and as a confidence building measure.
Unfortunately, actions taken – so far – by the Taliban fail to signify even the slightest degree of commitment to peace. The Taliban, not too long ago, announced their Spring offensive campaign and started to attack civilians, while their representatives were engaged in peace negotiations. This is further evident by new attacks during the Holy Month of Ramadan, against ordinary Afghans, civilians, and religious figures who were denouncing violence and amplifying the message of peace in different parts of the country.
Taliban has also attacked and killed many humanitarian aid & medical workers. They have restricted the movement and activities of many aid organizations, including the WHO and ICRC, and have vowed to continue their attacks on aid agencies.
During the three-day Eid holiday, at least 30 people were killed in approximately 23 Taliban attacks in Logar, Helmand, Baghlan and Kapisa provinces. These attacks unfortunately reconfirm the group’s desire to manipulate a genuine offer for a peaceful settlement to the conflict.
We believe only a dual track approach of pressure and incentives can ensure a conducive environment for a successful outcome. These attacks represent a violation of international humanitarian law, and any degree of passivity from all of us, can lead to misunderstandings of weakness and space for the group to dictate the terms of negotiations.
Despite the continued attacks, our security forces have repulsed the Taliban’s Spring Offensive and prevented the group from capturing territory. According to the latest joint Government Committee report, 85-90% of productive territory including natural resources, highways, and other infrastructures are under Government control.
To further deter these extremist elements, our security forces were able to clear Taliban presence in Deh-Yak and Khwaja Omari districts of Ghazni province, over the past several weeks alone.
This has been achieved not only due to the professionalism and bravery of our forces, but also in part due to the ongoing efforts in bringing reforms in the security sector to make it more streamlined and effective.
Meanwhile, facing defeat in the battlefield, the Taliban have sought to compensate setbacks with a renewed focus on attacking soft-targets, using civilian compounds as shelters, leading to an increase in civilian casualties, and waging of a psychological warfare through terror and destruction.
We are documenting changing battle tactics by Taliban, in incorporate a more heinous strategy by planting IEDs and explosives in civilian spaces, including targeting schools. A recent example is the ongoing fight in the Baharak district in Takhar province, where Taliban have used civilian houses as shields and not letting people to leave their houses.
Civilian protection remains a high priority at the highest levels of our Government. We have taken institutional measures to avoid collateral damage, which also includes close coordination with international forces during security operations, and accountability for incidents resulting from actions that deviate from standard rules of engagement.
We continue to take concrete steps to ensure the physical protection and well-being of children, including avoiding of any recruitment of child soldiers in our security forces, through our revised penal code, which criminalizes these practices.
The emergence of a democratic political order, through a democratic process, chosen by the people of Afghanistan is among our most significant achievements over the past eighteen years. When using the term “we,” I do not only refer to the people of Afghanistan, but rather in the context of a collective effort and sacrifice of all us in this council.
Less than two months ago, our new parliament was inaugurated by President Ghani, in the presence of new MP’s and representatives of the international community.
Looking ahead, our people’s approach to the future is the expectation that nothing outside of the democratic order can determine the political destiny.
Therefore, despite all challenges, we will make sure to hold presidential elections in September of this year. We’re fully aware that this task will not be an easy one – at the same time, we are confident in being able to fulfill it successfully, with support from the international community & our friends and allies.
We have begun security and technical arrangements for the elections, and are in discussions with our international partners on various aspects of the process.
We welcome the appointment of the UN advisers who will serve as international commissioners in the independent electoral commission, in order to provide technical support.
We will spare no effort whatsoever to ensure a credible, transparent and inclusive electoral process to meet the demands of our people and our political stability.
Among the gains of last 18 years one is also the emergence of a dynamic and committed young generation. This generation is increasingly taking charge of country’s future. The resilient role of Afghan women as agents of change, progress, and transformation has been a fundamental part of this new dynamic.
Women’s contributions and leadership have reached new heights, as public servants across the government, and in the private sector. For the first time, the head of the Independent Electoral Commission and the Complaints Commission are two women.
To consolidate these gains, promote and protect the rights of women, and incorporate women’s voices in the peace & security agenda, we look forward to working with a broad set of partners through the Group of Friends of Women in Afghanistan, here in New York. We soon will be launching this Group along with the Mission of the United Kingdom. I sincerely would like to thank Ambassador Pierce for her commitment to this cause, and we look forward to your support for the activities of the Group.
The new Afghanistan is also starting to emerge as a catalyst for economic and regional cooperation. This is best manifested by the implementation of several mega regional projects, under our Afghan-led RECCA Platform, which will have economic dividends beyond our immediate region, and the Heart of Asia Istanbul Process. Through increased trade, investments, infrastructure and development, we are moving towards the direction of sustainable growth.
To concluded, I am going to quote the statement from one of the participants at the Peace Jirga, who said that “no one wins in war as no one loses in Peace.” Therefore, securing a tangible and durable peace, acceptable to the people of Afghanistan is an imperative to make sure that our country will move forward, not backward.
Together, with our friends and allies we stand at an important crossroad where a collective and unified approach will enable us to achieve our strategic objectives of a peaceful, stable and prosperous Afghanistan.