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Updated On: Wednesday, 17 January 2018
Development Issues

After 40 Years of Conflict in Afghanistan, Peace Process Still Not Assured, Special Representative Tells Security Council, Urging Timely Elections

Content by: UN News Centre

After four decades of conflict in Afghanistan, a convincing peace process was still not assured, the top United Nations official for that country told the Security Council today, calling on the Taliban to express a clear willingness to begin negotiations.

In his periodic briefing, Tadamichi Yamamoto, the Secretary‑General’s Special Representative and Head of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), said a crucial issue was the holding of parliamentary elections in 2018, followed by presidential elections in April 2019.  He noted there had been insufficient progress on those preparations, as well as intense criticism from electoral stakeholders.  The Independent Election Commission needed to demonstrably advance preparations to regain its credibility.  UNAMA would continue efforts to advance women’s political participation.  Despite intense fighting, recent efforts by Afghan National Defence and Security Forces to protect civilians had resulted in reductions in civilian deaths and injuries, he said.

He said the Government’s goal to reduce reliance on aid and secure its own tax base would require concentrated efforts to stimulate the private sector, reduce corruption and red tape, and build infrastructure, after which Afghanistan’s mineral wealth could be exploited.  Although the achievements in regional cooperation were encouraging, he said the main dividends of regional cooperation could not be achieved until there was peace and stability.

“I truly hope that empathy for the ongoing suffering of millions of Afghans will move us all to make the efforts necessary to achieve peace and realize the important opportunities that lie beyond a much needed peace agreement,” he said.

Also briefing the Council, Yuri Fedotov, Executive Director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), drew attention to the “unprecedented” highs in opium poppy cultivation and production, with an increase of almost 90 per cent to a record 9,000 metric tons in the past year.  Recent seizures showed interregional links between organized crime and terrorist groups exploiting drug manufacturing and trafficking.  It should be recognized that in recent years, attention had progressively shifted away from the threats posed by drugs.

He said comprehensive counter‑narcotics programmes which mainstreamed drugs in national development agendas were essential, including promoting alternative development to create new jobs, as well as access to education, financial services and markets.  Illicit financial flows must also be intercepted, he said, and prevention and treatment responses must be urgently scaled up.

Speaking in his capacity as Chair of the Security Council Committee pursuant to resolution 1988 (2011), Kazakhstan’s representative said that the Committee had in 2017 removed one reportedly deceased individual from the sanctions list.  No other person or entity was delisted or added.  Emphasizing that implementation of the sanctions regime depended on internal, regional and international actors, he encouraged Member States to play a more active role in providing information that would help to keep the sanctions list up‑to‑date.

Wazhma Frogh, Founding Member of Women and Peace Studies Organization and Member of Afghanistan’s High Peace Council, said her country was still one of the most dangerous places for women.  In 2017, the Afghan Human Rights Commission had reported more than 5,000 cases of severe violence against women.  All Government and armed groups were still complicit in rape and extortion, she said.

She underlined the importance of the peace process including all sectors of society.  Even though women and children suffered from ongoing violence, women were excluded from the peace and reconciliation process.  Lasting peace could only be achieved if women sat at the negotiating table, she said.

The representative of Afghanistan said that the so‑called “fighting season” of the Taliban and other terrorist groups had nearly ended.  Those groups had failed to make any notable gains on the ground.  Increased dialogue was needed among regional and global powers, he said.  Turning to bilateral relations with Pakistan, he highlighted substantial improvements.  He said, “Afghanistan has the will and capacity to defend its territory and our patience should not be tested.”

Regarding peace efforts, he noted that the Kabul process was now fully operational and provided an overarching framework to harmonize international and regional efforts in that context.  The February meeting of that process would represent an opportune moment for the Taliban to change course, denounce violence and join the peace process.  He noted recent progress in implementing projects visualizing Afghanistan as a land bridge, business hub and trade and transit roundabout between Central Asia, South Asia, the Far East and the Middle East.

Speakers in the ensuing debate stressed the importance of an Afghan‑owned, Afghan‑led and Afghan‑controlled process, with the support of neighbouring countries through the 2018 meeting of the Kabul process.  Expressing concern about the increased levels of violence in the country, due to activities of the Taliban and terrorist groups such as Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Daesh), they urged the former to participate in the reconciliation process.

Commending the effort of UNODC, speakers expressed concern at the increased opium cultivation and production, stressing the connection between criminal organizations and terrorist groups to fund the latter’s activities, and urged for regional and international cooperation in that regard.

The representative of the United States said Americans were impatient with the conflict in Afghanistan, but would continue to support Kabul in its efforts against Al‑Qaida, ISIL and the Taliban.  Her country did not intend to prolong the war in Afghanistan through military gains, but rather it sought to accelerate the peace, she said, emphasizing its commitment to an Afghan‑owned peace process.

Pakistan’s representative said that the war, violence and terrorism afflicting Afghanistan were the consequences of foreign military interventions, occupation and imposed war.  Preventing cross‑border terrorism was essential for both countries and could only be achieved through constant vigilance.  She reported that the armed forces of both counties agreed to place liaison officers in each other’s army headquarters and establish ground coordination centres.  She urged the Taliban to give up violence, stressing that the other side, too, must display a genuine desire for dialogue.

The representative of India said the Council had not effectively used its 1988 sanctions regime in the context of funds generated by terrorist networks.  “We need to go after the leaders of the terrorist organizations” and investigate and designate illicit drugs trafficking businesses, he said.  He drew attention to the New Development Partnership launched by Afghanistan and India in September, but regretted that overland access between the two countries had been blocked for many years.

The representatives of Japan, Italy, China, Ukraine, France, Russian Federation, Bolivia, Sweden, Uruguay, Senegal, Egypt, Ethiopia, United Kingdom, Germany, Turkey, Uzbekistan, Canada, Netherlands, Iran and Australia also spoke, as did the delegate of the European Union.

The meeting began at 10:20 a.m. and ended at 1:47 p.m.

Briefings

TADAMICHI YAMAMOTO, Special Representative of the Secretary‑General and Head of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), speaking via video‑conference from Kabul, said “As the calendar year closes, we are still left to tackle the issue that concerns us most in Afghanistan:  a convincing peace process to end the forty years of conflict…”.  During the upcoming months, when conflict levels tended to decrease, the issue could be advanced.  The Kabul process planned for 1 February offered an opportunity.  The Government was expected to present a strategic concept for reaching a political settlement with the armed opposition.  The Government and international partners must focus on how levels of violence could be reduced.  He called on the Taliban to express a clear willingness to begin negotiations.

He said a crucial issue was the holding of parliamentary elections next year, followed by presidential elections in April 2019.  There had been, however, insufficient progress on electoral preparations, as well as intense criticism from electoral stakeholders.  The Independent Election Commission had removed its chairman.  It needed to demonstrably advance preparations to regain its credibility.  On 6 December, the Commission had announced the modalities for voter registration, which would result in a single, complete voter register, as well as polling station‑based voter lists.  That would significantly cut down on fraud, he stressed. Security was a defining factor enabling credible and inclusive elections.  UNAMA would continue efforts to advance women’s political participation.

Despite intense fighting, recent efforts by Afghan security forces to protect civilians had resulted in reductions in civilian deaths and injuries, he said, but remained concerned at the indiscriminate use of improvised explosive devices and casualties from air strikes by pro‑Government forces.  The number of civilian casualties remained at terribly high levels.  He had also received disturbing reports of children being recruited by armed groups, mainly Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh) and the Taliban, and urged the parties to immediately cease that unlawful practice.  He also encouraged the Government to ratify the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and to withdraw its reservations to the Convention.

Turning to the economic situation, he said the significant reduction of the international military presence in 2014 had led to a collapse in economic growth, from 10 per cent to less than 0 per cent.  Afghanistan was expected to reach positive growth for the second year, he said, but not enough to absorb the 400,000 young Afghans who annually sought to join the labour force.  The illicit economy was expanding and narcotics trades were a source of funds for insurgency.  For the Afghan economic development to succeed, the Afghan National Peace and Development Framework must be supported.

The Government’s goal to reduce reliance on aid and secure its own tax base would require intense efforts to stimulate the private sector, reduce corruption and red tape, and build infrastructure, after which Afghanistan’s mineral wealth could be exploited.  The past year had seen important progress on infrastructure development with an eye to connecting Afghanistan to Europe through the Caspian and the Caucasus, and to the Arabian Sea.  Those developments demonstrated how Afghanistan’s relationship with its neighbours presented opportunities for prosperity.  There were obstacles, however, he said, and expressed concern about increased military activities between Afghanistan and Pakistan.  He called on the Governments of Afghanistan and Pakistan to find ways of collaborating more effectively to address the issues.

Although the achievements in regional cooperation were encouraging, he said the main dividends of regional cooperation could not be achieved until there was peace and stability in the country.  That sequence could not be reversed.  “In the coming months, there must be significant progress on election preparations, real attempts to reduce violence and the move towards a credible peace process,” he said, adding that because of the cyclical nature of the conflict, opportunities that were missed in the next three months would in all likelihood be missed for the next year.

“I truly hope that empathy for the ongoing suffering of millions of Afghans will move us all to make the efforts necessary to achieve peace and realise the important opportunities that lie beyond a much needed peace agreement”, he said in conclusion.

YURI FEDOTOV, Executive Director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), said the 2016 Afghan opium survey had showed a reversal in efforts to counter the drug problem.  One year later, the situation had become much worse, with the 2017 survey showing unprecedented highs in opium poppy cultivation and production, with an increase of almost 90 per cent to a record 9,000 metric tons.  The area under poppy cultivation had risen to 328,000 hectares.  “Let us make no mistake:  we face a genuine crisis, and our response must be urgent, swift and decisive,” he said.

The expected surge in high quality, low‑cost heroin posed negative consequences for Afghanistan, its neighbours and the many other transit routes or destinations, he said.  Recent seizures and analysis showed interregional links between organized crime and terrorist groups exploiting drugs manufacturing and trafficking.  It should be recognized that in recent years, attention had progressively shifted away from the threats posed by drugs.  That trend must be reversed, he stressed.

He said comprehensive counter-narcotics programmes which mainstreamed drugs in national development agendas were essential.  That would include promoting alternative development to create new jobs, as well as access to education, financial services and markets.  He called for support to build capacity, including for intelligence-led investigations, controlled delivery, eradication programmes and dismantling of opium processing labs.  Integrated border management, financial intelligence units and disruption of criminal networks was also necessary.  Regional and international cooperation should be strengthened to stop precursor chemicals from being diverted and trafficked into Afghanistan.   Illicit financial flows must also be intercepted and prevention and treatment responses must be urgently scaled up, most of all in Afghanistan.

He said UNODC was working with Afghanistan, neighbouring countries and the wider region to promote the needed integrated response.  It was currently seeking to step up regional and inter-regional action to counter the opium cultivation and production increases, including comprehensive support to implement the Afghan national Drug Action Plan, with Afghanistan in the lead.  There could be no success, however, without the engagement and renewed commitment of Member States.  “The international community cannot afford to do less,” he said.

KAIRAT UMAROV (Kazakhstan), speaking in his capacity as Chair of the Security Council Committee pursuant to resolution 1988 (2011) pertaining to Afghanistan and the Taliban, said that in 2017, the 1988 Committee — at the Afghan Government’s request — removed one reportedly deceased individual from the sanctions list.  No other person or entity was de‑listed or added.  However, there were indications that the Government and others, in the coming months, would request delisting several individuals to further facilitate peace and reconciliation efforts.  In that context, the de‑listing of Gulbuddin Hekmatyar earlier this year by the Security Council Committee pursuant to resolutions 1267 (1999), 1989 (2011) and 2253 (2015) concerning ISIL (Da’esh), Al‑Qaida, and associated individuals, groups, undertakings and entities, at the Afghan Government’s request, had had a positive impact through his participation in the political process, strengthening reconciliation prospects for others going forward, he said.

Turning to the Taliban, he said that since the death of its previous leader Mullah Mansour in 2016, its leadership ranks had faced internal friction, primarily between the pro‑Mansour faction and its new leader Haibatullah Akhundzada.  Such internal dissensions had not, however, affected the Taliban’s military capabilities.  It could still attack Afghan forces, Afghan people and the international community, and potentially threatening several provincial capitals, supported by income mainly from the narcotics economy and illegal extraction of natural resources.  The presence of ISIL/Da’esh and foreign terrorist fighters complicated the situation.  That being said, Afghan Government forces had maintained control over provinces and district headquarters in the face of heavy Taliban attack.  That pointed to an improvement in the Government’s fighting capacity, due in no small measure to the international presence in Afghanistan.  Emphasizing that implementation of the sanctions regime depended not only on internal actors, but also on regional and international actors, he encouraged Member States to play a more active role in providing information that would help to keep the sanctions list up to date.

The large-scale increase in opium production in Afghanistan was a worrying development, he said, with the Afghan Opium Survey 2017 highlighting an 87 per cent increase in opium production.  That trend must be addressed, as Taliban involvement in illegal opium production and trade could have earned it an estimated $400 million in annual income in 2016.  “Cutting off this financial stream would have a significant impact on the Taliban’s ability to resource its offensive against the Government of Afghanistan,” he said.  The overall effectiveness of the 1988 sanctions regime also depended on close coordination with the Government and the region, he said, noting his visit to Afghanistan in October for meetings that demonstrated the potential for greater use of sanctions to deter the Taliban and support the peace process.  At the same time, renewed efforts must be made to list Taliban-associated individuals and entities who, while not on the sanctions list, undertook activities that harmed Afghanistan’s peace and security.  Concluding, he said the 1988 Committee was keen to help the Government make wider use of the sanctions regime, and awaited its proposals for updating the sanctions list.  At the same time, all Member States were urged to assist in the sincere implementation of the sanctions measures.

WAZHMA FROGH, Founding Member of Women and Peace Studies Organization and Member of Afghanistan’s High Peace Council, addressing the meeting via video‑conference from Kabul, said that in the light of violence committed against civilians, particularly women, she appreciated the opportunity to address the Council.  Acknowledging that her Government had appointed several women to the cabinet and the judiciary and had made efforts to increase the number of women in the security forces, she said there were concerns about whether the elections would be convened on time, because the impact of armed groups had hindered progress.

She said Afghanistan was still one of the most dangerous countries for women.  In 2017, the Afghan Human Rights Commission had reported over 5,000 cases of severe violence against women.  The Taliban was spreading fear among women by such actions as shooting a woman for having links to the Government.  The Taliban had taken 300 children from families to be trained as soldiers.  All Government and armed group were still complicit in rape and extortion.  Although an action plan to address the issue had been developed, it had not been implemented.

She said the battle was fought in communities and markets, where the Taliban first attacked women.  Afghan women did not have a role in decisions on how to combat that violence.  Women could play a role in countering, at the local level, the radicalization of young men.  The younger generation did not have an opportunity to participate in governance or find jobs, which led to radicalization.  In August, 47 women and girls were taken by ISIL.  The Government continued to deny such events, as it would shed light on its inability to address the issue.

Noting that a negotiated settlement was the only solution, she underlined the importance of the peace process including all sectors of society, in particular women.  Although security sector reform had started in the past few months, and had yielded some practical results, there were no women in leadership positions, and women in lower level positions risked their lives.  Women did not have a seat at the Government’s Security Council.  Women and children suffered from ongoing violence, but women were excluded from the peace and reconciliation process.  Lasting peace could only be achieved if women sat at the negotiating table.

She also drew attention to the number of women’s organizations closing at an alarming level, and called on the international community and the Council to ensure funding for women’s organizations.  In closing, she said she looked forward to a presence of women at the Kabul Conference.

Statements

MAHMOUD SAIKAL (Afghanistan) said that the so‑called “fighting season” of the Taliban and other terrorist groups had nearly ended.  Those groups had failed to make any notable gains on the ground while suffering heavy manpower and morale losses.  His country’s security forces had proven their effectiveness in countering terrorist elements in independently conducted operations.  Moreover, they were also working to double the size of their special forces and triple the size of their air force, with support from international partners.  To consolidate such gains and achieve sustainable peace, increased dialogue was needed among regional and global powers, he said, hailing readiness expressed by President Vladimir Putin of the Russian Federation to cooperate with the United States in Afghanistan on counter‑terrorism and narcotics.

Turning to bilateral relations with Pakistan, he highlighted substantial improvements, citing the visit of a senior military and a parliamentary delegation from that country.  Violations across the Durand Line constituted a key hindrance to improving relations between the countries, and had resulted in the loss of innocent lives.  His country’s proposal for engagement and operational coordination in order to address those concerns had not seen any response, he noted, adding that “Afghanistan has the will and capacity to defend its territory and our patience should not be tested.”  He looked forward to the upcoming trilateral meeting in Beijing during the following week between the Foreign Ministers of Afghanistan, Pakistan and China.

Regarding peace efforts, he noted that the Kabul process was now fully operational and provided an overarching framework to harmonize international and regional efforts in that context.  The February meeting of that Process would represent an opportune moment for the Taliban to change course, denounce violence and join the peace process.  Turning to the General Assembly resolution on Afghanistan, he said its effective implementation was imperative.  In security and counter‑terrorism, the implementation of the sanctions regimes of the 1988 and 1989 Security Council Committees must improve.  They were put in place to constrict the operational capacity, freedom of movement as well as flow of material resources in the region, all of which allowed terror to thrive.  However, those regimes were lax at best and struggled to achieve their mandates.  He voiced hope that relevant Council members would make necessary adjustments to enforce sanctions, underscoring the outstanding issues of freezing Taliban leaders’ assets and listing and de‑listing terrorist groups based on existing evidence and technical appraisal.

He went on to note progress made in 2017 in terms of implementing projects visualizing Afghanistan as a land bridge, business hub and trade and transit roundabout between Central Asia, South Asia, the Far East and the Middle East.  The Regional Economic Cooperation Conference on Afghanistan and the Heart of Asia‑Istanbul Process had progressed steadily.  Moreover, his country had also signed bilateral and other agreements with various countries in the region, he said, emphasizing that “terror cannot deter the course of development and prosperity of our country and the region.”  He expressed grave concern about increasing attacks on mosques and worshippers, noting that the Government had introduced measures to protect places of worship at risk.  Also, in accordance with Security Council resolution 1325 (2000), the role of Afghan women was becoming more prominent in the peace process.

KORO BESSHO (Japan) said that short‑term efforts by Afghan security forces to push back the Taliban and conduct anti‑terrorism operations were crucial, but only genuine progress on an Afghan‑led and Afghan‑owned peace process would significantly improve security in the long run.  Seeing no unity among regional stakeholders on that issue, Japan was worried that the lack of common understanding would exacerbate the environment for the Afghan Government in advancing peace.  He expressed hope that the second round of the Kabul process in February would yield tangible steps and clarify the role of UNAMA in the peace process.  Pointing then to opium poppy cultivation and illicit trafficking of opiates in Afghanistan, he said Japan was supporting the country to revive its legitimate agricultural sector.  Expanding agricultural productivity would allow the country to export products to neighbouring countries, strengthening regional cooperation.

ANDREA BIAGINI (Italy), associating himself with the European Union, emphasized the need to marry, on the one hand, the intrinsically domestic nature of an Afghan‑owned, Afghan‑led peace process with, on the other hand, genuine support from partner countries, particularly those in the region.  Effective and tangible collaboration would be needed to fight terrorist groups, he said, adding that the Kabul process must be complemented by full and inclusive outreach to all sectors of Afghan society, including women.  He went on to say that parliamentary elections in 2018 represented a fundamental opportunity to strengthen Afghan institutions.  The elections must be transparent and inclusive, he stated, underscoring the need to resolve outstanding issues regarding electoral reforms and tangible implementation of the Government’s wider reform agenda.

SHEN BO (China) underscored the importance of promoting national reconciliation, saying that all sides must put Afghanistan’s long‑term interests first through an Afghan‑owned and Afghan‑led process.  He welcomed the Afghan Government’s anti‑corruption and reform efforts, adding that political actors should be more united and resolve their differences through dialogue.  The international community should meanwhile honour its commitment to help Afghanistan and support its economic and social development.  Afghanistan enjoyed great prospects regarding regional economic cooperation, he said, adding that China hoped UNAMA would continue to respect Afghanistan’s sovereignty.

VOLODYMYR YELCHENKO (Ukraine), aligning himself with the forthcoming statement by the European Union, praised the Kabul process launched in June under the initiative of President Ghani and added that the Afghan‑led and Afghan‑owned national peace and reconciliation efforts should be prioritized.  Stressing the importance of taking concrete measures to move forward the national reform agenda through the Afghanistan National Peace and Development Framework, he also congratulated the Government of Afghanistan for its determination to take effective measures for enacting obligations under international human rights law in connection with its election to the Human Rights Council.

ANNE GUEGUEN (France), noting that women were indispensable for establishing peace in Afghanistan, stressed her concern regarding the high level of violence in that country and terrorist groups joining the fight.  Civilians, particularly women and children, continued to pay the highest price.  Her country shared Afghanistan’s determination to fight terrorism.  The Government needed to pursue reforms underway, in particular in its electoral system.  She welcomed reforms being implemented to combat corruption.  She said that despite progress in programmes to eradicate areas of poppy production, cultivated areas had gone up with a doubling of output.  The situation of human rights was of great concern, she said, and urged the Government to honour its commitment to women.  She hoped the peace process could be resumed as soon as possible.  That process must be supported by all neighbouring countries, she said.

VLADIMIR K. SAFRONKOV (Russian Federation) noted that after the defeat of ISIL in the Middle East, that group had seized territory in the north of Afghanistan.  The secret to that success was the military support from outside sources.  Measures should be taken to clear the north of the country from terrorist elements which threatened also other nations in the region.  He was also concerned about the worsening drug situation in Afghanistan, with criminals and terrorists working together.  Support must be based on cooperation and national reconciliation.  National reconciliation could only happen if there was no competition between supporters, but a collective will.  Neighbouring States should participate in the process as terrorist groups also threatened them.  Noting that the Russian Federation and Afghanistan were historically connected by friendship, he said his country was ready to provide support, including through training of security and armed forces and was open to cooperation with the United States and others.

PEDRO LUIS INCHAUSTE JORDÁN (Bolivia) welcomed progress made by the Government, among other things in security sector.  Despite the current fragile political equilibrium, he was convinced the Afghanistan’s people had the will to establish democracy.  Concerned about the high number of armed groups, he said the priority the Government placed on the reform plan was key part of security strategy.  He was not encouraged by the fact that in the past year, 33,000 people had been displaced, and hoped international organizations would continue to provide aid to help the voluntary and safe return of refugees.  Highlighting the work of mine removal partners he said their efforts had enabled civilians to return home and work the land.  He called on regional partners to strengthen their commitment to cooperation.  While supporting the Kabul process, he underlined the importance of it being be inclusive, and guided by Afghans.

IRINA SCHOULGIN NYONI (Sweden), associating herself with the statement to be given by the European Union, said that only the Afghan people, working together, would determine Afghanistan’s future.  In that regard, the upcoming meeting under the Kabul process would be an important step, she said, underscoring also the tremendous potential for increased regional cooperation.  It was imperative for parliamentary elections in 2018 and presidential elections in 2019 to be carried out in an inclusive, credible and transparent manner, with women participating as voters and candidates.  Sweden deplored the recent execution of five prisoners and urged the Afghan Government to reinstate a de facto moratorium on the death penalty.  Increased recruitment of children by armed groups, including the Taliban, was a matter of deep concern.  She expressed her country’s strong support for the strategic review of UNAMA, adding that the Secretary‑General’s recommendations regarding the Mission should be implemented without delay.

KAIRAT UMAROV (Kazakhstan) said Central Asian States were particularly concerned about the rising level of terrorist activities by ISIL’s Afghan faction in the northern provinces of the country.  The increase of drug production in 2017 was also alarming, as it fuelled terrorist operations and had a negative effect on the entire region.  Noting the nexus between security and development, he said close economic cooperation between the countries of the region would facilitate the integration of Afghan citizens into the reconciliation process, reducing their involvement in organized crime and opium production.  It would also significantly strengthen the country’s potential by contributing to economic growth, increasing trade and creating opportunities.

LUIS HOMERO BERMÚDEZ ÁLVAREZ (Uruguay) said there was no military solution to the conflict in Afghanistan, where the parties must come together to find a political alternative.  Maximum effort must be made to end the cycle of violence and embark on a path that would lead to talks between the Government and the Taliban.  The Kabul process required the international community’s support, he said, encouraging the Afghan Government to continue its reform programme, focusing on strong and independent institutions and a solid democratic process.  He underscored the role of Afghan women and their direct participation in the peace and reform processes.  He expressed concern about the humanitarian situation, saying all parties to the conflict must respect humanitarian principles, human rights and international humanitarian law.  Concluding, he said Afghanistan must be able to count on support from the United Nations, Member States and others.

MICHELE J. SISON (United States) drew attention to President Donald Trump’s national security strategy, saying nowhere was that approach more evident than in her country’s regional strategy towards Afghanistan.  Americans were impatient with the conflict in Afghanistan, but it would continue to support Kabul in its efforts against Al‑Qaida, Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and the Taliban.  United States support would be based not on timelines, but on a realistic assessment of the situation on the ground.  She said additional American resources, ordered by President Trump, were having an impact on the battlefield, with significant progress being made against ISIL in eastern Afghanistan.  Enhanced United States support had also bolstered the confidence of Afghan partners, she added.

The United States did not intend to prolong the war in Afghanistan through military gains, but rather it sought to accelerate the peace, she said, emphasizing its commitment to an Afghan‑owned peace process.  The Taliban and other spoilers could not win on the battlefield.  Peace would only come through a political settlement.  The United States, the Security Council and the international community were unified in pursuing a durable political settlement that would lead to a lasting peace.  She underscored the important role played by UNAMA, adding that Afghanistan’s neighbours must help as well.  There could be no enduring peace unless those neighbours were fully committed to that goal.  She went on to say that the United States stood ready to work with any nation that was prepared to play a constructive role in Afghanistan.  Much work also needed to be done to combat opium production, which meant more income for the Taliban and other insurgent groups.  Concluding, she said her country shared the world’s impatience to end the conflict, but that impatience could be an asset if it was directed towards renewed peace efforts.

FODÉ SECK (Senegal) said his country was concerned by the fragile situation in Afghanistan as the 2018 elections drew closer.  Political stakeholders were encouraged to de‑escalate tensions and ensure that the security situation did not deteriorate further.  A high level of violence had led to loss of life, including among women and children, while having a negative impact on the human rights, humanitarian, economic and social situation.  The presence of international forces remained particularly important, alongside Afghan Government efforts to promote national dialogue, combat instability and protect civilians.  He welcomed progress in the fight against torture, encouraged greater women’s participation, and hailed joint efforts by the United Nations and its partners in ensuring regular humanitarian assistance.  He also emphasized the need to combat drug trafficking.

SEIF ALLA YOUSSEF KANDEEL (Egypt) welcomed preparations for the 2018 elections and supported Afghanistan authorities in their political efforts to uphold security and development.  Welcoming the collective commitment to fight terrorism and noting the escalation of terrorist attacks in Afghanistan, he encouraged partners at the national and international level and Afghan authorities to combat drugs in tandem with fighting terrorism.  He welcomed several economic and investment initiatives to support Afghan development and underlined the importance of regional organizations, such as the Shanghai Cooperation Organization.  He called for an integrated United Nations vision to uphold peace, stability and prosperity in Afghanistan and the region.

DAWIT YIRGA WOLDEGERIMA (Ethiopia) said Afghanistan still faced complex challenges.  The security situation remained volatile, compounded by the presence of ISIL in the country.  Welcoming the continued reform activities of the Government, including fighting corruption, he underlined the importance of adhering to the timeline for the 2018 elections.  He noted with concern that there had been no significant steps towards a peace process with the Taliban.  Welcoming bilateral and multilateral cooperation, he stressed the importance of UNAMA efforts in supporting peace consultations.  He stressed that without development, the peace and security challenge could not be addressed, and urged the international community to deliver on its various commitments.

JONATHAN GUY ALLEN (United Kingdom) said Afghanistan continued to face challenges to peace and stability.  Significant progress had been made, however, he said, noting that there was now a democratic Government and that security forces were protecting civilians.  He underlined the importance of holding timely elections, protecting human rights and the peace process being Afghan‑owned and led.  Elections were essential to long term stability, he said, and called on the Government to deliver the elections the people deserved.  As an Afghan‑led and owned peace process was the only solution to the conflict, he urged the Taliban to participate.  He called on all parties to engage with the Afghan Government in the Kabul process.  Welcoming the essential part UANAMA played, including its work to promote women’s participation in the elections, he urged for full implementation of the National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security.

CHRISTOPH HEUSGEN (Germany), associating himself with the European Union, said timely elections in Afghanistan would be important to ensure the success of a comprehensive political process.  Germany supported a credible and inclusive peace process that included women, youth and civil society.  He emphasized the important role of regional players, adding that an increase in opium production could have detrimental effects vis‑à‑vis the peace process.  He called for a halt to the recruitment of child fighters, and for Afghanistan to abolish the death penalty and join the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.

MALEEHA LODHI (Pakistan) said that the war, violence and terrorism afflicting Afghanistan were the consequences of foreign military interventions, occupation and imposed war.  The peoples of that country and Pakistan were bound by mutual interdependence and other ties, she said, noting that approximately 3 million Afghans still resided in Pakistan.  To strengthen bilateral relations, her delegation had in November proposed a comprehensive Afghanistan‑Pakistan Action Plan for Solidarity.  Preventing cross‑border terrorism was essential for both countries and could only be achieved through constant vigilance, effective management and real‑time communication.  Regular contact between their armed forces and intelligence agencies was needed to prevent violent incidents along the border.  To that end, the two armed forces had agreed to place liaison officers in each other’s army headquarters and establish ground coordination centres.  A conglomerate of terrorists from various parts of the world had emerged as a new threat in Afghanistan, located in 40 per cent of its territory.  It appeared that ISIL/Da’esh’s “core” might be relocating there, posing a threat to all its neighbours.  She further noted that peace could not be restored by military force.  “You cannot kill and talk at the same time,” she said, urging the Taliban to give up violence and stressing that the other side, too, must display a genuine desire for dialogue.

GÜVEN BEGEÇ (Turkey) urged the international community to consolidate support for Afghanistan and fulfil its commitments.  He stressed the importance of unity in the Afghan Government, which was essential for peace and security.  Afghan owned and led peace and reconciliation efforts were key in that regard.  He encouraged cooperation between the countries in the region, and stressed his country’s willingness to contribute to that process so that Afghanistan could become a stable country with good relationships with its neighbours and welcomed in that regard the recently concluded transport agreement.

BAKHTIYOR IBRAGIMOV (Uzbekistan) said the only route to peace in Afghanistan was direct dialogue between the central Government and main domestic political forces without preconditions.  An Afghan‑led inclusive peace process under the auspices of the United Nations was essential for achieving long‑term peace and stability in the country.  The international community should look at Afghanistan as a strategic opportunity that could serve as a solid foundation for promoting multifaceted cooperation conducive to common prosperity and well‑being.  His Government was taking coherent steps to galvanize international support for integrating Afghanistan into regional economic networks.  In November, his country had hosted an international conference on ensuring security and sustainable development in Central Asia.  In the final communique, delegates supported initiatives aimed at backing the Afghan peace process, promoting the reconstruction of socioeconomic infrastructure and integrating the country more actively into global economic networks.

MICHAEL BONSER (Canada) stressed the importance of women’s full and equal participation in all facets of Afghan life, as they continued to suffer a disadvantage in the country.  With the 2018 elections approaching, it was essential to encourage and support the meaningful participation of women as both candidates and informed voters.  He also underscored the need for economic development, which could be supported through the Heart of Asia‑Istanbul Process and the Regional Economic Cooperation Conference on Afghanistan.  Noting intensified fighting in Afghanistan in 2017, he then pointed to the importance of the peace process, stressing that negotiations between the Government and armed opposition were vital.  He expressed deep concern over the deterioration of security in the country, especially its impact on women and children.

LISE GREGOIRE‑VAN HAAREN (Netherlands), associating herself with the European Union, and recalling that her country would be the Council penholder on Afghanistan from January 2018, said the potential of Afghan women was far from fulfilled.  Increasing their participation in all aspects of Afghan society would contribute significantly to a more stable and prosperous nation.  She called on the Afghan Government to continue to fund and implement the National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security and the National Priority Programme for Women’s Economic Empowerment, and urged UNAMA to hire more female local staff members.  She went on to note the Netherlands’ contribution to the Afghan National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security through the €2 million Safhe Jaded programme to increase security and justice for women and girls.

JOANNE ADAMSON, European Union, expressed the bloc’s full commitment to supporting an Afghan‑led and Afghan‑owned peace process, which must include all Afghan men and women and their legitimate interests, preserving Afghanistan’s unity, sovereignty, territorial integrity and equal rights under the country’s constitution.  She said the bloc also supported the Kabul Process and other meaningful international efforts feeding into it, adding that it should encourage more regional discussions to increase cooperation towards peace and stability.  On 16 October, the European Union Council had adopted a new European Union Strategy on Afghanistan, laying out a path for a coherent, ambitious and forward‑looking strategy for the bloc’s engagement and partnership with that country.  It focused on promoting peace, stability and regional security; reinforcing democracy, the rule of law and human rights; promoting good governance and women’s empowerment; supporting economic and human development; and addressing migration-related challenges.  Also, a Brussels‑based Special Envoy to Afghanistan had been appointed to complement the work of the European Union delegation in Kabul.

In terms of human rights, she recalled that, on 10 December, the European Union had observed Human Rights Day with the meeting of grassroots human rights defenders in Kabul.  However, the bloc was also concerned by the execution of five prisoners on 29 November, she said, calling on Afghanistan to re‑establish its moratorium on executions with a view to abolishing the death penalty.  Human rights would now form part of the structured dialogue between the European Union and Afghanistan under the Cooperation Agreement on Partnership and Development framework.  On elections, she welcomed the announcement of the parliamentary elections in 2018, but noted signs technical and political difficulties, calling for efforts to resolve such difficulties and make the elections possible within the announced timeframe in a democratic, inclusive, transparent and credible manner.  In that regard, the bloc had committed €15.5 million to assist in the elections under UNAMA’s coordination.  On migration, she noted the implementation of the European Union-Afghanistan Joint Way Forward, as well as the reintegration assistance programme adopted in 2016, aimed at ensuring a sustainable reintegration of returnees from the European Union and neighbouring countries.  That support would soon be complemented by a new regional programme on migration and forced displacement with a budget of €200 million, of which Afghanistan would be the main beneficiary.

ESHAGH AL HABIB (Iran) said the Afghan National Unity Government was at the forefront in fighting terrorists — in particular, the Taliban, Al‑Qaida, Da’esh and its affiliates — as well as other extremist groups and criminals, including those in the narcotics trade.  The sustained support of the international community was needed to support the Government in that fight as well as to address Afghanistan’s complex security, economic and political challenges.  The reported 87 per cent growth in opium production over the past year was alarming, as narcotics provided a major source of income for terrorist groups.  The international community must support relevant international and regional projects and activities, including those carried by Afghanistan, Iran and Pakistan within the framework of the triangular initiative to counter narcotics.

TANMAYA LAL (India), expressing serious concern about the deteriorating security situation in Afghanistan, said support for terrorist organizations such as the Taliban, the Haqqani network, Da’esh, Al‑Qaida and its designated affiliates, including Lashkar‑e‑Taiba and Jaish‑e‑Mohammed from outside the country, must be forced to stop.  All safe havens and sanctuaries available to such groups beyond Afghan borders must end, he said, emphasizing the Security Council’s important responsibility in that regard.  Increased opium production was another serious concern, but the Council had not effectively used its 1988 sanctions regime in the context of funds generated by terrorist networks.  “We need to go after the leaders of the terrorist organizations” and investigate and designate illicit drugs trafficking businesses, he said.  Support for an Afghan‑led, Afghan‑owned and Afghan‑controlled peace and national reconciliation process must be pursued with all sincerity.  However, meaningful progress would require a cessation of violence, renunciation of links with international terrorism, and respect for the rights of common Afghan people, especially women and children.   He drew attention to the New Development Partnership launched by Afghanistan and India in September, but regretted that overland access between the two countries had been blocked for many years.  Efforts were being made to address that issue, with a first consignment of wheat from India recently reaching Afghanistan via Chabahar port in Iran.  Concluding, he said the challenges were well‑known, but that the tools available to the Council and the international community to address them must be utilized effectively with collective will and targeted action.

DAVID GREGORY YARDLEY (Australia), congratulating Afghanistan for overcoming significant security, political and humanitarian challenges in 2017, said that conducting parliamentary elections in 2018 would be crucial for political credibility.  While the Afghanistan Parliament’s recent confirmation of 11 ministerial nominees would bring more certainty to domestic politics, the failure to gain confirmation for the single female nominee was discouraging, he noted.  Looking forward to the Kabul process meeting in February 2018, he added that enhanced engagement between Afghanistan and Pakistan was crucial for regional stability.  2017 had been a year of reflection and realignment for the international community’s approach to Afghanistan, he said, urging the full implementation of recommendations of the UNAMA strategic review.

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