29 September 2011
Security Council
SC/10398

Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Security Council

6625th Meeting (AM)


Peace Broker’s Assassination Will Not Derail Gains in Afghanistan’s Reconciliation


Efforts, Secretary-General’s Special Representative Tells Security Council

 


Foreign Minister Highlights Progress Made in Decade Since Taliban Rule Ended


Declaring “peace is never smooth”, the senior United Nations official in Afghanistan assured the Security Council today that precious ground gained in taking the war-torn country’s transition and national reconciliation processes forward would not be undermined in the wake of last week’s shocking assassination of leading Afghan peace negotiator Burhanuddin Rabbani.


Briefing the Council on the latest developments, Staffan de Mistura, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), said the country and its people were going through “a terrible, terrible time” following the killing by suicide bomb of Mr. Rabbani, a former President who was leading national reconciliation talks as Chair of the High Peace Council.  While his assassination had been a major blow, the Afghan people had repeatedly shown their capacity to recover from tragedy and sad losses, said Mr. De Mistura.  “We feel that their drive for peace will not be deterred.”


History had shown that reconciliation efforts were particularly vulnerable to attack just at the moment when they began to gain traction, he continued, recalling that the High Peace Council had just started dialogue towards bridging a “trust deficit” ahead of more substantive talks.  This was therefore a time for Afghanistan to “recalibrate” and bolster national unity among the leaders and people, he said, adding that, with help from the international community, they would be able to work towards a peaceful political solution.  There was no alternative.


“Peace is a process, not an event,” he continued, stressing that an all‑inclusive, Afghan-led dialogue must remain the top priority following Mr. Rabbani’s death, with the international community playing a supportive role by providing assistance if and when asked.  The “slim and fragile window of opportunity” to move forward remained open, he said, adding that he expected the swift appointment of a “strong, authoritative” voice, not to replace the “irreplaceable” Mr. Rabbani, but to continue the work he had begun.


He said that despite the solemn undertone of today’s meeting, it was nevertheless an opportunity to discuss two crucial upcoming conferences — in Istanbul and Bonn — aimed at ensuring that the Afghan Government and people would “know we will be with them beyond 2014”.  Those meetings must not be ceremonial, but comprehensive and forward-looking, he stressed.  The 2 November Istanbul conference aimed to establish a “benign” regional order whereby Afghanistan and its neighbours would exchange confidence-building measures towards establishing “a stable heart of Asia”, he said, adding that Afghanistan should not be the subject in Istanbul, but the catalyst of all talks and resulting initiatives.


As for the 5 December Bonn conference, it should also address security issues rather than just socio-economic ones, he continued, expressing hope that the upcoming preparatory meeting would lead to discussions on a strong outcome document.  UNAMA would support all socio-economic efforts, including those aimed at launching a new “Silk Road” project.  The Bonn meeting had the potential to have an “historic impact”, he said, describing it as a crucial moment to assess the transition process thus far, promote support beyond 2014 and facilitate progress on reconciliation.


After highlighting positive developments towards resolving lingering electoral issues, the Kabul Bank crisis and strengthening the national security forces, he warned that the next three months were likely to be challenging.  Recent events had proved that “the writing is on the wall” as far as security was concerned.  “So we must endure, resist and go forward, even if security challenges persist,” he emphasized, pointing out that the second phase of the transition would soon get under way, and the Afghan Government and people must know that the international community was still standing with them.


Zalmai Rassoul, Afghanistan’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, stressed that the reconciliation would continue despite the loss of Mr. Rabbani.  The notable importance of 2011 was that it marked 10 years since the end of Taliban rule, which had led to the opening of a new chapter in Afghanistan’s history, defined by efforts to achieve the long-elusive peace, stability and prosperity.  In that decade, there had been much progress in building State institutions, ensuring essential services, enabling democracy to take root and upholding fundamental rights, he said.


Despite efforts to stabilize the country, however, Afghans still suffered an “endless” campaign of terror, he said, recalling the recent terrorist raid on the Intercontinental Hotel, the attacks on the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) compound and the United States Embassy in Kabul, and the assassination of a number of national figures.  “The continued spate of attacks, which originate from terrorist sanctuaries and safe havens beyond our borders, has generated an unprecedented level of anger,” he said, reiterating calls for an end to those sanctuaries.  The Government would work to reintegrate into social, economic and political life all members of the armed opposition willing to renounce violence, sever ties with terrorist groups, accept the Constitution and respect human rights, he emphasized.


For reconciliation to succeed, however, regional and international support was needed, in particular a results-oriented role by Pakistan.  “We have an important political calendar ahead of us,” he said, adding that Afghanistan looked forward to the Istanbul and Bonn conferences.  Calling for assistance beyond the 2014 deadline for completing the transition process, he said the Government was already working with its allies to map out enduring partnerships, including with the United States, European Union and NATO.  The United Nations had played an important role, which, going forward, must be adjusted to reinforce Afghan sovereignty, he added.


As numerous speakers took the floor, the representative of the United States said her country’s deployment of additional military personnel had helped stabilize Afghanistan and it would continue to work with Afghanistan to end the insurgency, pursue justice and ensure a peaceful future.  Highlighting the new Silk Road initiative as an Afghan venture to rally commitments to support the transition and develop a national economy that would benefit the region, she said it aimed to help build human capacity, generate revenue and capitalize on the region’s economic potential.  It would also promote women entrepreneurs, she said, calling on the international community to help make that vision a reality.


The Russian Federation’s representative took a strong position on the security situation, saying it continued to worsen in many provinces, with more killings and abductions of civil servants and citizens alike.  The elimination of Osama bin Laden had not led to a breakthrough, as seen in the latest killings of senior officials, he said, adding that the situation was alarming in areas of the country where Afghans were responsible for security.  He also expressed concern about the spill-over of terrorist acts into Central Asian States as a result of NATO’s “inefficient” anti-terrorist activities, which were pushing the intended targets into neighbouring countries.  Afghanistan’s problems would not be solved by military means alone, he cautioned, expressing support for the Government’s efforts to engage in dialogue with the armed opposition, while emphasizing that the process must be steered by Afghans.


Pakistan’s representative began his statement by reading out accounts of the attack on Mr. Rabbani from regional newspapers and media sources.  He said the former President had been called to receive a message from an important Taliban emissary.  The facts of the ensuing suicide bombing were not in doubt, he said, noting that news media in the region had identified an individual associated with the Taliban as being responsible for orchestrating the attack.


He recalled that he had told the Council during an earlier meeting on Afghanistan: “We certainly are de-listing a lot of people.  I hope we know what we are doing,” in reference to the Taliban Sanctions Committee.  “Unfortunately it seems not so,” he added, pointing out that the Committee had de-listed the person alleged by regional papers to have been responsible for orchestrating the attack on Mr. Rabbani in July 2011.


India’s representative unreservedly condemned the assassination, declaring: “Tragically, the forces of terror and hatred have silenced yet another powerful voice of reason and peace in Afghanistan.”  As India had repeatedly stressed in the Council, the attacks against high-security targets pointed to a “dangerous osmosis” of ideologies, ambitions, training and operations among the terrorism syndicate, he pointed out.


Establishing peace, stability and security in Afghanistan required linking the transition to ground realities rather than rigid timetables, he stressed, warning that if the international community hurried to withdraw from its combat role, it would do so “at its peril”.  It was also important to isolate and root out the syndicate of terrorism, which included elements of Al-Qaida, the Taliban, Lashkar-e-Taiba and other groups, he said, warning that no further gains could be consolidated on the security front unless the international community was able to deal firmly with safe havens for terrorist groups outside Afghanistan’s borders.


Also speaking today were representatives of Germany, Gabon, United Kingdom, Nigeria, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Colombia, Brazil, France, South Africa, Portugal, China, Lebanon, Canada, Turkey, Australia, Japan and Kyrgyzstan, as well as the European Union.


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


Background


The Security Council had before it the report of the Secretary-General on the situation in Afghanistan and its implications for international peace and security (document A/66/369-S/2011/590), covering developments and United Nations activities in the country since 23 June.  It states that the period witnessed considerable political volatility, disconcerting levels of insecurity and an increasing number of civilian casualties amid the transition to Afghan leadership and responsibility for security.


At the end of August, the report says, the average monthly number of incidents for 2011 stood at 2,108, up 39 per cent compared with the same period in 2010.  As in the previous reporting period, insurgents continued to conduct a campaign of intimidation through the targeted assassination of high-ranking Government officials, members of the security forces and influential local political and religious leaders.  In July, 89 individuals were killed in 54 such incidents, while 72 in August claimed 93 lives.


The security situation creates a challenging environment for the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), the report says, stressing that for a successful transition to Afghan security responsibility, national forces must increase their capability, professionalism and accountability.  It welcomes the agreement by the Joint Coordination and Monitoring Board, reached at a meeting of the Security Standing Committee on 28 June, to raise the size of the Afghan National Police from 134,000 to 157,000, and that of the Afghan National Army from 171,600 to 195,000.


Cautiously optimistic about progress in peace and reconciliation efforts, the report urges all Afghans not to succumb to the politics of mistrust, intimidation, fear or revenge, but to engage in constructive dialogue.  UNAMA will continue to assist that process, in coordination with the Government, through its Salaam Support Group, it adds, noting that, despite operational challenges, the Peace and Reintegration Programme is consolidating, with advice and assistance from the Mission.  The Secretary-General looks forward to the start of a local grievance-resolution process under that programme, the report says, while also pointing out that electoral disputes continued in the review period.  A total of 62 contested results in the Lower House (Wolesa Jirga) will be reconsidered after an ad hoc recount and nine changes to its membership have already been made.  Tensions between different branches of Government were evident in that process.


Emphasizing the importance of regional cooperation in strengthening stability in Afghanistan, the report welcomed the formation of the Afghanistan-Pakistan Joint Commission for Reconciliation and Peace, saying it is up to both countries to ensure that it becomes effective in facilitating the reconciliation of anti-Government elements and addressing the cross-border dimension of the insurgency.  It expresses hope that the tripartite meetings involving Afghanistan, Pakistan and the United States will yield positive results and that implementation of the Afghanistan-Pakistan Transit Trade Agreement can advance in a cooperative manner.


The report says UNAMA will continue to raise concerns about the broader issues associated with the transfer of responsibilities to the Government of Afghanistan, not least its impact on civilians, who must see improvements in security, human rights and economic opportunities as a result.  From a development perspective, governance and the rule of law are crucial for a sustainable transition, and much will depend on strengthening institutions, particularly at the subnational level, on creating jobs and economic opportunities, and on the delivering basic justice.


In recognition of the difficulty of accomplishing all those tasks in the three-year time frame set for transferring security responsibility, the report says progress could nevertheless be accelerated during the period until 2014 to set the country on a sustainable course.  However, the Government will need long-term international support and private-sector investment to boost revenue generation.  Assistance should be channelled through the established Afghan structures to help strengthen them.  At the same time, UNAMA welcomes Government initiatives to strengthen institutional and budgetary capacity at the subnational level, and seeks further systemic approaches to capacity development and planning.


According to the report, the humanitarian situation remains of concern, with conflict and natural disasters exacerbating chronic poverty and other vulnerabilities.  However, efforts by the Government and the humanitarian community in response to the current drought are encouraging.  The United Nations is working with national and local authorities as well as all humanitarian actors to improve analytical tools and strengthen disaster management and preparedness, and encourages the sharing of experiences in improving access to people in need.


Finally, the report notes that the negative impact of illegal narcotics continues to be felt at the national, regional and global levels.  A July report estimated that groups involved in transnational organized crime profit most from the illicit trade, valued at $68 billion, and that Afghan farmers earned only $440 million of that total.  Drug activity undermines efforts to improve governance and the rule of law, in addition to affecting health, the report states.


Briefings


STAFFAN DE MISTURA, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of UNAMA, said Afghanistan was going through “a terrible, terrible time”, especially since the death of Burhanuddin Rabbani, Chair of the High Peace Council.  Mr. Rabbani had been a “highly respected friend to many of us and his death was a shock for us all”.  But, as the Afghan people had repeatedly shown their capacity to recover from tragedies and sad losses, “we feel that their drive for peace will not be deterred”, he said, adding that the killers had not yet been identified.  However, history had shown that reconciliation efforts were particularly vulnerable to attack just at the moment when they began to have traction.  In this case, the High Peace Council had just started dialogue towards bridging a “trust deficit” ahead of more substantive talks.


Yet, many Afghans, including the highest authorities, had reaffirmed that the peace process would not be derailed, he emphasized.  “So it is a time for a recalibration perhaps, but the peace process will go forward.”  The Afghan people and Government, with help from the international community, would be able to work towards a peaceful political solution, to which there was no alternative.  “Peace is a process, not an event,” he said, stressing that in the wake of Mr. Rabbani’s death, an all-inclusive Afghan-led dialogue must remain the priority, with the international community in a supporting role, providing assistance when and if asked.  The “slim window of opportunity” to move forward remained open, he said, adding that he expected the swift appointment of a “strong, authoritative” voice, not to replace Mr. Rabbani, who was “irreplaceable”, but to continue the work he had begun.


He went on to underline the need for reconciliation and reintegration, especially in the south, where all stakeholders must ensure a rigorous vetting mechanism for implementation of the Afghan Peace and Reintegration Plan.  Indeed, recent events were a reminder of the importance of strong vetting measures.  Regarding the National Police and Army, he said there had been increasingly positive developments on both fronts.  They had been demonstrating the capability to take on growing responsibility, and despite recent incidents, they had shown the ability to “manage them in a controlled and proportionate manner”.  Specifically, respect was growing for the National Police, who in turn were evincing more respect for their own work.


Even with those positive steps, however, the human cost remained high, he said, adding that the overall level of civilian casualties was much too high, despite the decline in military incidents.  Particularly disturbing was the Taliban’s increasing tendency to target civilians indiscriminately.  And despite a decrease in military “errors”, a “surge” in civilian protection was needed, he said, stressing that State institutions must place respect for fundamental human rights, including respect for prisoners and detainees, at the centre of all policies and procedures.  There had been some improvement in that area, as in the situation of women’s shelters, he noted.


Despite the sorrowful undertones of today’s meeting, it was nevertheless an opportunity to discuss crucial upcoming meetings — in Istanbul and Bonn — aimed at ensuring that the Afghan Government and people would “know we will be with them beyond 2014”.  Those conferences must not be ceremonial, but comprehensive and forward-looking.  The 2 November Istanbul meeting aimed to establish a “benign” regional order whereby Afghanistan and its neighbours would exchange confidence-building measures towards establishing “a stable heart of Asia”, he said, adding that, in Istanbul, Afghanistan should not be the subject, but the catalyst of all talks and resulting initiatives.


As for the 5 December Bonn conference, it should also address security issues rather than just socio-economic ones, he continued, expressing hope that the upcoming preparatory meeting would lead to discussions on a strong outcome document.  UNAMA would support all socio-economic efforts, including those aimed at launching a new “Silk Road” project.  The Bonn meeting had the potential to have an “historic impact”, he said, describing it as a crucial moment to assess the transition process thus far, promote support beyond 2014 and facilitate progress on reconciliation.


Describing the lagging electoral follow-up to the parliamentary crisis and the question of the Kabul Bank as “clouds” looming over Afghanistan, he said that while he was not simplifying those issues, “both clouds are dissipating”.  Afghanistan had come to the end of a difficult, but no doubt useful exercise, especially regarding its electoral and democratic processes, he said.  “Good movement in the right direction.”  As for humanitarian issues, UNAMA was concerned about the ongoing drought, he said, urging the humanitarian community and the Security Council to keep an eye on the situation, especially to avert food shortages in the future.  The counter-narcotics effort must also remain an abiding focus.  The next three months were likely to be challenging, he warned, saying recent events had proved that “the writing is on the wall” as far as security was concerned.  “So we must endure, resist and go forward, even if security challenges persist,” he emphasized, pointing out that the second phase of the transition would soon get under way, and the Afghan Government and people must know that the international community were still standing with them.


ZALMAI RASSOUL, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Afghanistan, said that just over a week ago, the enemies of peace had martyred former President Rabbani, Chair of the High Peace Council, but despite that national loss, “our reconciliation process will continue”.  The notable importance of 2011 was that it marked 10 years since the end of Taliban rule, which had led to the opening of a new chapter in Afghanistan’s history, defined by efforts to achieve what had eluded Afghans for far too long — peace, stability and prosperity.  In that time, there had been much progress in building State institutions, ensuring essential services, enabling democracy to take root and upholding fundamental rights.


The year also had seen the start of an ambitious transition process, by which Afghans would take full responsibility for their own security by the end of 2014, he said.  Upon its completion, Afghans and their partners would achieve the most strategic goal of their 10‑year relationship — a sovereign, self-reliant and peaceful Afghanistan.  The success of its efforts depended on continued international support in building national security institutions.  Noting that the economic pillar would require more time, he said the country would maximize its natural resources, work to attract foreign investment and build infrastructure.  Such efforts would help deepen regional economic integration by reviving Afghanistan’s historic place as the “land-bridge” between Central Asia, South Asia and the Middle East, he said, welcoming the momentum gained by the new Silk Road initiative.


Despite efforts to stabilize the country, Afghans still suffered an “endless” campaign of terror, he said, recalling the recent terrorist raid on the Intercontinental Hotel, the attacks on the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) compound and United States Embassy in Kabul, and the assassination of a number of national figures.  “The continued spate of attacks, which originate from terrorist sanctuaries and safe havens beyond our borders, has generated an unprecedented level of anger,” he said, reiterating the call for an end to those sanctuaries.  The Government would work to bring back into social, economic and political life all members of the armed opposition willing to renounce violence, sever ties with terrorist groups, accept the Constitution and respect human rights, he emphasized.  For reconciliation to succeed, however, regional and international support was needed, in particular a results-oriented role by Pakistan.


“We have an important political calendar ahead of us,” he said, adding that the country looked forward to the Istanbul and Bonn conferences.  In Istanbul, Afghanistan and its partners would work to define a new vision for regional peace and development, while in Bonn, the Government would deliver an update on the gains of the past decade and share its vision for the 10 years after the transition period.  Calling for assistance beyond 2014, he said the Government was already working with its allies to map out their enduring partnerships, including with the United States, European Union and NATO.  The United Nations had played an important role, which, going forward, must be adjusted to reinforce Afghan sovereignty, he added.  In closing, he thanked all of Afghanistan’s partners for standing in solidarity to enhance peace and democracy, underlining that with all partners working together, the common vision of a self-reliant country would be realized.


Statements


PETER WITTIG (Germany) said the key aim of the upcoming Bonn conference was to further define the aim of the transition that would set Afghanistan on a sound foundation by 2014, he said, adding that his country saw the transition process as “a new beginning, not the end of international support for Afghanistan”.  Among other things, the conference would be a clear and unequivocal message that lasting and cooperative support was the “bottom line” on forward engagement, including in the security and socio-economic spheres.


He expressed strong support for initiatives to bolster good relations with neighbouring countries, including Pakistan.  The results of the Istanbul meeting would be paramount for security in the heart of Asia, and would underpin the potential for economic change in the region.  As for the new Silk Road initiative to boost regional cooperation, that vision required sincere regional support to become a reality, as well as significant international support over time, he said.  The Bonn conference would ask partners to outline, step by step, the measures they would undertake to help transform the vision of a new Silk Road into reality.


It was clear that Afghanistan would need support long after the transition, he said, stressing that the principle of reinforcing Afghan sovereignty must be the yardstick of that support.  Germany looked forward to the outcome of the review of UNAMA’s mandate, he said, noting that the Kabul process seemed to be “getting back on track”, though tensions continued between and within different branches of Government.  At the same time, he highlighted steps that offered the prospect of long-term electoral reform and progress on the treatment of detainees under by the national security forces.


NELSON MESSONE (Gabon) echoed the international community’s firm condemnation of Mr. Rabbani’s killing and welcomed efforts to more forward with national reconciliation talks following that incident.  It was to be hoped that the process would be completed by 2014, he said.  Indeed, dialogue and reconciliation must be the basis of all efforts in Afghanistan, and Gabon welcomed the Afghan Government’s readiness to include the Taliban in the transition to ensure that the exercise was as broad as possible.  The humanitarian situation remained a concern, including the lingering effects of the drought and ongoing security challenges, he said.


He went on to commend efforts to promote regional reconciliation, particularly with Pakistan.  The situation on the ground still required strong military and police forces, including the Afghan security forces and the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF).  With the latter’s mandate due to expire shortly, it would be necessary to ensure that any new duties assigned recognized the increased responsibilities of the national forces.  He commended the work of UNAMA and its staff, as well as the Governments of Turkey and Germany for convening the crucial upcoming conferences on Afghanistan’s future.


SUSAN RICE (United States) said Afghan forces had responded “ably” to this month’s attack on the United States Embassy in Kabul.  Although there had been minimal damage to the compound and no staff killed, five members of the Afghan National Police Force and five other people had been killed, including children.  While the situation continued to present challenges, including the targeting of fellow Afghans, the United States would continue to shift to a supporting role.


She went on to say that her country’s deployment of additional military personnel had helped stabilize Afghanistan and “together we’ve made significant progress”, adding that the former President Rabbani’s assassination had only strengthened the collective resolve.  The United States would continue to work with Afghanistan to end the insurgency, pursue justice and realize a peaceful future, she pledged, recalling that the President had made it clear that the two countries’ relationship would continue beyond 2014, as outlined in the United States-Afghan Strategic Partnership document.  “We will have a strategic partnership between our nations” on the security, economic and institution-building fronts.


The Government alone could not grow the economy and everyone must continue to work for an environment that attracted private investment, she said.  The Silk Road initiative was an Afghan venture to rally commitments to support the transition and develop an Afghan economy that would benefit the region.  It aimed to help build human capacity, generate revenue and capitalize on the region’s economic potential, and would also promote women entrepreneurs, she said, adding that the international community had an important to role to play in making that vision a reality.


VITALY CHURKIN ( Russian Federation) expressed condolences over former President Rabbani’s killing, saying that his death reaffirmed the need for greater efforts to counter terrorism.  The security situation in many provinces continued to worsen, with more killings and abductions of civil servants and citizens alike.  The elimination of Osama bin Laden had not led to a breakthrough, as seen in the latest killings of senior Afghan officials, he said, adding that the situation was alarming in areas of the country where Afghans were responsible for security.


He also expressed concern about the spill-over of terrorist acts into Central Asian States as a result of NATO’s inefficient anti-terrorist activities, which were pushing the targets into neighbouring countries.  Afghan problems would not be solved by military means alone, he cautioned, expressing support for the Afghan Government’s efforts to engage in dialogue with the armed opposition, while emphasizing that the process must be steered by Afghans.  It would be necessary to meet the three stated criteria in that process in order to see a de-listing from the Taliban Sanctions List, he said.  Highlighting the close link between terrorism and drugs, he stressed that the threat must be countered by destroying crops and reducing consumption.


Welcoming the start of the transfer to Afghan responsibility for security, he said the process must go hand in hand with the strengthening of national forces, emphasizing that candidates for the army and police must be carefully vetted, training improved and troops provided with modern arms.  There must be a clear timetable for the withdrawal of foreign troops, after which it would behove Afghanistan to restore its status as a neutral State, an idea supported by key players in the region and the 15 June Astana Declaration of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization.  Restoring Afghanistan’s neutrality was a priority that could help temper relations with the armed opposition, he added.


There was also a need to re-launch the Afghan economy, which could not be done without neighbouring States, he continued.  In Central and South Asia, “an architecture of engagement” was already in place, and it included the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO).  It would make sense to enhance such proven structures, he said, pointing out that his country also attached a high priority to the Central Asia-South Asia Electricity Trade and Transmission Project, an initiative in which it was ready to engage Russian companies.


MARK LYALL GRANT ( United Kingdom), denouncing the “appalling and cowardly murder” of Mr. Rabbani, said those responsible were sending a signal that they did not want a role in Afghanistan’s future.  The Council should consider revisiting the List of sanctioned individuals and entities maintained by its “1988 Committee”, while carefully considering requests for de-listing.  Following Mr. Rabbani’s death, Afghan officials had pledged to press ahead with the transition process, and even to include members of the insurgency to ensure stability, he noted, welcoming that stance, as well as progress towards carrying out the early phases of the transition.


He said that despite the recent assaults on the United States and British embassies in Kabul, the response had demonstrated the readiness of national security forces to handle such events.  Civilian protection remained at the core of the ISAF strategy, he added, citing strict operating procedures in place to minimize such incidents and investigate those that did occur.  In stark contrast, the insurgency deliberately targeted civilians and used violence to harass and intimidate them.  Indeed, some 80 per cent of civilian deaths resulted from insurgent activities, he said.


The transition would no doubt affect the Afghan economy, and it was therefore vital that the international community agree on a way to support security and development beyond 2014, he said.  The Istanbul conference would be a key opportunity to enhance and expand regional cooperation, and the United Kingdom hoped regional players would build on agreements already reached on neighbourly relations.  It also hoped the Bonn conference would send a signal of Afghan readiness to lead the march towards a stable and secure future.


Looking forward to the review of UNAMA’s mandate, he said it must focus on the post-2014 landscape and how the United Nations could help bring about a secure and strong Afghan State.  Overall, there must be an effort to make it clear that political aims could not be achieved by violence and intimidation, he emphasized.  “We must make clear our message to the Taliban that there is no military solution,” he said, adding: “Our commitment is enduring and we will support Afghanistan long after 2014.”  If the Taliban believed that peace and security could be achieved by dialogue, “then now is the time to make that known because the window of opportunity will not remain open forever”.


JOY OGWU ( Nigeria) said she was deeply concerned about the deteriorating security situation, which was distracting the Afghan Government from fully implementing the transition programme.  The high civilian toll, including the recent targeted attacks on peace officials, was equally troubling, she said, adding that the international community must ensure that such actions did not dissuade concerned stakeholders from continuing their work towards a stable and secure Afghanistan.


Noting that the transition of the first set of districts to Afghan security control continued to face serious obstacles, she reiterated her country’s support for the process, and stressed the need to pursue national reconciliation as the basis for overall peace.  The application of the rule of law, in line with the Constitution, must remain the reference point, she said, emphasizing that the pivotal role of women must not be undermined.  Whatever progress had been achieved could only be sustained if bolstered by strong institutions, especially in the justice sector.


MIRSADA ČOLAKOVIĆ (Bosnia and Herzegovina) condemned in the strongest possible terms attacks against schools and mosques, as well as the assassinations of high-ranking Government officials, including Mr. Rabbani.  Despite such difficulties, however, it was to be hoped that the country was on a path to an Afghan-led reconstruction.  It was important that negotiations with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) soon result in an agreement that would facilitate reconstruction, she said, expressing strong support for mine-clearance efforts, the reconciliation process and the role of the High Peace Council.  Indeed, dialogue and reconciliation must be the priority for all parties, for the sake of a better future for Afghan children, she added.


Expressing concern at UNAMA’s findings on child recruitment by anti-Government elements, she called on all parties to respect the rights of children, saying she expected the action plan against perpetrators to be implemented as a matter of the highest priority.  She also called on the Mission to monitor arbitrary detentions and the ill-treatment of prisoners.  Voicing strong support for cooperation between Afghanistan and its neighbours, she said the Afghanistan-Pakistan Joint Commission for Reconciliation and Peace was setting an example for improving the reconciliation process.


NÉSTOR OSORIO (Colombia) said that despite the assassination of Mr. Rabbani, his country welcomed the continuation of the reconciliation process, as it was important to strengthen the relationship with community leaders in a way that would lead to reconciliation with all segments of society.  On the drugs situation, he noted the increase in poppy cultivation in the past year and that Afghanistan was the main source of opium and heroin production.  Given that drugs were a global problem, the illicit trade must be addressed in the context of common responsibility.


Afghanistan faced various problems, including violence, which had led to a need for more humanitarian assistance, he said, calling on all parties to fulfil their obligations under international humanitarian and human rights law.  Colombia agreed on the need to broaden the scope of the transition process, and on the importance of laying a foundation for good governance and the rule of law.  The medium- and long-term outlook must see a strengthening of institutions, job creation and access to justice, he said.


MARIA LUIZA RIBEIRO VIOTTI ( Brazil) said that in the wake of Mr. Rabbani’s death, the Afghan people should not feel discouraged.  They must find strength in themselves and the international community to press ahead with peace and reconciliation.  Pointing out that military development had outpaced socio-economic development and reconstruction, she said it was expected that all elements of society, as well as the international community, should help reverse that imbalance.


Sadly, recent events had shown that the tide of violence was not receding, she said, emphasizing that the peace process would gain traction when all parties realized that stability brought concrete improvements to their lives.  To that end, every effort must be made to ensure that all plans and initiatives were nationally led and owned.  It was clear that dialogue was the path to peace and stability, and all international efforts must strengthen that path.  As such, Brazil welcomed the convening of the Bonn conference and its focus on the reconciliation process and long-term progress.


GÉRARD ARAUD ( France) said his delegation had been shocked and saddened by Mr. Rabbani’s death, but vowed that “those attempting to deter us from our aims will fail”.  Supporting the Government’s efforts to achieve full sovereignty and stable socio-economic development remained the global community’s objective, he said, adding that his country would support all efforts to bolster international commitment, friendship and cooperation with Afghanistan.  France was in the midst of altering its military engagement in the country towards a framework that would support development and reconstruction.  Yet, that major change was taking place in a difficult context, especially in light of the insurgency’s proven ability to carry out complex attacks in the very heart of the capital.


That being the case, the international community must continue to support the increasing responsibility of Afghan security and police forces, he continued.  It must also make clear that it stood firmly against all actions that undermined human dignity.  Stabilizing Afghanistan entailed its integration into regional structures, he said, commending the convening of the Istanbul and Bonn conferences, which would drive progress on those vital issues.  The international community must continue to assist the country as it worked to resolve the Kabul Bank issue.  The Afghan Government must ensure that electoral discrepancies were addressed in accordance with constitutional principles on the separation of powers.


DOCTOR MASHABANE ( South Africa) expressed condolences for the killing of former Afghan President Rabbani, describing it as a setback for reconciliation efforts.  Indeed, violence had increased over the last year and various challenges remained, although they were not insurmountable.  With assistance, Afghanistan could chart its path forward in a manner that was nationally led and owned.  On the political front, he welcomed the swearing in of the National Assembly’s Lower House, which laid the foundation for the political process.


He went on to emphasize that political dialogue and reconciliation was critical, while the situation of children, youth and women should continue to be accorded priority throughout the transition.  Indeed, women had a critical role to play in the country’s political, economic and social development.  Highlighting the link between development and security, he said South Africa was pleased that the Government continued to address the socio-economic situation, and encouraged greater efforts to improve institutional capacity, especially in countering the illicit narcotics trade.  For its part, the international community should continue its supportive role in the transition.


JOSÉ FILIPE MORAES CABRAL (Portugal) said it had been a difficult year for Afghanistan, with the assassination of Mr. Rabbani, which was one more effort to distract from efforts to normalize the situation on the ground and defeat the enemies of a democratic Afghanistan.  Areas undergoing the transition process faced a resilient insurgency, he said, stressing that national institutions must show themselves to be “in autonomous action” and must deliver.  He added, however, that effective governance and efforts to deliver services should not outstrip those focused on development.  The de-listing of a number of individuals from the sanctions regime was useful for the reconciliation process, he said, adding that the High Peace Council’s importance for continued dialogue, as well as its relevance, had been reinforced by recent attacks on its Chair.


He went on to describe regional initiatives as noteworthy, saying that opportunities for business, connectivity, investment and regional economic cooperation would strengthen Afghan independence.  Civilian causalities had risen due to suicide attacks against hospitals and mosques, reinforcing the perpetrators’ lack of legitimacy to represent Afghanistan.  Improvised explosive devices were particularly heinous and their deployment must be stopped, adding that the protection of civilians required more attention, and was too important a task to be left without leadership by Afghan institutions.  On the humanitarian front, he said food assistance would be needed in the coming months, which presented an emerging threat to the security situation.  He also encouraged the Government to pursue its own counter-narcotics policy and to seek regional solutions to cross-border drug trafficking.


WANG MIN ( China) said progress had been made in peace and reconstruction in Afghanistan, but challenges lay ahead due to the troubling security situation and slow economic development.  Progress on those two fronts would require a long and dedicated effort on behalf of all Afghan parties as well as that of the international community.  China was seriously concerned about the worsening security situation and the widening incidents of civilian casualties, he said, adding that strengthening capacity-building in the security sector was key to ensuring a stable transition.


Welcoming the parties’ determination to press ahead with the Kabul process, he stressed the need to respect Afghanistan’s territorial integrity so as to ensure a nationally led and owned outcome.  The international community must support economic and social development, and to that end, all stakeholders must meet their obligations and focus on the priorities identified by the Afghans themselves.  Initiatives must be implemented on the basis of consultations among all parties, particularly regional players, he said, adding that UNAMA should strengthen its cooperation and collaboration with the Government.  As a neighbour of Afghanistan, China was a participant in the reconstruction process and would work with the international community to ensure the early establishment of a stable and secure Afghanistan.


HARDEEP SINGH PURI (India) said he was deeply concerned that Afghanistan’s overall security situation continued to deteriorate and that the Taliban had recently opted for attacks on high-security targets through assassinations and complex suicide missions.  Unreservedly condemning the assassination of former President Rabbani, he said: “Tragically, the forces of terror and hatred have silenced yet another powerful voice of reason and peace in Afghanistan.”  The attacks pointed to a “dangerous osmosis” of ideologies, ambitions, training and operations among the terrorism syndicate, as India had repeatedly stressed in the Council, he pointed out.


Establishing peace, stability and security in Afghanistan required linking the transition to ground realities rather than rigid timetables, he stressed, warning that if the international community hurried to withdraw from its combat role, it would do so “at its peril”.  It was important that the national security forces continued to demonstrate enhanced independent capability and professionalism, so as to assume an increasing level of responsibility and accountability, he said, adding that the transition must be Afghan-owned and ensure the protection and promotion of human rights.  It was also important to isolate and root out the syndicate of terrorism, which included elements of Al-Qaida, the Taliban, Lashkar-e-Taiba and other groups.  No further gains could be consolidated on the security front unless the international community was able to deal firmly with safe havens for terrorist groups outside Afghanistan’s borders, he emphasized.


Expressing his country’s full support for an Afghan-led, inclusive and transparent reconciliation process, he said that with the onset of the drawdown of foreign security forces, it was all the more important for the international community — especially countries in the region — to remain committed to that “crucial phase” when Afghan national institutions were still being developed and consolidated.  Noting additionally that Afghanistan’s growth strategy should be built upon its abundant natural resources and strategic geographical location, he described India and Afghanistan as natural partners in a number of ways, including as mutual destination markets for exports.  India had contributed approximately $2 billion to Afghanistan’s reconstruction and development activities to date, he added.


Council President NAWAF SALAM (Lebanon), speaking his national capacity, reiterated the appeal upon all parties to abide by international humanitarian law and protect innocent people, especially in hospitals and schools.  He condemned the assassination of former President Rabbani as an attempt to foil the High Peace Council’s efforts to reconcile all elements of Afghan society, and called for pressing ahead with confidence-building with a view to reaching peace.  The Sanctions Committee established by resolution 1988 (2011) would play an important role in that regard.


On the human rights front, he called for “zero tolerance” for the continuing recruitment of children for military and sexual purposes.  Underlining the importance of pressing ahead with the Kabul process, he voiced hope for agreement on an IMF country programme, without which economic development would be adversely affected.  Finally, he welcomed efforts by neighbouring States to consolidate the security situation, especially border control and combating drugs and terrorism.  Lebanon also looked forward to the Istanbul and Bonn conferences, which would affirm international support for Afghanistan.


GUILLERMO RISHCHYNSKI (Canada) said that in its renewed engagement until 2014, his country would continue to support improved access to education, especially for girls and young women.  Canada would also help improve maternal, newborn and child health, he said, adding that the rights of Afghanistan’s women and young girls were at the forefront of Canada’s development efforts in the country.  Canada would also support the training of essential national security forces by providing up to 950 instructors and support staff for the next three years, and deploying 45 police offices to help train the Afghan force.


Expressing satisfaction that the transition of responsibility for governance and security was well under way, he cautioned, however, that stability could not be achieved by military force alone.  Reconciliation efforts must include dialogue with all stakeholders in society, he stressed, saying his country supported Afghan efforts to establish a dialogue with those who renounced violence, respected the Constitution and had no ties with Al-Qaida or other terrorist groups.  Canada also hoped that efforts to resolve the political deadlock would finally allow Parliament fully to assume its role in governance.  “Strong, transparent democratic institutions must be the basis for the reconstruction of a strong Afghan Government that is willing to serve all of its citizens,” he said.


ERTUĞRUL APAKAN (Turkey) said the heinous attack that had killed Mr. Rabbani had also been directed against the ongoing peace and reconciliation efforts.  Afghanistan and all States must ensure that the former President’s death had not been in vain by remaining undeterred from the pursuit of a peaceful, secure and democratic Afghanistan.  Citing other recent attacks, he said that while the security situation remained fragile, the response of the Afghan military and police should be considered a sign that training was bearing fruit.


The common objective was to ensure that Afghans had the means to take charge of their own future, with neighbours and partners helping to solidify the country’s sovereign institutions, he said.  Two important events that would contribute towards the realization of those goals were the December meeting in Bonn, to discuss and define the international community’s long-term engagement, and the November Istanbul meeting on security and cooperation, which should pave the way for regional security cooperation.  Hopefully, the Istanbul conference would lead to the creation of a regional security and cooperation initiative with a view to building greater confidence in the political, security and military spheres while strengthening cooperation in the economic, trade, environmental, cultural, energy and drug-control fields.


GARY QUINLAN (Australia) said his country would remain in Afghanistan at least through the present decade, adding that once the transition concluded in 2014, Australia would provide civilian and development assistance.  Despite worrying security developments, especially the increased momentum of the campaign of intimidation and assassinations, the fundamental trajectory on the security front was moving in the right direction, he said, adding that the Afghan forces were performing increasingly well.  “We admire that.”  Condemning Mr. Rabbani’s murder, he said the process he embodied must continue, and emphasized his country’s support for Government efforts to advance an inclusive peace and reconciliation process.


The sustainable transition to Afghan security leadership would depend on improving governance and development, he continued, noting that governance and development standards had improved in Uruzgan, where Australia led the provincial reconstruction team.  But with progress still fragile, there was a need to protect gains and focus intensively on building the capacity of Afghan institutions.  Australia had participated in the ministerial meeting on Afghanistan’s long-term economic development on 22 September, but much work must be done to add substance to the vision behind the Silk Road initiative.  Constructive engagement by neighbouring countries was key to a secure, stable Afghanistan and Central Asian region, he stressed, adding that his country’s development assistance had increased 34 per cent in the last year, to $165 million.


TSUNEO NISHIDA (Japan), expressing his sincere condolences on the death of former President Rabbani, said the security situation remained challenging, with the target assassinations of high-ranking officials and suicide attacks, as described in the Secretary-General’s report.  Following the official start of the process to transfer security responsibility in July, a smooth transition would be indispensable for peace and security during the drawdown of United States and other international forces, he said, adding that Japan continued to play its own role, through assistance to the Afghan police.


The loss of Mr. Rabbani emphasized that the time was ripe for international partners to contribute to advancing the political process, he continued, adding that regional cooperation must be accelerated for long-term stability in Afghanistan.  He expressed appreciation for the Silk Road initiative, saying his country attached great importance to advancing regional economic cooperation, particularly by emphasizing the southern route which connected Afghanistan to the Indian Ocean.  That would promote the development of transport infrastructure, he said, adding that Japan would provide assistance on border-control and customs procedures.


TALAIBEK KYDYROV (Kyrgyzstan) said his country had a stake in a peaceful, stable Afghanistan and welcomed Government efforts to implement the national development plan.  Finding solutions to ongoing problems and countering transboundary challenges called for a systemic approach requiring the engagement of all stakeholders in the political, economic and humanitarian aspects.  Indeed, terrorism, drug trafficking and organized crime impeded progress both in Afghanistan and in Central Asia, he said, welcoming the former’s involvement in regional projects.  More attention should be given to strengthening borders, countering illegal drug shipments and, more broadly, studying the impacts of terrorists and radical groups, he said, adding that international troops should withdraw only after the Afghan Army and Police had been trained and strengthened.


Voicing support for the United Nations strategic framework to counter drug trafficking and fight crime in Central Asia, he called for enhancing joint actions in that area.  On a related point, a counter-terrorism strategy devised by the Regional Centre for Preventive Diplomacy for Central Asia was to be adopted by year’s end.  Strengthening governance depended on the pace at which social and economic problems were tackled, he said, urging the United Nations to adjust its economic recovery programme to include all neighbouring and regional countries.  Kyrgyzstan planned to take part in the Silk Road initiative, he said, commending also the potential of implementing major economic projects such as the Central Asia‑South Asia Electricity Trade and Transmission Project.  On the bilateral level, Kyrgyzstan and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) were training Afghan customs officials, he added.


ABDULLAH HUSSAIN HAROON (Pakistan) began by outlining accounts of the attack on Mr. Rabbani, reading from newspapers and media sources from the region.  He said that the former President had been called to receive a message from an important Taliban emissary.  The facts of the ensuing suicide bombing were not in doubt, he said, noting that news media from the region had identified an individual associated with the Taliban as being responsible for orchestrating the attack.  That was not in doubt either.


He went on to remind Council members that during an earlier meeting on Afghanistan, he had said: “We certainly are de-listing a lot of people.  I hope we know what we are doing,” in reference to the Taliban Sanctions Committee.  “Unfortunately it seems not so,” he said, pointing out that the person alleged by regional papers to have been responsible for orchestrating the attack on Mr. Rabbani had been de-listed by that Committee in a July letter from the Council.


The Secretary-General’s report rightly underlined the need to avoid the politics of mistrust, intimidation, fear or revenge, he said, emphasizing that reconciliation under threat of coercion or retribution was ephemeral at best.  Pakistan was working for Afghanistan’s security and stability by maintaining a robust military presence along their shared border which exceeded by far the number of international troops in the entire country.  It also provided concrete security and intelligence cooperation under the Tripartite Commission, which had met 35 times since its 2003 inception in Islamabad.  Pakistan was also engaged in a number of meaningful regional initiatives on security.


“In deference to such concrete and comprehensive interactions, we tend to avoid the blame game, even when militants cross over from Afghanistan into northern Pakistan and attack our troops and innocent civilians,” he continued.  “Regrettably, such incidents are becoming the norm rather than the exception,” he said.  Quoting part of the statement by his country’s Foreign Minister during last week’s general debate, he said: “We must work closely and as responsible partners together in a cooperative manner and not rush to judgment or question each other’s intentions.”


He pledged that, despite serious resource restraints, his country would continue its assistance programmes in Afghanistan, describing them as the largest it had with any country.  Pakistan had also offered to assist in building the capacity of the Afghan security forces, he said.  In addition, the country still hosted nearly 2 million Afghan refugees at considerable cost, and while the Secretary-General report did not provide an update on the refugee situation, it was to be hoped that the international community would remain cognizant of his country’s problems.


PEDRO SERRANO, Acting Head of the European Union Delegation, said the regional bloc was preparing for long-term partnership with Afghanistan, but rising insecurity made the transition harder.  Civilian casualties remained unacceptably high, as even hospitals and mosques were no longer safe from anti-Government forces.  Yet, it was encouraging that the Kabul process was gaining momentum, he said, adding that another hopeful sign was the advancement of national priority programmes, including in the area of judicial reform.  The rights of women still deserved special attention, which was why female leaders were needed around the table during preparations for the Bonn conference, he said.


Cautioning that small gains on some national priority programmes ought not to allow complacency, he stressed that positive steps such as the launch of the Anti‑corruption Monitoring and Evaluation Committee must be backed by structural measures to reduce corruption and increase accountability in relation to public finances.  Parliament must resume fully and provide the necessary checks and balances for state-building.  There was also a need to strengthen provincial and municipal institutions so the right services would be delivered to the right people, he said, adding that the European Union was ready to promote cooperation on the regional level.  The New Silk Road initiative offered a vision for promising economic cooperation.


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For information media • not an official record