27 June 2012
Security Council
SC/10688

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

Security Council

6793rd Meeting (AM)


Recent Long-Term Commitments Pledged for Afghanistan Critical to Future Stability,


as Transition Made to Afghan Security Leadership Post-2014, Security Council Told


Peacekeeping Head: Reinforces Message That Transition Does Not Mean ‘Abandonment’;

UNODC Executive Director: Drugs, Crime Can Undermine Attempts to Address Challenges


Commitments affirmed in recent international conferences to long-term support to Afghanistan beyond the 2014 date for transition to national leadership, particularly in the security sector, were critical for the future stability of the country and must be fulfilled, the top United Nations peacekeeping official told the Security Council this morning.


“Providing this level of clarity and commitment on continued support to the security sector helps to dampen growing anxiety both within Afghanistan as well as among its international partners as to the post-2014 situation,” Hervé Ladsous, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, said in a briefing in which he was joined by Yury Fedotov, Executive Director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).  “It also reinforces the message from the international community that transition will not translate into abandonment of Afghanistan,” Mr. Ladsous added.


He said that significant progress had been made during international conferences in Kabul and Chicago, with a third to take place next month in Tokyo, beginning to define and shape the future of the country “as it makes its way towards self-reliance”.  Progress in regional coordination and confidence-building had been made at the Kabul ministerial conference on 14 June as part of the Istanbul Process in a wide range of areas, he added, with more work expected and United Nations support requested in each initiative.


In security, development and good governance, he stressed, it was critical that all commitments were lived up to.  To that end, he welcomed the development of a “mutual accountability mechanism” to hold both the Afghan Government and donors accountable for implementation of their pledges, expected to be agreed upon in Tokyo.  He warned, however, that expectations for Afghan achievements must be realistic, keeping in mind the overall objective of a stable, self-reliant country with effective institutions delivering essential services, justice and opportunities to its people.  “We will only reach this goal if we continue to invest in Afghanistan’s maturing institutions and in the priorities Afghans themselves set,” he said. 


In other areas, he said that urgent, immediate needs on the ground must not be ignored by donors as long-term concerns were considered.  He also described United Nations assistance to national preparation for successful 2014 elections in full accord with the Constitution.  On the work of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), he said that due to budgetary cuts requested, discussions must take the necessary constraints on activities into account and an appropriate consultative process, first and foremost with the Government, for an ultimate, informed decision of the Council on the future framework of United Nation activities in Afghanistan.


Citing figures that showed Afghanistan had returned to high opium production, Mr. Fedotov said that the Afghan counter-narcotics authorities were demonstrating their commitment to combating poppy cultivation, but eradication efforts needed to be pursued on every possible front and be complemented by alternative development programmes.  Describing momentum built for further international action, he said that while there were many challenges in the country, it was important to realize that illicit drugs and crime were capable of undermining attempts to deal with them all.


Afghanistan’s representative, speaking next, describing the partnerships being developed with numerous other States regionally and internationally, said: “Transition to Afghan ownership and leadership is our number one strategic priority,” and in that regard, reported steady progress in assumption for security responsibilities, adding “the need for sustained support for training and equipping our national security forces is inevitable”.


He went on to say that, going forward, another core priority would be a strong new focus on establishing “a more clean and competent Government”, and described priorities in agricultural development, bolstering human resources, improving infrastructure and developing the private sector, among other areas.  He pledged adherence to democratic principles and women’s rights in reconciliation efforts, as well as continued devotion to eradicating the opium menace and overcoming continued terrorism.  In urging continued partnership in all those areas, he concluded: “Let us remain as committed as ever to complete the journey we began a decade ago.”  


Pakistan’s representative, describing great costs to his country in dealing with security challenges and refugees emanating from the Afghan situation, expressed deep concern over provocations from Afghan areas with sizable Afghan forces and international presence, including a recent attack on a Pakistan border post.  Despite such provocations, “we neither play the blame game, nor conduct diplomacy through media”, he said.  “Such restraint, however, should not be taken for granted.  Preventing recurrence of such incidents is absolutely imperative.”


Other representatives of Council members, Afghanistan’s neighbours and international partners welcomed progress in the transition process and in shaping international assistance to the country for the period afterwards.  Many described bilateral commitments and many warned against underestimating the challenges that remained in security, development, governance, human rights and the fight against opium trafficking.


The Assistant Secretary General for Operations of NATO spoke on efforts to further reduce civilian casualties and provide a smooth transition to Afghan leadership and responsibility for security by 2014, and NATO’s own transition to training and advising.  The Russian Federation’s representative stressed that further determinations of NATO presence in the country should be sanctioned by the Security Council.


Also speaking today were representatives of Germany, United Kingdom, India, Guatemala, United States, Portugal, Colombia, South Africa, Morocco, Togo, Azerbaijan, France, China, Australia, Japan, Turkey, New Zealand, Canada, Latvia and Iran.  The Head of the Delegation of the European Union also spoke.


The meeting began at 10:25 a.m. and ended at 1:43 p.m.


Background


The Security Council had before it the report of the Secretary-General on the situation in Afghanistan and its implication for international peace and security (document S/2012/462), which provides a summary of key political and security developments and regional and international events related to Afghanistan and an update on the activities of the United Nations in Afghanistan, including significant humanitarian, development and human rights efforts, since 5 March 2012.


In the report, the Secretary-General says there is room for some cautious optimism, given developments in the security transition, human development, civil society and Afghan institutional frameworks.  Serious challenges remains, however, given the military drawdown and an expected reduction in development assistance, giving rise to uncertainty about the sustainability of such gains.  Significant economic impacts, job losses and perhaps even greater humanitarian needs, at least in the short and medium terms, can be foreseen in a country with some of the lowest human development indicators in the world, he says.


It is, therefore, a priority, he says, to build national political consensus together with predictability and confidence in mutual commitments and long-term international engagement and support.


He welcomes a decrease in security incidents and civilian casualties in the period from 1 February to 30 April, but notes that 44 civilians, including 10 children, were killed and 69 civilians were injured on 6 June.  The suicide attacks, improvised explosive devices and airstrikes in Faryab, Kandahar, Paktika and Logar produced the deadliest single day in terms of civilian deaths up to that point in 2012.  He reiterated concern over casualties from airstrikes by the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), as well.


He says that the Government, with international support, should continue efforts to reinforce legitimacy and emphasize sustainable security gains, by a legal framework for the operations of Afghan forces and detention.  On the peace process, he says engagement and confidence-building among all parties must be pursued despite setbacks.  He welcomes the appointment of Salahuddin Rabbani as Chair of the High Peace Council and supports the emphasis on a broad-based and inclusive peace process at the central and local levels, in which he stresses that women must have a more prominent role.  The United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) stands ready to support and facilitate constructive and inclusive intra-Afghan political dialogue, if requested, he says.  He encourages continued regional cooperation.


On the next round of elections, he stresses that planning for electoral processes and the electoral framework will require buy-in across the political spectrum and, therefore, he welcomes the consultation exercise of the Independent Election Commission, hoping consensus can be built through the passage of new legislation.  Vigorous debate on issues vital to the future of Afghanistan is expected and welcomed.  He says that the United Nations will help build local technical capacity and sustainable systems, coordinate international assistance and provide advice.


Careful preparation in bringing civilian agencies to the fore during the transition must be ensured.  The evolution of provincial reconstruction teams must not mean the evaporation of funding and assistance for local government, but rather the continuity of support for sustainable Afghan systems of governance, he maintains.  At the same time, domestic and international political will is needed to face the financial impact of the large-scale departure of international forces, which he warns may make the illicit economy based on narcotics even more attractive to those with large patronage systems to sustain.


He says that donors must refrain from unrealistic demands and recognize ongoing institutional capacity constraints, but at the same time, genuine attempts must be made to tackle criminality and pervasive corruption.  The Monitoring and Evaluation Commission is at a critical juncture, requiring national and international support and attention.  Towards and beyond the transition, while the United Nations will support Afghanistan to the maximum of its ability, meeting all anticipated needs will be difficult and broad consensus is needed on an overarching framework for international support to Afghanistan, balanced by budgetary constraints.


In that regard, he says that the upcoming Tokyo conference must deliver a clear message that Afghanistan will not be abandoned, through tangible commitments for long-term support.  Preparations have focused attention on effective, accountable and sustainable governance, and the United Nations is facilitating the convening of a major civil society event, and he emphasizes the importance of hearing the diverse voices there.


Briefings


HERVÉ LADSOUS, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, said significant progress affecting Afghanistan had been made during two international conferences in Kabul and Chicago, with a third to take place next month in Tokyo, beginning to define and shape the future of the country “as it makes its way towards self-reliance”.  In addition, regional progress at the Kabul ministerial conference on 14 June — part of the Istanbul Process — included seven confidence-building measures addressing security, stability, economic development and humanitarian response, with more measures expected and United Nations support requested in each initiative.


In that light, on the work of Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), he said that more than 3 million Afghan refugees were registered in Pakistan and Iran.  He urged further support for the Solutions Strategy for Afghan Refugees, launched in Geneva this past May by Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iran, with the support of UNHCR and other United Nations partners, to address the return and reintegration of those refugees.


He said that the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) Summit in Chicago went a long way towards shaping long-term support to Afghan National Security Forces, with financial and technical guarantees given and previous timelines reconfirmed.  “Providing this level of clarity and commitment on continued support to the security sector helps to dampen growing anxiety both within Afghanistan as well as among its international partners as to the post-2014 situation.  It also reinforces the message from the international community that transition will not translate into abandonment of Afghanistan.”


He pledged to continue to advocate for the strengthening of oversight and accountability mechanisms of Afghan security forces, prioritizing the protection of civilians by all parties.  Referring to the Secretary-General’s report, he noted that the recent decline in security incidents was marred by continued targeting of civilians by anti-Government elements, and 2011 marked the fifth consecutive year that civilian casualties increased overall.  “This is simply not acceptable,” he said.


On the part of ISAF, he welcomed a decision to increase restrictions on the use of aerial munitions against civilian dwellings, following a particularly tragic incident, as well as other measures to reduce civilian casualties from its operations, which continued to drop.


Long-term support to socio-economic development was as important as security commitments, he said, and for that reason he looked forward to the upcoming Tokyo conference, the United Nations delegation to which would be led by the Secretary-General.  In all areas, it was critical that all commitments were lived up to.  To that end, he welcomed the development of a “mutual accountability mechanism” to hold both the Afghan Government and donors accountable for implementation, expected to be agreed upon in Tokyo.


At the same time, expectations for Afghan achievements must be realistic, keeping in mind the overall objective of a stable, self-reliant country with effective institutions delivering essential services, justice and opportunities to its people.  “We will only reach this goal if we continue to invest in Afghanistan’s maturing institutions and in the priorities Afghans themselves set,” he said.  He welcomed Afghan leadership exhibited so far on the Istanbul Process, reconciliation initiatives and the preparation for upcoming elections, as well as the appointment of Salahuddin Rabbani to lead the High Peace Council, confirming that the United Nations stood ready to support that Council’s efforts.


Affirming that the 2014 elections should be held in full accord with the Constitution, he reported a rise in political activity ahead of the polls.  He welcomed the constructive consultation process on the electoral law, and noted election technical support by United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and consultations by Ján Kubiš, Special Representative of the Secretary-General, on further possible assistance for the polls, preparations for which must proceed apace.


He noted continuing concern over humanitarian issues expressed in the report, with spring floods and a harsh winter exacerbating already serious displacement issues.  He said that the urgent, immediate needs on the ground must not be ignored by donors. 


Turning to UNAMA itself, he said that expectations that the Mission would be able to do more as the transition proceeded were unrealistic in the face of greater fiscal austerity that had been imposed.  The budget that would be put forward for 2013, however, would reflect the overall need for cuts requested by Member States.  The decision to reshape the Mission’s provincial footprint would certainly reduce costs, but for a significant reduction, substantive support structures and other priorities must be reviewed in all aspects.  It would necessarily “have an impact on mandate delivery”, he said, with the extent to be soon reported.


Discussions on future frameworks of United Nation activities in Afghanistan must take such budgetary and programmatic restraints into account and enter into the appropriate consultative process, first and foremost with the Government, for an ultimate, informed decision of the Council, he said.


YURY FEDOTOV, Executive Director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), said that based on the UNODC 2012 World Drug Report, Afghanistan had returned to high levels of opium production, with production increasing from 3,600 tons in 2010 to 5,800 tons in 2011, out of a total global production of 7,000 tons in 2011.  The country’s poppy-free provinces might also be falling for the second year running, from 18 to 15.  UNODC estimated that trafficking in opiates was a $68 billion business for criminals and that opiates were responsible for the deaths of tens of thousands of people throughout the world every year.


Afghanistan suffered from the highest prevalence of opiates and of HIV/AIDS in the world, he went on.  Trafficking in opiates undermined stability in the region, fuelled organized crime and corruption, increased drug consumption and spread HIV/AIDS.  In moving towards 2014, the international community could not allow a vacuum to form that could further encourage the cultivation and production of poppies.


He said his visit to Afghanistan and Tajikistan, during which he had visited poppy fields in Badakshan province and the border area, showed that the Government’s eradication efforts needed to be supported with alternative development programmes.  Afghan counter-narcotics authorities were demonstrating their commitment to combating poppy cultivation.  As of 19 June, a total of 10,781 hectares of poppy fields had been eradicated, representing a 173 per cent increase over the area eradicated in 2011.  Major landowners were also targeted by a new law, which permitted the State to imprison those who allowed their land to be used for poppy cultivation.


He called for the continuation of eradication initiatives on every possible front.  At the political level, he said, momentum was being built among Member States through the Paris Pact initiative, while the development of integrated regional programmes was continuing.  UNODC had launched its $117 million country programme for Afghanistan in May, linked to the regional programme for Afghanistan and neighbouring countries, as part of the Office’s overall strategy to provide a coherent field response to drug trafficking and ensure closer cooperation among regional and international actors.  A key element of that strategy was the mainstreaming of the issues of illicit drug and transnational organized crime within the country.  Both programmes were connected to such bodies as the Triangular Initiative, CARICC and Operation Tarcet, which targeted the precursor chemical necessary to produce heroin.


While there were many challenges in Afghanistan, Member States needed to do everything possible to communicate the message that illicit drugs and crime were capable of undermining attempts to promote economic and social development in the country, he said.


Statements


ZAHIR TANIN (Afghanistan) said that, one month ago, at the NATO Summit in Chicago, his country’s friends and partners had gathered to express their unanimous support for the end of war “and beginning a new phase in our enduring partnership”.  That partnership would continue into the transformation decade, during which Afghanistan would take full charge of its security, governance and development.  Just weeks ahead of that meeting, Afghanistan had signed the “Enduring Partnership Agreement” with the United States as a guiding framework of bilateral cooperation for the long haul, and solidifying mutual commitments, including strengthening Afghan sovereignty, stability and prosperity for years to come.  Although the specifics of that partnership were still being worked out, the agreement had been endorsed by both houses of the Afghan parliament — a clear manifestation of the overwhelming support from all corners of the country.


Similarly, he said, Afghanistan had established strategic partnerships with Italy, France, Germany, the United Kingdom and, most recently, Australia.  Discussions were under way to conclude agreements with Turkey, Norway and the European Union.  “And, in our region, we signed a strategic partnership with India, a country with whom we have shared historic and traditional ties,” he said, adding that his country had also taken important steps towards establishing a strategic partnership with China.  He went on to say that the launch last November of the Istanbul Process had been a milestone in realizing “a new regional order” by which Afghanistan and other Central Asian countries had joined hands towards a common goal; a future of peace, stability and prosperity.  The Heart of Asia ministerial conference held in Kabul less than a week ago had advanced the objectives of the Istanbul Process.


He looked forward to next month’s Tokyo conference, where delegates would aim to effectively address Afghanistan’s economic sustainability and development, as well as discuss finalizing a mutual accountability agreement between Afghanistan and the international community.  In Tokyo, the Afghan Government would be presenting a comprehensive action plan on self-reliance and on national programme priorities.  The conference would not be just “another pledging event”, but an important forum for gaining solid commitment from the international community during the transition and the “transformation decade”.


“Transition to Afghan ownership and leadership is our number one strategic priority,” he said, and in that regard, he was pleased to note that the country was making steady progress.  The third tranche of the security transition had officially begun and included some of the most conflict-prone provinces with the highest levels of insecurity.  Needless to say, the Afghan authorities were on track to complete the third phase before the end of the year, by which time, some 75 per cent of the population would come under the responsibility of Afghan security forces.  “As we strive to complete security transition by 2013, the need for sustained support for training and equipping our national security forces is inevitable,” he said, noting that the undertakings of NATO and other allies for support at the Chicago Summit had been particularly important.


He went on to say that, going forward, another core priority would be a strong new focus on establishing “a more clean and competent Government”, strengthening governance, fighting corruption and enforcing the rule of law.  The reform agenda was at the centre of the Government’s efforts, while at the same time, Afghan officials were diligently addressing all currents that might pose a threat to national interests, law and order.  Such measures would ensure the full trust and confidence of all Afghans for the future.  He said that a far more challenging task would be implementing the socio-economic component of the transition, which was vital to state-building efforts.  Central to that goal was underscoring support for the Afghan national priority programmes, which, in addition to security and governance, emphasized agricultural development and bolstering human resources, improving infrastructure and developing the private sector, all of which were vital for economic growth.


“Our vision is an Afghanistan that is a self-reliant State, standing on its own feet.  Afghanistan will not remain an aid economy,” he declared.  Further, advancing the peace process towards a successful outcome was a core element of the country’s strategy to bring lasting peace to the Afghan people.  He said that the Government was convinced that reconciliation efforts remained the surest path to ending conflict and ensuring a durable peace.  “Let there be no doubt, our Afghan-led peace process will not ensue at the expense of the hard won democratic gains of the past decade, including human rights and the rights of women in particular,” he said, adding that ensuring the success of the reconciliation effort would require the support of Afghanistan’s immediate neighbours and other partners in the region and beyond.


He said one of the greatest impediments to both development and security in Afghanistan was the illicit drug problem.  Afghanistan was sparing no effort to rid its society of the menace, and over the past five years, had significantly reduced poppy cultivation.  This year, there had been a threefold increase in such eradication efforts.  “We are tracking down and bringing to justice an increased number of individuals involved in drug trafficking,” he said, but a long-term solution was not possible without cooperation and coordination in addressing the dominant factors behind the drug problem, such as preventing the flow of chemical precursors into Afghanistan, was well as providing Afghan farmers with alternative livelihoods.


Finally, he said that even as Afghanistan continued to build on the gains of the past, its enemies were still very much intent on derailing its progress and preventing its success.  That was evident in the ongoing acts of brutal violence and terror perpetrated by the Taliban and those behind them, the latest of which was the massacre at the Spozhmai Hotel outside Kabul over the weekend.  “It is a continuing psychological war; a war of perception.  However, no such shameful acts will deter the Afghan people from their ultimate goal of securing peace and prosperity,” he declared, stressing that Afghans had come too far and had sacrificed far too much to give up now.  With such brutal acts, the Taliban were not threatening the State; they were just disrupting the peaceful lives of the people.  “Let us remain as committed as ever to complete the journey we began a decade ago,” he said.


PETER WITTIG (Germany) said “cautious optimism” had been the Secretary-General’s term to describe the current situation in Afghanistan, and Germany would support that call.  Since the Bonn conference last year, the transformation decade was indeed taking shape.  The Heart of Asia conference had been an important expression of regional solidarity and proved that Afghanistan was no longer seen as a bed of instability in the region, but a partner that would work towards peace and stability.  Afghanistan had signed strategic partnership agreements with many countries, including Germany, and the message was clear — Afghanistan would not be abandoned during or after the transition.


At the same time, he said, such progress must be supported by reforms in governance and improvements in security.  Germany expected clear commitments from the Afghan Government towards governance, ending corruption and promoting human rights.  In addition, without progress in those areas, the various UNODC-led anti-narcotics strategies would not achieve results.  He said the wealth of experience and expertise provided by UNAMA, now and heading towards the upcoming Afghan elections, would be vital.  Germany counted on the Security Council to ensure the Mission was able to carry out its mandate effectively.  The United Nations would also need to play a pivotal role in guiding the international partnership for Afghanistan.  Germany would continue to support such efforts.


ABDULLAH HUSSAIN HAROON (Pakistan) said that apart from capacity-building of the Afghan National Security Forces, Pakistan had sought closer engagement with Afghanistan and its international partners on all security-related issues.  His country had done so by maintaining a robust presence of its forces along the international border.  Its deployment of troops and paramilitary in the border region had far exceeded the number of international troops in the whole of Afghanistan.  That had come at considerable economic, political and human cost for Pakistan.


Pakistan’s narrative on Afghan security issues was untainted by polemics, he maintained.  Provocations, through actions on the ground and through rhetoric, had not weakened its restraint.  A recent example was the 24 June attack on a Pakistani border post from across the border, in which 17 Pakistani security personnel had lost their lives.  The matter was being taken up with Afghanistan at the highest level.  The latest attack had taken place from an Afghan area where, apparently, there was sizable Afghan forces and international presence.  It was a grave incident, which unfortunately was not unprecedented.  Pakistan’s response was always through official channels.  “We neither play the blame game, nor conduct diplomacy through media,” he said.  “Such restraint, however, should not be taken for granted.  Preventing recurrence of such incidents is absolutely imperative.”


The Secretary-General’s report had enumerated many challenges to the Afghan peace and reconciliation process.  A long-term solution lay in a sustainable reconciliation that could only be ensured if all stakeholders shared the same goal.  Pakistan remained committed to an Afghan-led and -owned process.  However, he had no panacea for delivering peace in that country.  Any such expectation was outside the realm of rationality.  Pakistan was host to the largest population of Afghan refugees.  In doing so, the nation was easing the humanitarian burden on Afghanistan at significant economic, social and security costs, he said, attaching great importance to the outcome of the international conference for Afghan refugees held in Geneva last month, in which an agreement had been reached on the “solution strategy” underpinned by a commitment of sustained support by the international community.  Pakistan also welcomed the Afghanistan country programme 2012-2014, launched by UNODC last month.


MARK LYALL GRANT (United Kingdom) affirming significant progress in implementation of the Bonn commitments, welcomed the success of the May NATO conference in Chicago, which he said sent a clear message to the Afghan people that they would not be abandoned, as well as sending a message to the insurgency “that they could not wait us out”.  He looked forward to the July Tokyo conference, maintaining that a strong signal of enduring commitment should be made there, with development commitments extending at least until 2017.  As part of that, he looked forward to work on empowering women to play a full role in the future Afghan State and stressed the need for the Government to meet its commitments in fighting corruption and improving other areas.


He welcomed the assistance provided by UNAMA in the Istanbul Process, which he called particularly important, and signalled his country’s willingness to support regional confidence-building measures, if asked.  Supporting the work of UNAMA in general, he welcomed a review of its mandate as conditions changed.  His country remained resolute in its commitment to continuing to work with the Afghan Government and international partners towards a positive future.


HARDEEP SINGH PURI (India) said his country remained unwavering in its commitment to assist Afghanistan, and described progress in implementing agreements between the two countries and work in reconstruction and rehabilitation projects.  He fully supported efforts in regional confidence-building, as well as an Afghan-led reconciliation effort that was cognizant of all commitments for human rights.  Noting future events on Afghanistan hosted by his country, he reported on a summit the next day targeted at increasing private investment in that country.  He saw such activities as a bridge between the Istanbul Process and Tokyo agreements.


He said security concerns remained paramount, however, with terrorism continuing.  Concerted effort was needed to root that out and build an enabling environment for Afghan self-reliance in that area, along with assistance in development areas.  Placing value on the role of UNAMA in the country and its adaptation with changing conditions, he warned that the serious challenges facing Afghanistan must not be underplayed and commitments for long-term assistance in all areas must be fulfilled.


GERT ROSENTHAL (Guatemala) said the international community was at a crossroads regarding Afghanistan, as a process of security transition was under way, important regional and international conferences were being held, and future mutual cooperation agreements were being explored.  Yet, in all that, success would hinge on the international community keeping its commitments, the Afghan authorities carrying forward their reforms and the United Nations continuing its support.  The challenges were immense, and Guatemala continued to hope that the Afghan-led reconciliation process would move more expeditiously towards conclusion.


The overall transition was unfolding apace, including the third phase of the transfer of security forces.  Yet, he said, the transition must not be limited to security; it must also include respect for the rule of law, food security and human rights.  He said the Council’s recent debate on civilian protection had given delegations “much food for thought”.  The situation of civilians in Afghanistan remained worrying, including attacks against schools and other civilian gathering places.  Such acts were deplorable, as were civilian casualties caused by NATO air strikes.  He also called for greater attention to be devoted to the situation of women and children in Afghanistan.  Looking ahead, he said that UNAMA would continue to be essential to Afghanistan’s progress, and to that end, the Security Council would need to ensure that its mandate remained up to the tasks ahead.  Finally, he said the international community must evince the political will to support Afghanistan, and that country’s regional partners must also do their part to help Afghanistan improve security, fight corruption and tackle the drug problem.


SUSAN RICE (United States) said that, in the last few months, the international community had underscored its support for strengthening Afghanistan’s leadership and sovereignty, while also expressing support for an enduring partnership with the country.  To that end, Afghanistan and the United States had signed an agreement in early May, providing, among others, a long-term framework for a relationship between the two countries after the full drawdown of United States forces.  It reaffirmed the sovereignty of Afghanistan, she continued, stressing that the United States did not seek a permanent military presence in that country.  The United States welcomed the strong Afghan commitment to strengthening accountability and bolstering the human rights of all Afghan men and women.


“Our commitment is real and enduring,” she said, adding that the Strategic Partnership Agreement was just one piece of a larger international effort to support Afghanistan’s march towards self-reliance and stability.  As Afghans assumed full security responsibility by the end of 2014, the enemies of that country should know that there would be steadfast friends standing with them, “backed by strong NATO support”.  As the security transfer began in conflict-prone areas, more than 75 per cent of the population would be under the protection of Afghan security forces.  That would not be possible if the United States and other partners were not certain those forces were up to the task.


The transition was on track, and NATO stood united behind the Lisbon timetable, she said.  She also welcomed the recent Heart of Asia conference as an important step towards regional stability and security.  The United States looked forward to the upcoming Tokyo conference as an important opportunity for Afghanistan to set out measures for improving governance and intensifying its fight against corruption.  Such commitments were vital, as the country could not rely on donor resources forever.  As solid progress was made in those and other areas, the United States and the wider international community would take steps in kind to support them.  The coming months would be a “dynamic time” for Afghanistan and the international community, as the transition continued to unfold, and, she said, the United States would work with all parties every step of the way.


JOÃO MARIA CABRAL (Portugal) said that professional and capable Afghan security forces were absolutely critical in the country.  He supported a focus, therefore, on police and army training, as well as development of accountability mechanisms as described by the Secretary-General, with human rights concerns, including those of women, central.  The challenges of civilian protection were still daunting, even though violent incidents were decreasing.  Action by Afghan authorities to protect civilians and an action plan to strengthen the promotion and protection of all human rights, including those of women, were therefore crucial.  He welcomed regional and international initiatives on security, crime prevention and economic growth.  He also supported UNAMA’s role in the country efforts.


NÉSTOR OSORIO (Colombia) welcomed progress in the transition to Afghan control, which did not seem to have negative repercussions, but noted that there were still areas of uncertainty.  The capabilities of the Afghan forces must still be increased, along with accountability mechanisms.  ISAF and NATO played essential roles in that area.  He said there needed to be a national political consensus for international support for the long term, and that the effects of the reduction of international military personnel in the country could not be underestimated.  UNAMA should continue to guide international assistance and the evolution of the Afghan Government, and the United Nations should continue to play a major coordination role in economic and social development, as well as governance.


It was important, in addition, for all parties to commit themselves to the reconciliation process, he said.  Humanitarian principles must also be respected by all parties.  With regard to the drug situation, the strengthening of national capacities should go hand in hand with alternative development programmes and the shared responsibility of a wide variety of actors.  He pledged his country’s willingness to assist in that area.  The message that the country would not be abandoned must be conveyed and mutual commitments must be kept, including those on corruption and provision of services.  Stability at the local level, through economic opportunities and provision of justice was also crucial, he underlined.


ZAHEER LAHER (South Africa) said that, in assessing the situation in Afghanistan over the past three months, it was clear that while some progress had been achieved, especially towards strengthening Afghan leadership and ownership, there had been setbacks that had undermined some of that success.  South Africa would reiterate that political dialogue and reconciliation were critical for ensuring sustainable peace; as clearly, there could be no military solution to the Afghan conflict.  He welcomed the Government’s persistent initiatives to engage with the armed opposition as well as President Hamid Karzai’s call for that opposition to cease violence.  Further in that regard, South Africa welcomed the appointment of Salahuddin Rabbani as Chair of the High Peace Council, and his stated objective of improving that body’s inclusiveness.


“We are optimistic at attempts to foster peace and reconciliation by the Taliban, but the unilateral suspension of talks by the Taliban on 15 March, as well as the suspension by Hizb-e-Islami of its political engagement, is reason for concern,” he said, stressing that long-term stability in Afghanistan required that all political players overcame their differences and committed to national reconciliation and to finding a political solution.  He welcomed the political framework that was in place to ensure fair, transparent and inclusive presidential elections in 2014, but stressed that such efforts should not detract from measures aimed at addressing current challenges.


To that end, he said South Africa condemned the rise in targeted killings of civilians and the ongoing campaign of violence directed at educators and schools.  Civilian casualties resulting from ISAF air strikes and the use by anti-Government forces of improvised explosive devices also remained a concern.  He underlined that all armed elements operating in the country had the responsibility to ensure that civilians were protected, and failure to do so, by both State and non-State actors, should not go unpunished.  While calling on ISAF to take measures to mitigate the loss of civilian life, he said that long-term civilian protection required building national institutions in areas such as the rule of law, justice and security sector reform.  In that regard, he welcomed the fact that the targets for strengthening the Afghan national police force were ahead of schedule.


MOHAMMED LOULICHKI (Morocco) said that despite the major challenges that persisted in Afghanistan, the Secretary-General’s latest report had noted progress in areas such as leadership, strengthening the electoral framework and national reconciliation.  He also noted efforts towards regional confidence-building and the establishment of two working groups aimed at promoting regional peace efforts.  He also noted other measures to improve border security and to combat drug trafficking.  Such efforts aimed to ensure that Afghanistan became a responsible member of the international community.


Yet, there were causes for concern, including the humanitarian situation and the need to take measures to ameliorate the security situation.  Also, there was a need to address the situation of women and to reduce both the number of civilian deaths and number of displaced persons.  Looking ahead to the Tokyo conference, which was an important opportunity for Afghanistan to present its plans for carrying forward the transition and for the international community to reaffirm its commitments to stability and reconstruction, he said that important meeting would help pave the way to the transformation phase.


EDAWE LIMBIYÈ KANDANGHA-BARIKI (Togo) said the Council had recently held a debate during which delegations had stressed the challenges still facing Afghanistan.  While the general situation in the country had improved, the overall atmosphere was fragile, especially in light of recent terrorist attacks and assassinations.  Togo condemned those perpetuating the “climate of terror” and all activities of armed opposition groups.  He also deplored the loss of life caused by NATO forces, which were only exacerbating the serious problems faced by Afghan civilians.  Yet, there was “a ray of hope”, especially in light of the national peace process launched by the Government.


Yet, even that exercise was undergoing “difficulties” owing to divergent views among the negotiating parties.  He noted that President Karzai was not standing in the country’s upcoming presidential elections and urged the Afghan leader to do his utmost to ensure that the poll was inclusive, free and fair.  He went on to say that the signing of strategic partnership agreements between Afghanistan and a host of other countries were reasons for hope.  Enhanced political dialogue with States in the region was also a positive step, and he welcomed the tireless efforts of friendly countries and international agencies to ensure stability in Afghanistan.  Togo called on all stakeholders to reaffirm their support for the country throughout the transition period.   


AGSHIN MEHDIYEV (Azerbaijan) joined other speakers in acknowledging that the adoption of resolution 2041 (2012) by the Security Council in March and the renewal of the UNAMA mandate had been a clear indication of the United Nations long-term commitment to the country’s security, stability and prosperity.  Several other recent international events had solidified that commitment, “among which of particular importance was the Chicago summit of the Government of Afghanistan and the ISAF contributing nations,” he said.  The summit’s declaration had set an important milestone, reconfirming the continuation of close and robust international partnership with Afghanistan beyond the end of the transition period.  His Government also welcomed positive political developments in Afghanistan, including the appointment of a new head of the High Peace Council.


While also welcoming Afghanistan’s and its regional partners’ continuous efforts and achievements, he stressed the particular importance of the decisions of the follow-up Heart of Asia ministerial conference held in Kabul on 14 June on the establishment of annual high-level political consultations between Afghanistan and its near and extended neighbours concerning all issues of common interest; the implementation of confidence-building measures covering the areas of political, security and economic cooperation and education fields; and coordination and coherence among various regional processes and organizations in their Afghanistan-related activities.  As the transition period continued towards the eventual withdrawal of international military forces and assumption of overall security responsibility by the Afghan authorities by the end of 2014, the scope and gravity of security and development tasks that the Afghan Government had to deal with were growing, and the need for international community’s enhanced support to the nation was becoming even more vital.  Azerbaijan had for many years actively contributed to the international efforts in Afghanistan.  His country had joined ISAF almost from its beginning and had steadily increased its military contribution.


Capacity-building for Afghan institutions should remain at the heart of international assistance in order to enable the country to exercise its sovereign authority in all its functions, he said.  At present, Azerbaijan was expanding its engagement in non-military spheres by contributing to the development of capacity-building there.  It had recently contributed €1 million to Afghanistan’s National Army Foundation as part of its non-military engagement and had pledged additional financial support.  Azerbaijan had also decided to participate in the confidence-building measures on counter-terrorism, counter-narcotics, chambers of commerce, commercial opportunities, regional infrastructure and education adopted at the Kabul Heart of Asia conference.  He expressed his nation’s willingness to lead the implementation of the confidence-building measures on counter-narcotics and on regional infrastructure.


VITALY CHURKIN (Russian Federation) said that a strategy for sustainable development and long-term stabilization in the economic sphere were critical for Afghanistan.  He looked forward to the Tokyo conference for that purpose, and described Russian areas of development cooperation, as well as Russian investment in the mineral and other sectors.  On reconciliation, he said that principles such as renunciation of violence and adherence to the Constitution must not be sacrificed.  He said that further determinations of the NATO presence in the country should be sanctioned by the Security Council; NATO participation in today’s meeting showed that such a requirement was being accepted.


He said the top priority in combating illicit drugs in the country should be to destroy the fields and trafficking infrastructure.  Excessive leniency would not win the hearts and minds of people; it would only help drug traffickers.  More coordination between all regional actors in the area was needed, under the framework of the Paris-Moscow process, he said, describing the Russian Federation’s contributions to the counter-narcotics effort.  He expressed concern over continued insurgency and terrorism, as well as civilian casualties caused by foreign troops.  He called for further training of Afghan troops, without artificial deadlines, and welcomed integration of Afghanistan into regional cooperation structures in security and other areas.


BÉATRICE LE FRAPER DU HELLEN (France), supporting the statement to be made by the European Union representative, welcomed the results of the recent NATO conference and the Kabul summit.  She described commitments to support regional cooperation made by her country and hoped that the Tokyo conference would establish a timetable and modalities for upcoming national elections, as well as a cross-cutting and effective mechanism to fight drug trafficking. 


She described, in addition, the drawdown process for French troops, which she said would be completed by the end of 2012, although France would continue to contribute to the training of Afghan troops and participate in other areas, particularly in civilian areas, from health to infrastructure, in harmony with the priorities of the Afghan Government.  She stressed that the United Nations sanctions regimes should remain an important component of the reconciliation processes, and that the Government should become more active in the listing processes of the sanctions regime.  Human rights, good offices and consistency of international aid in all areas were important elements in the period ahead, with the United Nations coordination role remaining critical.


Speaking in his national capacity, Council President LI BAODONG (China) said that thanks to the concerted efforts of the Afghan Government and people, with the support of the international community, there had been recent progress in that country.  China continued to support the Afghan-led nature of the transition process.  China also supported the national reconciliation measures under way, and he stressed that it was important that the upcoming national elections were carried out smoothly and transparently.


As for the drawdown of international forces, he said that exercise should be carried out in a smooth and efficient manner.  He expressed concern at civilian casualties and stressed that all parties in Afghanistan, including ISAF, should abide by international law and ensure the protection of civilians.  Continuing, he stressed that narcotics were “poisoning” efforts to ensure peace and stability in Afghanistan and he welcomed support by UNODC and other parties towards the country’s anti-drug strategy.  He hoped that the recent international conferences on Afghanistan would provide an opportunity for both the international community and the Afghan authorities to reaffirm commitment to the ongoing transition and transformation of the country.


GARY QUINLAN (Australia) said that the Chicago Summit’s recommitment to Afghanistan was an unmistakable statement to the insurgency.  The commitments to resourcing the Afghan National Security Forces after 2014 had been significant, as was the agreement that NATO would lead a mission to train, advise and assist those forces, including Afghan special forces.  Australia would contribute $100 million per year for three years from 2015 towards the sustainability of the Afghan National Security Forces and would provide training to them after 2014.  It would also consider a special forces contribution under the right mandate and with the agreement of the Afghan Government.  To underpin Australia’s long-term commitment, Prime Minister Julia Gillard had signed a comprehensive long-term partnership with Afghan President Hamid Karzai in Chicago.


Australia supported the Secretary-General’s call for next month’s Tokyo conference to deliver a clear message that Afghanistan would not be abandoned in its social and development needs, he went on.  The international community must identify those needs and the resourcing that was required and available to meet them.  Clear financial commitments from international partners would be needed.  Australia had committed to increasing its development assistance from $165 million to $250 million per year by 2015-2016.  The role of UNAMA, including through coordinating humanitarian and development assistance in Afghanistan, would become even more important as the transition process advanced.  The cuts to the Mission’s budget that had been foreshadowed by the Secretary-General would require some hard and creative reprioritization of its efforts.  Its core mission to support and underpin successful and enduring transition in Afghanistan must, however, be preserved.  The Mission should consult closely with international partners both in Afghanistan and in New York on arrangements for its ongoing presence in that country.


Afghanistan would only become stable if a secure external environment for it was achieved, he went on.  The “Heart of Asia” process, including the Kabul ministerial meeting held on 14 June, was foundational to achieving that goal.  Australia commended the leadership of Turkey in that process.  Australia had committed to support the Heart of Asia countries in implementing confidence-building measures on education and commercial opportunities.


TSUNEO NISHIDA (Japan) said that with the transition process and the security situation in mind, the most predominant and demanding task ahead was to prove to the international community that Afghanistan would be stable and self-reliant in the future, particularly beyond 2015.  To achieve that goal, it was incumbent on Afghanistan and its international partners to tackle the related challenges of advancing both security and sustainable development in the country.  This year’s series of high-level meetings, in particular the Chicago NATO Summit on security in May, the Kabul ministerial conference on regional cooperation in June and the Tokyo conference on sustainable economic development in July, were momentous in shaping Afghanistan’s future.


The NATO Summit, along with the new strategic partnership agreement between Afghanistan and the United States, took important steps forward in terms of ensuring the constancy and predictability of the security situation in the country, he went on.  Japan was determined to continue its assistance to the Afghan police for both its qualitative and quantitative improvement.  Along with improving the security situation, it was essential for Afghanistan to work with neighbouring countries to achieve lasting stability and prosperity.  Japan, therefore, supported the Istanbul Process, which had been launched in November, and acknowledged the outcome of the Kabul ministerial meeting held on 14 June.


The Tokyo conference would focus on the “sustainable development strategy of Afghanistan”, he said.  It would also discuss coordination of international economic assistance, commitments to improve governance by the Afghan Government and a follow-up mechanism.  It would aim to reaffirm the historic partnership between the international community and the Government of Afghanistan during the transformation decade from 2015 to 2024 under the concept of “mutual accountability”.  The notion of such accountability “is at the very heart of our own partnership”, he said, and would guide long-term assistance and necessary reforms, such as holding fair and free elections, anti-corruption efforts, establishment of the rule and law and better public financial management.


He expressed gratitude for UNAMA’s leading role in that challenging field of governance.  With the drawdown of international troops bringing civilian agencies increasingly to the fore, the leadership and coordination roles of UNAMA in achieving sustainable peace and reconciliation, as well as economic and social development, in the country would only grow in importance.  Japan was committed to supporting the Mission’s efforts and would work closely with it, the Government and other international partners for lasting stability and development.


THOMAS MAYR-HARTING, Head of the Delegation of the European Union to the United Nations, noted the importance for the international community to take a holistic view of its post-2014 engagement in Afghanistan, given the correlation between security and long-term development.  The recent conferences held in Chicago and Kabul had been instrumental in that regard.  They had refined and further developed the relationship between the international community and the Afghan Government.  The NATO Summit in Chicago had set out plans to sustain and develop the Afghan National Security Forces.  At the Summit, the European Union had stressed the importance for Afghan national police to refocus on civilian policing and supporting the rule of law.  Fair and impartial policing was essential if justice and human rights, especially those of women and children, were to be promoted.  The Union had announced that it would increase its police funding by 20 per cent from its budget over the 2011‑2013 period, and that it planned to enhance post‑2014 contributions. 


The recent ministerial conference in Kabul had highlighted the important role countries in the region had to play in supporting conflict resolution, better security and development in Afghanistan, he said, welcoming the agreement reached in Kabul on confidence-building measures to further regional cooperation.  The upcoming Tokyo conference would provide an excellent opportunity for the Afghan Government to set out its development strategy for the country.  While the Union was ready to make an enhanced contribution of support for Afghanistan, that must be in the context of the Afghan Government fulfilling the commitments of the Kabul and Bonn conferences, as well as the commitments in the mutual accountability framework to be agreed in Tokyo.


That meant, first of all, the peaceful transfer of power in 2014 as a result of inclusive, credible and transparent presidential and parliamentary elections, he said.  Second, further progress was required on the management of public finances, in particular the implementation of International Monetary Fund (IMF) recommendations.  Third, domestic revenue collection needed to be increased through the development of more efficient, transparent and accountable customs and tax systems.  Fourth, guaranteed respect for human rights, in particular of women and children, including support for an independent and active civil society; and fifth, reform of the justice sector to promote the rule of law.  Without tangible progress in those five areas, it would be difficult for donors to maintain their support for the Government of Afghanistan.  Finally, as the international community moved beyond the transition, the United Nations had an essential role to play.  UNAMA should have the resources and the political support needed to assume that role.


ERTUĞRUL APAKAN (Turkey) said Afghanistan had come a long way, as seen for example in the fact that its national security forces were growing stronger and were now set to assume responsibility for some 75 per cent of the country.  By mid‑2013, those forces would be deployed throughout the country, marking a shift in the primary focus of ISAF from combat operations to training, advising and providing other assistance.  All that clearly demonstrated that Afghanistan was on its way to a self-reliant security sector, he said, adding that the Chicago NATO Summit had sent a clear message of support to the Afghan authorities and people, as the security transition continued apace.


Turning to the regional dimension of the international community’s engagement with Afghanistan, he said Turkey and others had embarked on positive and constructive cooperation with a view to ensuring a secure, prosperous and peaceful Afghanistan.  Combined Afghan leadership and regional ownership were key drivers of the Istanbul Process, and Turkey was encouraged by the commitment in the region to engage in sincere and results-oriented cooperation.  In addition, the recent Kabul ministerial conference on the Istanbul Process had also been clear testament to the region’s collective resolve to that end.  As for other elements of the Istanbul Process, he said that enhancing high-level political dialogue among regional parties was essential to maintaining momentum.


Further, implementing confidence-building measures was equally important, and to that end, he was encouraged that a meeting to be held tomorrow in New Delhi would bring together regional and international investors to address common challenges and to exchange views on Afghanistan’s economic potential.  Finally, he said that Afghans had a clear vision for their future: a sovereign, secure and peaceful nation that was economically self-sufficient.  That vision was also very much tied to Afghanistan’s crucial role and its regional and historic position in promoting cooperation and connectivity.  As such, that country’s regional and international partners should continue to support its efforts to achieve that vision.


JIM MCLAY (New Zealand) said the NATO Summit in Chicago had highlighted progress to date, reconfirmed the dedication of ISAF contributors to the transition strategy and delivered a strong message from the international community of a commitment to the future of Afghanistan.  New Zealand continued to play its part and would provide trainers to the Afghan National Army Officer Academy from 2013.  It would also contribute financial support for the Afghan National Security Forces from 2015, targeted at rule of law initiatives in Bamyan province, as well as provide ongoing development assistance focused especially on that province.


The upcoming Tokyo conference provided another opportunity for the international community to make a different kind of commitment to Afghanistan’s long-term sustainability, he went on.  The international community had invested a lot in Afghanistan over the past decade, and New Zealand hoped that the conference would make its own commitments to ensure that the international community was able to continue to invest in that country’s future.


He was pleased that Bamyan was on track to transition this year, he said.  There would continue to be a role for the New Zealand provincial reconstruction team in the months to follow transition.  That would include delivering the final stages of mentoring to the provincial quick reaction force, securing the substantive completion of development projects and supporting the local authorities as they led Bamyan province into its initial post-transition future.  The provincial reconstruction team would then complete its work in Bamyan province and withdraw before the end of 2013, both modelling the full life cycle of the transition process and fulfilling New Zealand’s commitments to the people of the province.


STEPHEN EVANS, Assistant Secretary General for Operations of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), said there had been a marked reduction in the number of security incidents in Afghanistan in the first half of 2012 and the Afghan National Security Forces had made substantial progress in terms of numbers and quality.  ISAF had integrated into its structures and operations the implementation of Security Council resolution 1325 (2000) on women, peace and security.  It was also taking measures on protecting children from the damaging effects of armed conflict.


Last month, the NATO Summit in Chicago had dedicated a full session to Afghanistan, he went on.  That session had been attended by 50 contributors to the ISAF mission and by Afghan President Hamid Karzai, representatives of the Russian Federation, Central Asian States and Japan, as well as President Asif Zardari of Pakistan.  The United Nations Secretary-General had also participated, as had the European Union.  The presence of important States involved in the regional processes was a sign of their significance to the ISAF operation, and also of the broader international effort to stabilize Afghanistan.  The NATO Summit had assessed progress on the transition of security to Afghan responsibility, looked beyond the end of the ISAF mission and provided the opportunity for NATO allies and partners to confirm their broader support to Afghanistan and assistance to Afghan National Security Forces after 2014.


Saying that NATO had noted the concerns on civilian casualties contained in the Secretary-General’s report, Mr. Evans said it was important to remember that 85 per cent of civilian casualties in 2012 had been caused by anti-Government elements.  The reductions in the number attributable to ISAF and Afghan national Security Forces had been well documented.  There was a 70 per cent reduction from 1 February to 30 April 2012 when compared to the same period in 2011.  Any civilian casualty was, however, one too many, as the NATO Secretary General had emphasized publicly.  The ISAF efforts to reduce civilian casualties were continuous and rigorous.  NATO was also working with the Afghan National Security Forces to strengthen the ability of Afghan forces to prevent and mitigate civilian casualties.


To conclude, he said NATO had a clear strategy for completing by 31 December 2014 the transition of full security responsibility to the Afghan National Security Forces and was starting to plan its new mission of training, advising and assisting those Afghan forces.


GILLES RIVARD (Canada) said his country had been, and would remain, a partner in Afghanistan.  Prime Minister Stephen Harper had stated at the NATO Summit that Canada would continue its current training mission through 2014 with a view to ensuring that Afghan National Security Forces were well trained and could assume full responsibility for their own national security.  To help ensure a secure future for Afghanistan beyond 2014 and to build on the gains thus far, the Prime Minister had announced in Chicago that Canada would provide $110 million per year over three years, beginning in 2015, to help sustain the Afghan National Security Forces to provide security and stability in a sovereign and democratic Afghanistan.


The “supporting self-reliance in Afghanistan” strategy, which had been developed by the Government of Afghanistan as the national strategic vision for the transformation decade, focused on the main development challenges in that country, he continued.  It provided, for both Afghan Government officials and donors, a common framework for supporting an Afghan-owned development process.  In further developing the framework, greater emphasis needed to be placed on essential services such as health and education, as well as on the particular needs associated with the ongoing humanitarian challenges in the country.  Canada was also looking forward to working with partners to ensure that the Tokyo Conference became a milestone in defining civilian support to Afghanistan beyond 2014.  In doing so, a clear and credible mutual accountability framework would be required.


National political reconciliation remained central to lasting peace in Afghanistan, he said.  Canada maintained the hope for progress in the peace process, based on broad societal reconciliation, transitional justice and in accordance with the Bonn principles.  It remained supportive of Afghan-led efforts to reach out to those who renounced violence, had no ties with terrorist organizations and respected the Afghan Constitution.  He added that reconciliation could not be considered in isolation from regional dynamics and said that Canada was heartened by the progress that had been made in recent months towards greater regional cooperation, notably through the Istanbul Process.


INESE FREIMANE-DEKSNE (Latvia) said her delegation reaffirmed its long-term commitment to supporting Afghanistan as that country prepared to face the remaining challenges of transition.  Such issues would continue to require not only Afghan solidarity, but also consolidated and coordinated international support.  In that regard, she said that the recent spate of conferences, in Bonn and Kabul, and including the NATO Summit in Chicago, as well as regional meetings, were of particular importance.  Latvia also welcomed the first meeting, held in May, between the Afghan Government and all 27 United Nations agencies and programmes working in the country, and hoped that such dialogue would continue.


She went on to express Latvia’s belief that efficient regional cooperation was an important factor for achieving long-term political and economic stability in Afghanistan.  Confidence-building between that country and all its neighbours was necessary for the region’s overall stability and development, and should be supported by the wider international community.  “In particular, we consider that Central Asian countries have an important role in contributing to the security and stability of Afghanistan […] and they should be closely involved in the international community’s efforts,” she said.  Continuing, she stressed that transnational threats like terrorism and drug trafficking were also dangers to Afghanistan’s stability and economic growth, and countries in the region should enhance their cooperation to tackle them.  Latvia, for its part, continued to provide support to the NATO-Russia project, implemented in coordination with UNODC, to train counter-narcotics personnel in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Central Asia.  She said that Latvia would also continue its support of civil projects in Afghanistan through the training of railway and civil aviation experts and through its participation in projects aimed at promoting the rights of women and empowering them to participate in the country’s socio-economic progress.


MOHAMMAD KHAZAEE (Iran) said Afghanistan still faced serious challenges that could derail its efforts towards stabilization and development.  Such challenges could also harm regional and international security.  While terrorism, violent extremism and illegal drug production and trafficking were among the major threats that must be addressed, he said that another important matter for the region was the presence of foreign forces in Afghanistan.  Indeed, that presence had been a concern for more than decade and had also provided an excuse for terrorist groups to continue their activities in the region.  Looking at the situation on the ground, Iran believed that long-term international engagement with Afghanistan should not lead to the establishment of permanent military bases and foreign military forces there.


“The longer the presence of foreign forces, the longer disability may endure,” he declared.  And while Afghan authorities had ensured the country’s neighbours that the presence of those foreign forces should not be a concern, Iran, at least, had experienced incidents, such as the transgression of drones into its air space.  He said his country’s security should not be compromised.  Turning to another matter of concern, he said that drug production and drug trafficking in and around Afghanistan were hampering the development of neighbouring countries and putting at risk their social cohesion.  For its part, Iran had undertaken significant anti-narcotics measures, including thorough the mobilization of some 30,000 troops and law enforcement officers along the joint borders with Afghanistan and Pakistan.  Iran had also reinforced its system of checkpoints, including strengthening its barriers and barbwire fencing, to prevent trafficking caravans from entering the country.  He said there was a need to review regional anti-narcotics measures to overcome shortfalls and fill implementation gaps.


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