|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
5581st Meeting (AM)
AFGHANISTAN RISKS SLIDING BACK INTO CONFLICT WITHOUT SUSTAINED INTERNATIONAL
SUPPORT, HEAD OF VISITING MISSION WARNS IN BRIEFING TO SECURITY COUNCIL
He Cites Threats of Growing Insurgency, Corruption, Drugs, Fragile Institutions
Few could deny that Afghanistan was at a crossroads and facing a host of challenges, but, without determined efforts by its Government and sustained international support over the long haul, there was no guarantee that the country would not slide back towards broad conflict, the Security Council heard today.
Reporting to the Council on the mission he had led to Afghanistan from 11 to 16 November, Kenzo Oshima (Japan) said the progress made in 2006 towards realizing the vision set out in the Afghanistan Compact -- the five-year framework for cooperation between the Afghan Government, the United Nations and the wider international community -- had not been as smooth or rapid as had been hoped.
He said efforts to improve governance and establish the rule of law had been uneven, thwarted by pervasive corruption in governing systems, while the Taliban-led insurgency had grown, alongside widespread insecurity in the south and east of the country. Those factors, combined with the still very fragile State institutions, had fed into the disappointment and disillusionment of the Afghan people and begun to test their confidence in their country’s nascent institutions.
After decades of conflict, Afghanistan had had to start its reconciliation and reconstruction, not just from zero, but from “deep minuses”, he pointed out. In such circumstances, the time frame and patience needed for national healing and readjustment, as well as for the march forward, was different from what would ordinarily be expected. Such progress would be neither short nor linear, and there were bound to be “zigzags and ups and downs”. The mission’s primary message had been two-fold: the commitment to Afghanistan was unwavering; and the Afghanistan Compact remained the central strategic framework for cooperation.
Afghanistan’s representative affirmed that the prevailing security situation and the slow pace of development remained at the forefront of the country’s challenges, stressing that accelerated social and economic development was indispensable to overall success. Strengthening security institutions was also critical, with the national army and police engaged in challenging combat operations against remnants of the Taliban, Al-Qaida and other extremist groups in the southern and south-eastern provinces. Lack of modern equipment and logistical support was having a drastic impact on the effectiveness of those security forces, and an improved security situation required an infusion of resources.
He said terrorism was the gravest threat to security and prosperity, citing the systematic attacks that continued despite the vigorous efforts of both the Afghan Government and the international community. Cross-border terrorists and extremists operating in Afghanistan received financial, ideological and logistical support from outside Afghan territory. A more robust and comprehensive anti-terrorism campaign not only served Afghanistan’s peace and stability, but also benefited the stability of the wider region and beyond. The Afghan Government planned to convene Jirgas on security, comprising influential tribal and religious figures from both sides of the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, with a view to enhancing local and tribal structures to eliminate terrorism.
Pakistan’s speaker rejected explanations for the security failure that pointed fingers across the border at his country. For one thing, the Taliban were an Afghan phenomenon and the foot soldiers of the insurgency were Afghans recruited within their own country; they were not sheltered, trained or recruited in Pakistan, which, in fact, had made every effort to prevent illegal border-crossings by deploying more troops along that lengthy, difficult frontier than the total number of combined Afghan and ISAF forces similarly deployed. Pakistan had proposed relocating refugee camps to the Afghan side and was planning to return all refugees to Afghanistan within three years. There could be no doubting Pakistan’s sincerity and commitment to bring security to the border regions, but that was a joint responsibility and the onus could not be solely on Pakistan.
He attributed the deterioration in Afghanistan’s security environment to three major failures: a failure of governance, both at the centre and in the provinces; a failure in reconstruction, specifically the lack of any development in the south and south-east of the country, which was terra incognita for the Kabul Government; and a failure of reconciliation, in that a large section of the Afghan people, particularly the Pashtun, had been left out of the power structures. Warlords ruled some provinces, and the people, left completely without security, turned to anyone who could provide it.
Norway’s State Secretary for Foreign Affairs also made a statement, as did the representatives of Denmark, United Kingdom, Peru, United States, China, Russian Federation, France, Finland (on behalf of the European Union), India, Canada and Iran.
Having begun at 10:15 a.m., the meeting adjourned at 12:40 p.m.
Statement by Head of Mission
KENZO OSHIMA (Japan), reporting on the findings of the Security Council mission to Afghanistan from 11 to 16 November -- the second since 2002 -– said it had noted significant efforts by Afghans and the international community in the past four years to achieve national reconciliation and promote democratic institutions, as envisaged under the Bonn Agreement. That accord had concluded successfully in December 2005 with the opening of a democratically elected National Assembly, and Afghanistan now had functioning provincial councils in all its 34 provinces.
He said the country was set to enjoy continuing high economic growth, as well as increasing per capita income, expanding trade and investment with regional partners, significant infrastructure projects -- including roads, power generation and programmes in the fields of education and rural development -- and the development of new Afghan security institutions. The Afghanistan Compact -– a new five-year blueprint for cooperation between the international community and Afghanistan’s Government -– had been launched at the London Conference in January this year, with the aim of laying firmer ground to ensure that Afghanistan embarked on a period of genuine stability and development. All those were positive achievements and developments meriting high praise.
However, the progress made in 2006 towards realizing the vision set out in the Afghanistan Compact had not been as smooth or rapid as hoped, he said, citing uneven efforts to improve governance and establish the rule of law, the growing Taliban-led insurgency and widespread insecurity in the south and east of the country, an upsurge in illegal drug production and trafficking, and pervasive corruption in the governing systems. Those factors, combined with the still very fragile State institutions, had fed into the disappointment and disillusionment of the Afghan people and had begun to test their confidence in the country’s nascent institutions and processes. The Council mission had also noted with concern that growing insecurity in parts of the south and south-east had been disrupting rehabilitation and reconstruction work by Afghans, the United Nations and other international partners.
“It is against this background that our mission took place,” he said, noting that it recognized that Afghanistan, after decades of conflict, had had to start its reconciliation and reconstruction not just from zero but from “deep minuses”. In such circumstances, the time frame required and the patience needed for national healing and readjustment, as well as for the march forward, would be different from what would ordinarily be expected. Such progress could not be completed in a short time or in linear progression. “There are bound to be zigzags and ups and downs.”
But, few could deny that Afghanistan was now at a crossroads, he said. The country was set to move forward with promises of reconstruction and development based on democratic institutions. At the same time, however, it was also being confronted -– in its fragility -– with a host of challenges and difficulties, including those related to security. No one could guarantee that, without determined efforts on the part of Afghanistan and sustained international support over the long haul, the country would not slide back towards broader conflict. The Council mission’s primary messages were two-fold: the international community’s unyielding commitment to the Government and people of Afghanistan and their transition was unwavering; and the Afghanistan Compact remained the central strategic framework for cooperation between the Afghan Government and the international community.
Noting that security was the country’s dominant concern, he said many of the mission’s interlocutors had expressed apprehension about the rise in violence. While the insurgency appeared more or less confined to one third of Afghanistan, the security situation in general remained precarious throughout the country. Some interlocutors had said there were signs that insurgent- and terrorist-related violence might be subsiding, but there were more cautious views on that question. The growth of the insurgency had been fed in part by the failure of the Afghan Government and the international community to provide basic social services and credible governance, and by insecurity in many urban centres and rural communities. It had been alleged that the narcotics industry and the money it generated played an important part in feeding the insurgent forces.
Many had expressed frustration with the current state of the Afghan national police, he continued. Proposals had been made to the international community in support of expanding the force in order to meet the latest challenges of insurgency and deteriorating security in some regions. The mission had also taken note of the continuing need on the part of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) for adequate forces and resources. The Afghan side had noted that, despite unfortunate civilian casualties, there was still overwhelming support for the presence of international security forces. Afghan interlocutors had called for better coordination between international forces and the Afghan Government.
Interlocutors had cited corruption and the perpetuation of a culture of impunity as the root causes of popular Afghan disaffection and unease, he said. Widespread corruption in law enforcement and judicial institutions was central to the population’s decreasing trust in the Government. While an anti-corruption commission had been established, solutions remained elusive, and the continued tolerance of former commanders and warlords in positions of authority was contributing to instability. The Government’s strategy to disband illegally armed groups was considered a key vehicle for dismantling the commanders’ power base.
Afghanistan was in desperate need of training for professionals, he said. The Afghan leadership had identified restructuring the civil service and strengthening its capacity as the top priority for Afghanistan and its international partners. A premium had been placed on enhancing human capital at all levels as a precondition for an effective public sector and sustained progress towards development goals.
On human rights and the protection of civilians, he said concern had been expressed about the increase in human rights violations and the failure to protect civilians, including attacks on and burning of schools, the Government’s failure to uphold equal rights in law and restrictions on public discourse. The mission had noted with concern the closing of the human-rights and gender-equality space that had opened following the ousting of the Taliban in 2001.
He noted that the mission had participated in the third session of the Joint Coordination and Monitoring Board (JCMB), which had demonstrated a growing capacity to monitor progress and address bottlenecks hindering the implementation of Compact benchmarks. For the Compact to deliver visible change, Government-led coordination efforts would need to be strengthened and integrated under the overall national development strategy.
Pervasive unemployment was one of the central factors contributing to instability, he said, stressing the importance of attracting private-sector investors despite the fact that the lack of security deterred investments that could generate jobs. Insecurity, drought, flooding and combat operations had all combined to displace larger population groups inside Afghanistan this year, generating fresh vulnerabilities and new humanitarian needs.
Afghanistan’s burgeoning narco-economy had been identified as a primary threat to stability, he said. It had been described as a “cancer” that would spread and kill Afghan society over the long term. In 2006, opium poppy cultivation had represented some 60 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP). Interlocutors had underscored the importance of much more energetic measures to combat drug trafficking and of the necessary regional and international cooperation.
It was clear that regional cooperation was of the utmost importance in resolving Afghanistan’s challenges, since security issues had regional, as well as internal, dimensions, he continued. Many interlocutors had stressed that the existence of sanctuaries for insurgent groups in Pakistan must be addressed by law enforcement and other means. Pakistan, pointing out the large number of refugees it had accepted, had stressed that a stable Afghanistan was essential to its own security. It had also been pointed out that cooperation among Pakistan, Afghanistan and international forces was ongoing at various levels, including through the Tripartite Commission. The mission had encouraged Pakistan to monitor its North Waziristan agreement with a view to ensuring that the cross-border impact of that or any future accords were positive for security and stability.
Turing to the mission’s key findings, he said insurgent and terrorist activity by the Taliban, Al-Qaida and other extremist groups, coupled with corruption and failures in governance, collectively posed a grave threat to nation-building. To overcome those challenges, the Afghan Government and the international community must establish a sound strategy, including the Afghanistan Compact. The Security Council would need to ensure that that shared strategy remained firm and enduring.
Describing the Afghanistan Compact as the best framework for cooperation between the Government of Afghanistan and the international community, he said it should be moved forward to serious action under the overall guidance of JCMB. The Government should transform its ownership into further action, with a view to achieving the benchmarks set out in the Compact, while the international community provided additional support, both for quick gains and for sustained progress.
On the question of international military forces, he urged the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and other countries to maintain and increase their commitment to ISAF, so as to meet the challenge of the current security environment. In terms of Afghan security forces and security-sector reform, it was important to establish a strong and sustainable national army and a trusted and effective national police force. Donors and the Government should redouble their collective efforts to establish such a police force. The international community should also revitalize its support for the Government’s efforts to disarm illegal armed groups.
As a matter of the highest priority, the Afghan Government, with the support of its international partners, should establish the rule of law and good governance, he said. Immediate steps must be taken to strengthen justice-sector institutions and provisional government, including through the replacement of corrupt officials and local power brokers. Additionally, the Government and the international community should sharpen their focus on human rights and the protection of civilians. The Government should also reinforce its commitment to human rights and reconciliation by increasing support to the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission and implementing the Peace, Justice and Reconciliation Action Plan, as required by the Compact. The Government and donors should also empower women as a true cross-cutting priority.
He said that, whenever possible, humanitarian and development assistance should be delivered by skilled and experienced civilian actors, adding that capacity for the civilian coordination of humanitarian assistance should be strengthened in 2007. At the same time, given the prevailing circumstances, assistance should be provided by those best placed to deliver, with the focus on extending development to the provinces, strengthening community-level accountability and achieving tangible and visible results. JCMB’s coordination mechanism should be further improved and focused on delivery.
The Government and the international community should do much more to strengthen their anti-narcotics efforts, he stressed. That could be done by helping to diversify livelihoods, so that rural communities could move away from the illegal cultivation of opium poppy and pursue legitimate economic opportunities. The Government, with international support, should step up efforts to arrest and prosecute major drug traffickers, regardless of their position or status.
He also emphasized the need for regional cooperation. To address terrorism and promote stability, the list established pursuant to Security Council resolution 1267 (1999) should continue to be updated as necessary and on the basis of the most current information. The United Nations should continue to play the central and impartial role in promoting peace and stability in the country and the Secretary-General should consider measures to promote the coordination role of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), both in the capital and the countryside, and to make recommendations in his next report.
He said the Council mission had recognized the extremely difficult circumstances under which UNAMA and the rest of the United Nations family were operating, acknowledging their dedication and commitment. The mission called on Member States to provide all necessary support to allow the United Nations to carry out its mandate in such a challenging environment.
LARS FAABORG-ANDERSEN ( Denmark) said the serious challenges facing Afghanistan should not be underestimated. The overall process, which had begun with the Bonn Agreement and continued under the Afghanistan Compact, was largely on track, and the right strategies were in place. But a continued, strong and long-term commitment to see them through -- on the part of both the Government and the international community -- was essential. Despite considerable progress, the country was facing several intractable problems.
He said the persistent security threat posed in large swaths of the country by armed groups such as the Taliban, the reign of drug lords and other criminal elements, the weak central Government presence and service outside Kabul and the continued high levels of corruption and impunity among key public officials undermined the Afghan people’s trust in their Government and triggered a vicious cycle, whereby lack of development and productive employment opportunities fed insecurity, and vice-versa.
The only way to break that cycle was to improve the Government’s institutional capacity for service delivery throughout the country, including agricultural and rural infrastructure support for viable alternatives to poppy cultivation, he said. It was also necessary to strengthen accountability and the rule of law by bringing corrupt officials to justice and engendering further respect for human rights, including women’s rights, which were under increasing attack. The army and police forces should be bolstered and national security structures, as well as ISAF, fully coordinated. Denmark urged implementation of the Government’s action plan for transitional justice and stressed the importance of regional cooperation.
EMYR JONES PARRY ( United Kingdom) said the report provided a comprehensive assessment of the situation in Afghanistan, and expressed his country’s commitment to assisting the country in the long term. The United Kingdom was a major contributor to international efforts in the country and had led the ISAF operation through the past challenging year. It was also heading up one of the provincial reconstruction teams.
Security in the south was proving to be challenging, he said, noting that, while the Taliban offensive against ISAF in the summer had been defeated, continuing disruptions could be expected. The international community’s role, therefore, was to support President Karzai’s efforts. The United Kingdom welcomed the continued commitment to Afghan security shown at NATO’s Riga summit, but there were still capability gaps, which the allies were working to fill.
The continuing development of the Afghan security forces, including the Afghan national police, was important, he said, adding that it was also necessary to accelerate work to establish the rule of law. Capacity-building was a critical challenge, and failure to consolidate any gains made would undermine popular support for the wider reform programme. Drugs remained the gravest threat to long-term security, development and effective governance. The Government’s drug-control strategy seemed the right approach, but increased and sustained assistance was needed, including support for the counter-narcotics trust fund.
Progress had been made since 2001 regarding the position of women, notably in their level of representation and access to education, he said. But problems remained from the years when girls where not allowed any education, and much more could be done to consolidate the gains made in that regard. Momentum in that area could not be lost. The Afghanistan Compact and JCMB must give direction to the institutional capacity-building and counter-narcotics efforts. The United Kingdom was pleased to see that the capacity of JCMB was developing, and underlined British support for enhanced regional cooperation. Also, Afghanistan must work with Pakistan to counter the Taliban threat.
JORGE VOTO-BERNALES ( Peru) said that, despite some progress and optimism generated by the adoption of the Afghanistan Compact in January, the situation in the country was basically fragile. The political and social order faced serious threats, which could endanger what had been achieved thus far. Efforts to consolidate the rule of law and establish firm governance and viable economic sustainability had been insufficient. Afghanistan was an emerging nation seeking integration within its region, but its difficult internal transition threatened, not only the country itself, but also risked instability at the regional level. The insurgency and the shaky situation in the country’s southern and eastern parts threatened to topple the nation’s new institutions.
Stressing that the narcotics trade, crime in general and corruption provided fertile ground for instability, he said that, after four years of efforts by the United Nations, opium cultivation still represented 60 per cent of the country’s GDP. No country could stabilize in the face of such an enormous challenge, and it was crucial to find alternative legal economic activity, in order to render the State sustainable. The high rate of illiteracy was among the factors making it more difficult to rebuild the country. Thus, it was important to retrain human resources, for which development assistance was crucial. The lack of job opportunities contributed significantly to the recruitment of insurgents, worsened poverty and created conditions conducive to the flourishing narcotics trade.
JACKIE WOLCOTT SANDERS ( United States) applauded the Government’s efforts, as well as those of UNAMA, saying she was pleased with the international community’s support for Afghanistan and its democratic transition. Efforts by ISAF and NATO to improve security, despite many challenges, were commendable, and the recent Council mission demonstrated that the international community’s support would not diminish. The United States looked forward to working with the Government to bring stability to the country, including through the implementation of the Afghanistan Compact, and affirmed its commitment to working with the Government, ISAF partners and the United Nations to achieve stability and progress.
LIU ZHENMIN ( China) congratulated the successful mission, noting that its report contained many important ideas and recommendations that would help the Council at its handling of Afghanistan in the next stage. Security and stability remained the top priority and required greater efforts. China supported the Government’s efforts to combat terrorist and extremist activities and to maintain national stability. The international community should provide more resources at an early date to help the Government undertake responsibility for maintaining stability. It was also important to speed up the country’s socio-economic reconstruction, so that all Afghans could enjoy development and dignity. The international community should assist the Government to implement the Afghanistan Compact and the interim development strategy.
Noting that the extensive growth in poppy cultivation represented a life-and-death challenge, he urged Afghanistan to exert greater efforts to counter the narcotics trade. The international community should provide firm support to the people and Government of Afghanistan, as ensuring that the country moved towards success was an international responsibility. As a neighbouring country, China would make a constructive contribution to help Afghanistan achieve peace and stability.
IGOR SHCHERBAK ( Russian Federation) joined other members in expressing serious concern about the negative trends emerging in Afghanistan. Prominent among the significant number of challenges and threats were the implacable extremists and the struggle to defeat them. A generally complex situation was worsening, owing to the narcotics threat. There was a dangerous link between illegal narcotics trafficking and the dangerous Taliban activities. Under those conditions, a range of measures must be implemented, including the strengthening of international and regional cooperation. Steps should be taken to embolden the security sector, build the national army and police force and increase their effectiveness. Illegal armed groups must be disarmed and those dealing in narcotics and other corrupt activities must be rooted out.
He stressed that a stable settlement in Afghanistan was possible only on the basis of previous agreements, including the Bonn decisions reached in 2004, which implied participation in the country’s administrative structures by all political and ethnic segments of Afghan society. A more active and collective international involvement in the Afghan settlement was needed to ensure a more successful recovery, as envisaged in the London agreement. The United Nations would continue to play a key role and, under the authority of UNAMA, there would be strict monitoring and cooperation. The Russian Federation continued to assist Afghanistan, including bilaterally, with the aim of turning the country into an independent and flourishing State, free from the Taliban and the narcotics trade.
OLIVIER LACROIX ( France) said it was crucial to reaffirm the international community’s long-term commitment to Afghanistan, which was experiencing a very difficult situation, even as the security situation seemed to be stabilizing. The international community, therefore, should step up its efforts to provide training and equipment for the Afghan security forces. However, the many difficult challenges facing the country could not be resolved through military means alone; the global strategy should strengthen the responsibility of the Afghan authorities. It was also important for the Government, along with the international community, to maintain their joint efforts in concert with enhanced regional cooperation.
He said the Afghan authorities must strive, in particular, to achieve the objectives of the Afghanistan Compact by focusing on improving governance and the fight against corruption, disbanding illegal armed groups and eliminating drug trafficking. The Government should also ensure human rights protection. The United Nations, through UNAMA, had a central and impartial role to play in the coordination and implementation of the Afghanistan Compact. The United Nations had the necessary legitimacy and expertise to play that role, and UNAMA should be provided with the full means with which to fulfil its mandate. France reiterated the importance of extending the presence of UNAMA to all provinces, subject to security conditions.
RAVAN FARHADI ( Afghanistan) said much had changed in Afghanistan since the Council’s first mission in 2002. Together with the international community, the country had succeeded in implementing the milestone benchmarks set out in the Bonn Agreement. Among the achievements that had taken place were the holding of presidential and parliamentary elections, progress towards the formation of a national army and police force, the return to school of more than 5 million children and the adoption of a Constitution. Despite that progress, however, Afghanistan continued to face daunting challenges that affected the daily lives of its people. The prevailing security situation and the slow pace of development remained at the forefront of the country’s challenges.
Terrorism constituted the most significant threat to security and prosperity, he said. Just two weeks ago, a suicide bomber of foreign origin had walked into a restaurant in the south-eastern province of Paktika and carried out an attack, killing 15 civilians and injuring 12 more. Such attacks, which continued to be carried out in an organized manner, took place despite vigorous efforts by both the Afghan Government and the international community to provide security. It was a cause for concern that cross-border terrorists and extremists operating in Afghanistan, the region and beyond continued to receive financial, ideological and logistical support from sources located outside the country.
He said his country attached great importance to the role of regional cooperation in the combat against terrorism. A more robust and comprehensive campaign against terrorism not only served peace and stability in Afghanistan, but also benefited security and stability in the region and beyond. Upon President Hamid Karzai’s proposal, the Government was preparing to convene cross-border Jirgas on security, comprising influential tribal and religious figures from both sides of the Afghanistan-Pakistan border with a view to enhancing local and tribal structures to eliminate the scourge of terrorism.
Additional progress in strengthening security institutions was critical to improving the situation, he said. Despite inadequate resources, the national army and police were engaged in challenging combat operations against remnants of the Taliban, Al-Qaida and other extremist groups in the southern and south-eastern provinces. A lack of modern equipment and logistical support had had a drastic impact on the effectiveness of both the national army and police. A significant improvement in the overall security situation would require the provision of additional resources to Afghanistan’s security institutions. The recent conclusion of the third phase of the nationwide expansion of ISAF was yet another important step forward.
Acceleration of social and economic development was indispensable to overall success in Afghanistan, he said. While much progress had been achieved in many areas, the pace of reconstruction and development remained relatively slow. There was a need to channel donor assistance through the Afghan national budget, while stressing the leadership role of the Afghan Government in designating development priorities. JCMB continued to make progress in carrying out its important mandate. Moving beyond procedural matters, it had begun reviewing progress in key benchmarks scheduled to be completed by the end of the year.
Stressing the vital importance of enhanced regional economic cooperation to the timely and effective implementation of the Afghanistan Compact, he said the Government attached great importance to the fight against corruption and narcotics. The dangerous link between the production of narcotics and terrorism posed another threat to the country’s stability and social development. The updated Afghan national drug control strategy, presented at the London Conference on Afghanistan, provided a comprehensive strategy for the elimination of that threat. But, despite Government efforts, the country continued to face significant challenges in fighting narcotics.
The fight against corruption was among the country’s top priorities, he said, noting that national legislation would be enacted to facilitate implementation of the United Nations Convention against Corruption that Afghanistan had ratified in 2006. Mechanisms would be established with a mandate to monitor and evaluate that process. The Government was steadfast in its commitment to overcome the remaining challenges to implementation of the Afghanistan Compact, with the support of international partners.
HEIDI SCHRODERUS-FOX (Finland), speaking on behalf of the European Union, reaffirmed that regional body’s unwavering and long-term support for the Afghan Government and people, an engagement based on the Afghanistan Compact and the Joint Political Declaration adopted on 16 November 2005. European Union assistance fostered the establishment of a democratic, accountable, sustainable and self-sufficient Afghan State, capable of exercising its sovereignty and protecting its citizens’ rights. It also attached special importance to the protection of human rights, and encouraged the Government to reinforce its commitment in that regard.
Stressing the importance of the fight against corruption and impunity as a cross-cutting priority, she highlighted the Afghan leadership’s responsibility in that regard. The European Union attached particular importance to the rule of law and was considering ways to increase its engagement in that sector. Progress on the rule of law, including police and justice, both at the central and provincial levels, was essential to the country’s security and long-term stability. The European Commission intended to increase its contributions for justice reform and local governance, including through provisional reconstruction teams led by, or with substantial assets from, European Union member countries. The Commission also actively supported counter-narcotics efforts.
European Union aid to Afghanistan amounted to one third of the assistance pledged by the international community, she continued. Its member States had also played leading coordinating roles particularly in the security sector. The Union fully supported the Afghanistan Compact, considering it the central strategic framework for future reconstruction and stabilization until 2010. It expected strong Afghan leadership and responsibility in implementing the Compact, and encouraged decisive Government steps to fulfil its commitments in that regard. The bottom-up development strategies highlighted by the Special Representative to Afghanistan could be a valuable contribution to reconstruction and stabilization. The impact of international assistance should be further enhanced through efficient coordination and monitoring.
NIRUPAM SEN ( India) said he shared the mission’s positive assessment of Afghanistan’s achievements over the past five years. The establishment of genuinely democratically elected representative institutions, sustained economic growth, as well as growing trade and economic cooperation, investment in core infrastructure projects and the implementation of education, health and rural development programmes were praiseworthy. At the same time, the international community’s support had been substantial and fairly consistent. There was no doubt that the most pressing task was to overcome the challenge of insecurity.
He said there had been several arguments suggesting that the lack of effective governance in Afghanistan, widespread corruption, police inefficiency, the growing narcotics trade and continued warlordism contributed to the security problem. While that might be true, to focus on those as causes of security problems was to miss the point. They were factors on which insecurity thrived, but not the causes of insecurity. Instead, the revival of the Taliban, Al-Qaida and other extremist groups and the existence of cross-border safe havens for them, were the real causes of insecurity. While focusing on rebuilding State institutions, the roots of insecurity should not be forgotten. It was also important to confront and not strike deals with the Taliban.
While the report suggested that the insurgency was largely confined to one third of Afghanistan, the situation remained precarious, he said. It was not clear that efforts to negotiate peace in the more troubled Afghan provinces were succeeding. Indeed, the spread of terrorist violence elsewhere might suggest the opposite. Moreover, the growing incidence of suicide bombings showed the increasing spread of an ideology and tactics typical of Al-Qaida, which were not part of the Afghan culture and religious tradition. The cost of tolerating the spiralling violence was infinitely higher than that of quelling it through firm law-enforcement action.
It was in that context that India emphasized the need to simultaneously implement firm and effective law enforcement measures, security sector reform programmes, capacity-building measures and regional cooperation in all fields, he said. Similarly, the growth of representative political parties and the broad basing of a culture of democratic political activism should be fostered. More work was needed to reverse the expansion in narcotics production, not only through policies to stop cultivation, but also by focusing on simultaneously implementing crop-substitution programmes and improving border-management mechanisms. It would take coordinated efforts by the Government and people of Afghanistan, as well as regional players, to address that particular challenge effectively.
While accepting the premise that effective governance depended on ensuring effective public servants, that premise was based on the notion that, after decades of war and privation, adequate capacities remained in Afghanistan, he said. A significantly enhanced effort was needed to upgrade skill levels in all areas to enable the Afghan people to develop their human resources. India’s support for a sovereign, stable, democratic Afghanistan was consistent and well known, as it sought to help the country create the infrastructure of a modern State, while, at the same time, going beyond monetary assistance to provide the Afghan people with the wherewithal to help themselves.
JOHN MCNEE ( Canada) said his country’s commitment to Afghanistan had been steadfast and it had deployed soldiers where they were needed most. It was clear that they were now needed in the south, where insurgents were trying to hold ordinary Afghans hostage, cutting off access to the most basic services. All Member States should consider how they could contribute to meeting the needs of Afghans in the south. As part of its multifaceted approach, Canada had committed nearly $1 billion in development assistance from 2001 to 2010, and was striving, with its international partners, to establish a stable, democratic and self-sufficient Afghanistan. At the core, it was about restoring normality, which meant girls and boys attending school, women starting small businesses, refugees returning home and citizens feeling free enough to express their views.
He said the objectives of the Afghanistan Compact were the same as Canada’s, but they would only be achieved through concerted international partnership, and by building the confidence of the Afghan people and leadership. UNAMA was the primary international institution responsible for stewardship of the Compact, alongside the Afghan Government. The Mission had a crucial role to play in strengthening the emerging governance institutions of the Afghan State, including through capacity-building. It should enhance its role on the ground, particularly in the areas of governance, human rights and the rule of law. That would involve additional resources in Kabul and in regional offices across the country, including Kandahar. Canada would continue to support UNAMA.
Afghanistan’s neighbours also had a central role to play, as instability did not respect borders and poverty was infectious, he said. High-level regional engagement and cooperation was critical to stemming narcotics trafficking, finding sustainable solutions to the refugee problem and addressing transnational terrorism, including the cross-border movement of insurgents. In that regard, the commitment of both Afghanistan and Pakistan to a meaningful and constructive cross-border dialogue was welcome. Canada also shared strongly the Council mission’s concern regarding the humanitarian implications of the use of landmines along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border.
He said the Afghan people must have faith in Government institutions, in order to have faith in their future. Neither they nor the international community could tolerate corruption within national, provincial or local institutions. Afghans were entitled to an effective, accountable and transparent Government, and Canada strongly supported the Council’s recommendation to redouble collective efforts to build an effective national police force, and to deploy properly vetted, trained and equipped police to southern Afghanistan. Canada also welcomed the Council’s emphasis on human rights, especially women’s rights and protection of civilians.
RAYMOND JOHANSEN, State Secretary for Foreign Affairs of Norway, said the mission had indeed been timely, as the situation in Afghanistan was still a cause for grave concern. A comprehensive strategy was needed to tackle three closely-linked challenges faced the international community: the need for improved coordination of international assistance; the need for capacity-building within Government institutions, the police, the judiciary and the army; and more concerted efforts to support the Government’s outreach beyond the capital and to improve its own institutions. Norway was ready to contribute to the development of a strategy that addressed those issues. A key to success would be rapid progress in developing the Afghan national development strategy, which should be focused, uncomplicated and based on truly national consultations. Norway was committed to continuing its participation in ISAF, which played a key security role.
Turning to the mission’s report, he emphasized the importance of enhancing the coordinating role of UNAMA. Norway was looking at ways to help the Mission strengthen its capacity in humanitarian coordination, both in Kabul and in the field, where its presence was imperative. Civil-military coordination should also be strengthened, while maintaining a clear division of roles and tasks. Norway also agreed it was important to strengthen the Afghan national police. UNAMA had an important role to play in that area, not least in assisting the Afghan authorities to speed up reforms, most vitally in the Ministry of Interior. In particular, it was important to improve and respect procedures for appointments.
JCMB had a significant role to play, he added, welcoming the proposal to hold a JCMB meeting with senior officials. The Norwegian proposal to appoint a Special Envoy was aimed at strengthening dialogue between capitals and international organizations in support of the Afghan Government and UNAMA. Norway also welcomed recent efforts to strengthen regional cooperation. A political dialogue and facilitation of economic cooperation within the region would be helpful in endeavours to stabilize the situation in Afghanistan. The Governments of Afghanistan and Pakistan should be encouraged to continue their security cooperation in border areas.
JAVAD ZARIF ( Iran) said that, as a neighbour, his country was extremely concerned about the increase in poppy cultivation and opium production in Afghanistan. According to various findings, it had increased from 180 tons in 2001 to 6,100 tons this year, representing more than 60 per cent of the country’s GDP. Indeed, Afghanistan’s flourishing “narco-economy” was a primary threat to its stability; it was a cancer, fast becoming the number one problem in Afghanistan and the wider region. A more robust campaign against drug traffickers, the elimination of illicit poppy cultivation, reduced demand, crop-substitution, strengthening law enforcement, promoting and diversifying lawful livelihoods and stepping up arrests and prosecutions were vital to containing and, ultimately, eradicating that menace. Iran had fought a costly war against heavily armed drug traffickers and was resolute in its continued fight against narcotics. In order sustain that fight, Iran required international and regional support.
Given the importance of regional cooperation in helping Afghans to cope with the growing insecurity, he said, Iran looked forward with hope to the results of several positive steps taken in recent months to enhance cooperation between Afghanistan and its neighbours to more rigorously address the insecurity and terrorist threats in the south, south-east and east of the country. In that context, the Iranian Government had always been at the forefront of efforts to support regional dialogue to combat terrorism, extremism and drug trafficking. It had also actively promoted regional cooperation for Afghanistan’s reconstruction, as well as cooperation on refugee issues. Iran continued to have an enormous stake in the success of the Afghan people and, as a result, had extended its unreserved cooperation to them and their representatives, including by hosting nearly 3 million Afghan refugees for some three decades, incurring huge costs in the process. Iran expected more cooperation on the part of the international community and had expected the Council’s mission to more seriously address the refugee question.
MUNIR AKRAM ( Pakistan) said it was a euphemism to describe the security environment in Afghanistan as precarious. Certainly, it was dangerous, but the reasons for that must be understood comprehensively and honestly. In Pakistan’s view, the deterioration in the security environment in Afghanistan was the result of three major failures. First was the failure of governance. There was rampant corruption and poor governance, both at the centre and in the provinces. A drug economy accounted for 60 per cent of GDP, according to Afghanistan’s own figures. There had also been a failure of security-sector reform with respect to the police and the national army.
The second failure related to reconstruction, he said. While there had been some development in the northern part of the country, there had been virtually none in the south and south-east, which was largely unknown territory for the Kabul Government. That was where there were large sanctuaries for the militancy that threatened Afghanistan and Pakistan. Large tracts of land were out of the control of both the Kabul Government and ISAF. The Islamic militants ruled by night and often by day. Reconstruction must be brought to those areas if the Afghan people were to have a stake in their country’s peace and stability.
He said the third failure involved reconciliation. A large section of the Afghan people, particularly the Pashtun, had been left out of the power structures, both at the centre and in the provinces. Warlords ruling some provinces fought each other, and the people, completely lacking security, turned to anyone who could provide it. Pakistan had a vital stake in Afghanistan’s peace and stability, and the 25 years of war in the country had destabilized the frontier regions, radicalized them and alienated some of the Pashtun in Pakistan. Pakistan’s support for and cooperation with Afghanistan were dictated by a natural affiliation between their peoples, their history, faith, ethnicity and common suffering in difficult years.
Saying he was pained to hear insinuations and allegations, such as those expressed by Afghanistan’s representative, he pointed out that Pakistan’s Foreign Minister was in Kabul today, discussing how to strengthen cooperation with and assistance for Afghanistan. Help was based on mutual trust, and Pakistan questioned the motives for Afghan allegations, which were either untrue or grossly exaggerated, seeking to explain their country’s own failure by pointing fingers across the border. Were they acting on their own behalf or as puppets of those who desired to erode relations between Pakistan and Afghanistan? The Afghan people should refrain from such exaggerations and allegations if they desired Pakistan’s cooperation.
Emphasizing that the Taliban were an Afghan phenomenon, he pointed out that, according to the Secretary-General’s report, the foot soldiers of the insurgency were Afghans recruited within their own country. Pakistan, therefore, rejected insinuations that it was providing sanctuaries and training or recruiting in its own territory. Such friends as the representative of Denmark were invited to check before they repeated such allegations. While some elements of the Taliban and their sympathizers had crossed into Pakistan following “9/11”, they had melded into the 3 million Afghan refugees hosted by Pakistan for the past 25 years.
He said his country was helping Afghanistan build its security sector, including through the Tripartite Commission. The United States, ISAF, NATO and even Afghan officials were aware of the nature and extent of Pakistan’s support. The Taliban were a common threat to Afghanistan and Pakistan, and their vision was contrary to that of a modern Pakistan. But the Taliban were Afghans and they could not mount their operations unless the local population was sympathetic to them or unless the militants were able to operate with impunity in those large tracts of land inside Afghanistan.
Pakistan, for its part, had made every effort to prevent illegal border-crossings, he continued. It had deployed 80,000 troops, which was more than the total number deployed by ISAF and Afghan forces on the other side. Pakistan had lost more than 600 troops in those operations alone, and there could be no doubt about its sincerity and commitment to bring security to the border regions. But that was a joint responsibility and Pakistan did not accept that the onus was solely on itself. Compared to the number of Pakistani forces on the border, there were only a fraction of Afghan troops on the other side, whereas there should be a matching effort to control the long and difficult frontier.
The international community had also avoided seriously addressing the problem of Afghan refugees, 3 million of whom were still in Pakistan, he said. Many complained about illegal border-crossings, which could cease if the refugees were returned. Pakistan had proposed the relocation of refugee camps to the Afghan side and was planning to return all refugees within three years. That should end all allegations regarding cross-border movement.
Expressing surprise that the refugee issue did not figure in the report of the Council mission, he said his country had said it wished to fence parts of the shared border, but its international partners had not been accepted that idea. Pakistan had also wanted to mine the border, but that had been opposed on humanitarian grounds, as mentioned by the representative of Canada. Without support, there was no guarantee that Afghanistan would not slide back into conflict and become a failed State once more, he warned.
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