Progress Made in Vital Elements Underpinning Afghanistan’s Final Transition Phase, But New Era Filled with Promise, Heavy with Risk, Security Council Told

19 September 2013
SC/11127

Progress Made in Vital Elements Underpinning Afghanistan’s Final Transition Phase, But New Era Filled with Promise, Heavy with Risk, Security Council Told

19 September 2013
Security Council
SC/11127
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Security Council

7035th Meeting (AM)

Progress Made in Vital Elements Underpinning Afghanistan’s Final Transition Phase,

But New Era Filled with Promise, Heavy with Risk, Security Council Told

Secretary-General’s Special Representative, in Briefing,

Says New Tone in Regional Relations ‘Narrowing the Trust Deficit’

Despite serious challenges ahead of presidential and provincial elections planned for 2014, Afghanistan had significantly advanced its political and security transitions that aimed to secure the country’s return to normalcy following decades of entrenched conflict, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative told the Security Council this morning, ahead of an open debate.

“There is clear progress in vital elements underpinning Afghanistan’s transition processes,”said Ján Kubiš, who is also the head of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), during his quarterly briefing to the Council.  He had personally placed a focus on regional issues, recognizing the vital importance of neighbours’ support for — and engagement with — Afghanistan.  “The stability and ultimate sustainability of the transition processes depend upon it,” he asserted.

Indeed, he noted a growing recognition of the need for bilateral and multilateral engagement with Afghanistan, and welcomed positive signals from the new leadership in Iran and Pakistan, and President Hamid Karzai’s recent visit to Islamabad.  “A new tone in relations seems to be emerging, narrowing the trust deficit,” he said.  In turn, Afghan officials were “reasonably hopeful” of better cooperation with the new Government in that country.

On the security front, he said the transfer of security responsibilities from the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) to Afghan forces was now in its fifth and final stage, having started on 18 June.  Since then, security incidents had increased, but not to record levels seen in 2011.  While a campaign of bloodshed by anti-Government elements had targeted mostly Afghans, those groups had failed to achieve a significant military victory.

The Afghan army and police had shown courage and increased capability in rising to the challenge of security transition, he said, noting that they increasingly trusted themselves and worked to earn the trust of the population, despite the heavy casualties.  But, their capabilities were not yet fully developed and international support would be required for at least the next five years.

In that context, he cited the rise in civilian casualties as a deep concern, amid increases in targeted killings and use of improvised explosive devises.  Deaths during the period included the head of the Kunduz appellate court, the chief electoral officer in Kunduz and a district education head in Parwan.  The Taliban continued to assert that anyone associated with the Government — or seen to support it — constituted a target.

Turning to the 2014 elections, he said a stable leadership transition through timely elections, in accordance with the Constitution, “is central to everything else”.  There had been significant progress in technical preparations, including the passage of two key laws, appointments to the two independent electoral management bodies and rollout of the district-level voter registration update.

What was needed now was improved coordination of security institutions, robust security assessments, planning and implementation of risk mitigation measures, as well as instilling more confidence through public awareness, he said.

In sum, he said more must be done to meet the mutual commitments of the Tokyo Mutual Accountability Framework.  A focus on election preparations must not draw attention away from issues like corruption, the rule of law and economic growth, as that would ensure ultimate institutional and financial sustainability.

Speaking next, Afghanistan’s representative said the coming decade would be one of transformation, marked by the country’s assumption of responsibility for its security and defence.  At the same time, international assistance would be needed beyond 2014, especially for training, advice and support for the Afghan National Security Forces.  The decade also aimed to move Afghanistan’s economy to self-sufficiency.  Donors had pledged $16 billion in economic support through the Tokyo Mutual Accountability Framework, whereby aid was linked directly to Afghan commitments in such areas as human rights and governance.

He said preparations for the third presidential elections showed Afghanistan’s democratic maturity and, despite the assassination of the head of the Independent Electoral Commission, a successful process would take place.  He called on the Taliban to stop killing and renounce violence.  Though the Taliban had undermined the first peace negotiations, the Afghan people wanted the violence to end, and the Government was committed to finding a political solution.  Other countries, particularly Pakistan, were important for supporting that process.

When the floor was opened for debate, Council members commended Afghanistan for progress in the security and political transitions, with several noting that 2014 would be a “watershed” year in determining the country’s future.  A new era was dawning, France’s representative said, filled with promise and heavy with risk.  Several Council members expressed support for Afghanistan beyond 2014, while underscoring that the Government was ultimately responsible for seizing the opportunity to create a prosperous future.

Against that backdrop, several delegates stressed the importance of regional cooperation, with Pakistan’s delegate noting “renewed momentum” in Afghanistan-Pakistan relations driven by awareness that a peaceful, stable Afghanistan was vital to Pakistan’s interests.  Pakistan had no favourites in Afghan politics and would not interfere.  It would, instead, work to improve engagement, particularly in trade.

Similarly, Iran’s delegate urged a greater regional connectivity to the challenges of rooting out illicit narcotics, terrorism and extremism.  He welcomed confidence-building measures between Afghanistan and its neighbours, adding that Iran’s new Government was committed to expanding relations with Afghanistan, particularly in counter-narcotics efforts.

On that point, the representative of the Russian Federation underlined the threat to peace and security posed by the narcotics industry, saying that its suppression would help counter terrorism.  The situation was far from stable, and the transfer of responsibility for security was taking place against the backdrop of increased terror activities.  Security was the responsibility of all sides, including the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).  Kabul needed to take the lead in the reconciliation process, while the Taliban needed to commit to laying down their arms and cutting ties with Al-Qaida.

Also speaking today was the Special Representative of Estonia for Afghanistan and Pakistan.

The representatives of Azerbaijan, Luxembourg, Argentina, Guatemala, Republic of Korea, China, Rwanda, United States, United Kingdom, Morocco, Togo, Australia, Italy, India, Japan, Germany, Turkey, Slovakia and Canada also spoke, as did a representative of the European Union delegation.

The meeting began at 10:05 a.m. and ended at 1 p.m.

Background

The Security Council met today to consider the situation in Afghanistan.  It had before it the Secretary-General’s report entitled The situation in Afghanistan and its implications for peace and security (document S/2013/535), which provides an update on the activities of the United Nations in Afghanistan, including significant humanitarian, development and human rights efforts, since the previous report of 13 June.

Briefing

JÁN KUBIŠ, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Afghanistan and Head of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), said the country’s first international football victory last week had triggered exuberant celebrations of that historic achievement.  After decades of war, which had devastated Afghanistan’s institutional and social fabric, the South Asian Football Federation Championship win was a welcome sign of the country’s gradual return to normalcy and success on the international stage.

Detailing recent events, he said the last three months had seen progress in Afghanistan’s political and security transitions.  While considerable challenges remained and the situation was volatile, “efforts are on track”.  He had focused particularly on regional issues, recognizing the vital importance of neighbours’, support for — and engagement with — Afghanistan.  “The stability and ultimate sustainability of the transition processes depend upon it,” he stressed.  He had travelled with the Secretary-General to Islamabad to meet with Pakistan’s new leadership and had also carried out working visits to Tajikistan, Russian Federation, India and China.

On the security front, he said that, since tranche five of the security transition — the final tranche — had been announced, security incidents had increased, but not to the record levels of 2011.  While a campaign of bloodshed by anti-Government elements had targeted mostly Afghans, including in previously calmer districts, they had failed to achieve a significant military victory.  The Afghan army and police had shown courage and increased capability in rising to the challenge; they increasingly trusted themselves and worked to earn the trust of the population, despite the heavy casualties.  “We are requested to trust them, as well,” he said, noting also that Afghan security forces’ capabilities were not yet fully developed and that international support would be required for at least the next five years.

Turning to the 2014 elections, he said they remained at the forefront of political life, noting that a stable leadership transition through timely elections in accordance with the Constitution “is central to everything else”.  There had been significant progress in technical preparations, including the passage of two key laws, appointments to the two independent electoral management bodies and rollout of the district-level voter registration update.  A six-week extension of the registration effort would help ensure maximum participation, including for women.  Improved coordination of security institutions, robust security assessments, planning and implementation of risk mitigation measures, as well as instilling more confidence through public awareness, were necessary now.

Recalling the words of President Hamid Karzai, he said:  “Any election is better than no election.”  Clear visions for the future of Afghanistan must be articulated to allow voters to make their choices.  Direct or indirect appeals to narrow ethnic or factional interests must be avoided.  A level playing field — including equal access to State resources and balanced media coverage — would help ensure a widely accepted result, he said, noting increased concern over the slow progress in creating a legal framework for the election period, owing to the violence.  “Press freedom is one of the success stories in Afghanistan and must be protected,” he stressed.

Regionally, he said there was growing recognition of the need for bilateral and multilateral engagement with Afghanistan, welcoming positive signals from the new leadership in Iran and Pakistan, and noting the particular significance of President Karzai’s visit to Islamabad.  “A new tone in relations seems to be emerging, narrowing the trust deficit,” he said, citing remarks by the adviser to Pakistan’s Prime Minister, who stated that his country had “no favourites in Afghanistan” and reiterated a policy of non-interference.  Afghan officials were “reasonably hopeful” of better cooperation with the new Government in that country.  Noting that the Istanbul Process remained a valuable regional effort, he looked forward to next week’s meeting in New York on progress since the Almaty Declaration.  The Shanghai Cooperation Organization was also positioning itself to play an increasing role in Afghanistan.

As for narcotics — a key problem in Afghanistan and beyond — he said a recent United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) survey found a reduction in cannabis cultivation in 2012.  He was “extremely” concerned at assessments that this year would see a significant rise in opium cultivation.  Narcotics were a source and symptom of violence and institutional weakness, which threatened the political, economic and security spheres.

On other matters, he said the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights was in Kabul this week and had noted “commendable” progress in some areas of human rights, as well as the commitment of President Karzai.  But, she also had outlined her concern that the momentum of improvements in human rights might be waning.  She urged more efforts by the President and the Government to ensure that justice — in particular, women’s rights — be preserved.  Human rights and accountability issues must be mainstreamed across all lines of effort — political, developmental and security.

The rise in civilian casualties was a deep concern, he continued, noting that the vast majority of them were at the hands of anti-Government elements and criminal armed groups.  Deaths during the period included the head of the Kunduz appellate court, the chief electoral officer in Kunduz and a district education head in Parwan.  The Taliban continued to assert that anyone associated with the Government, or seen to support it, constituted a target, including educators, judicial officials and civil servants.

Another effect of heightened violence had been increased population displacement, he said, with the changing nature of conflict impacting civilians.  Half a million people were internally displaced — more than 100,000 of them during the first seven months of the year.  The number of refugees returning to Afghanistan had dropped by 41 per cent from the same period in 2012.  Under-Secretary-General of the Department of Safety and Security had visited Afghanistan to understand the reality of a complex and volatile security situation, and the implications for United Nations activities.  The safety of personnel was a top priority in determining the means to stay and deliver.

While there was clear progress in vital elements underpinning Afghanistan’s transition, challenges persisted in the security and narcotics sectors in particular, he said.  More must be done to meet mutual commitments under the Tokyo Mutual Accountability Framework.  A focus on election preparations must not draw attention away from other issues, such as combating corruption, and supporting the rule of law and economic growth.  With that, he welcomed signals of the region’s positive support and the ongoing international commitment in ensuring continued momentum in strengthening Afghan institutions, sovereignty and solutions.

Statements

ZAHIR TANIN ( Afghanistan) said his country had entered the final phase of the security transition.  The decade following would be one of transformation, marked by Afghanistan’s assumption of responsibility for its security and defence, which it would face with confidence and courage.  Since 2010, Afghanistan’s partners had solidified their commitment to helping President Karzai fulfil his vision of assuming full responsibility for security, moving towards a self-reliant economy and finding a political solution to end the war.

He stressed the need for the international community’s continued commitment to long-term support after 2014, including for training, advice and support for the Afghan National Security Forces.  The independent functioning of those forces would be strengthened by strategic partnerships, including with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), particularly through the Enduring Partnership Agreement establishing the Alliance’s post-2014 role, Operation Resolute Support.  That accord, along with the Bilateral Security, Defence and Cooperation Agreement signed with the United States, was aimed at building security, protecting the population, and safeguarding democracy rather than fighting a war.

The transformation decade also aimed to move Afghanistan’s economy to self-sufficiency, he said.  Donors had pledged $16 billion in economic support through the Tokyo Mutual Accountability Framework, whereby aid was linked directly to Afghan commitments in areas such as human rights and governance, and the aid’s efficiency and sustainability strengthened by the channelling of commitments through the country’s core budget.  President Karzai had joined many regional cooperative frameworks and believed the Istanbul Process was a central platform on which to build regional trust, counter threats to stability and boost prosperity.

Preparations for the third presidential elections showed Afghanistan’s increased democratic maturity, he continued, with the election of a President an important symbol that the bloody struggle for power was a part of the past.  Despite the assassination of the head of the Independent Electoral Commission in Kunduz Province, a successful process would take place.  The elections were crucial to the transformation decade and Afghans were already engaged in debate.  A robust electoral framework had been established, new members of the Independent Electoral Commission and Independent Election Complaints Commission had been appointed, a new head of the Independent Electoral Commission had been elected and a national strategy for electoral security had been arranged.

Still, Afghanistan’s enemies continued to attack civilians, soldiers and civil servants, he said, calling on the Taliban to stop killing, renounce violence and heed the call for peace.  Though the Taliban had undermined the first peace negotiations, the Afghan people wanted violence to end; the leadership remained committed to finding a political solution.  Other countries, particularly Pakistan, were important to supporting the process, and he was encouraged by the outcome of President Karzai’s recent trip to Islamabad and looked forward to enhanced cooperation.

AGSHIN MEHDIYEV ( Azerbaijan) underlined the importance of UNAMA’s continued engagement in promoting peace and stability in Afghanistan, agreeing that its role should evolve to strengthen national capacities, with its interests closely aligned with national priorities.  UNAMA must be equipped with adequate resources to carry out its core tasks.  The 18 June launch of the final tranche of the security transition showed Afghanistan’s determination to assume security responsibilities across the county.

He said ensuring national peace and reconciliation was a fundamental element of durable stability and unity in Afghanistan, and he underlined the imperative of respecting the Constitution and preserving the Afghan-led, Afghan-owned character of the reconciliation process.  Any attempt to undermine the country’s independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity was unacceptable.  Afghanistan’s stronger relations with its immediate neighbours on a range of issues — including regional security challenges — were essential for a stable future.  Azerbaijan would strengthen its cooperation with Afghanistan by providing capacity-building assistance and training in the areas of civil service, law enforcement, mine action and customs control, among others.

VITALY CHURKIN ( Russian Federation) said the “alarming situation” in Afghanistan had been a focus of the international community.  He saw 2014 as a “watershed” year, determining the future of the country and the region as a whole.  To ensure that it was one of a free, democratic and prosperous State, it was important that Afghan security forces were strong enough to counter threats.  The situation was far from stable, and the transfer of responsibility for security was taking place against the backdrop of increased terror activities.  Indicators diverged from the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF)’s optimistic outlook.  Still, a long-term military presence was not the right strategy, and clarity was needed on troop numbers and objectives for any future presence.

He underlined the threat to peace and security posed by drugs manufacture and trafficking, saying suppression of the industry would help counter terrorism.  He was concerned by the rise in civilian deaths, noting that the report ignored deaths caused by drone strikes and stressing that security was the responsibility of all sides, including NATO.  Kabul needed to take the lead in the reconciliation process, while the Taliban needed to commit to laying down their arms and cutting ties with Al-Qaida.  Failure of the talks in Doha showed that the Taliban were merely trying to achieve political legitimacy to justify using force following NATO’s departure.  The sanctions regime should, thus, be strengthened.  Recognizing that UNAMA would remain the main coordinator of efforts to establish stability in Afghanistan, he said his country had also backed the Government in creating stability, assisting the army with weapons, munitions and training.

SYLVIE LUCAS ( Luxembourg) said international action, alongside the efforts of Afghans, would succeed only when the progress achieved over the last 12 years was irreversible.  She urged “spelling out” long-term international support in order to end any speculation of a security vacuum after 2014.  The presidential and provincial elections would be crucial; if they were not credible, the goal of creating a stable and peaceful society would be compromised.  As such, she called for their transparency and inclusivity.  She welcomed the legal framework for the polls, but deplored that women were not given a sufficiently prominent place.

She went on to say that the peace process must be carried out by Afghans themselves.  The country must also make progress on human rights, she said, expressing alarm at the civilian victims claimed by the conflict and a lack of improvement in women’s status.  The international community expected Afghanistan to ensure respect for the equality enshrined in the Constitution.  The assassination of women in leadership positions was unacceptable.  In sum, she welcomed that, in cooperation with the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the High Representative of Children in Armed Conflict, Afghanistan had outlined a road map against the recruitment and exploitation of children in the Afghan National Security Forces.  UNAMA also must maintain the ability to protect them.

MARIO OYARZABAL ( Argentina) said the new stage of independence and sovereignty depended on the success of the upcoming elections.  He stressed the progress made in electoral preparations, including the establishment of the electoral framework and independent electoral institutions.  The security climate was key to allowing people to exercise rights, and he welcomed efforts by both the Government and the international community to ensure deployment of women police and security officers to encourage their exercise of electoral rights.  He was deeply concerned, however, by the increase of terror attacks and resultant civilian deaths, expressing particular regret about the rise in attacks on women in public positions.  He called for respect for international humanitarian law.  Despite significant progress towards gender equality and empowerment, it should be possible to build on those successes.

Women’s participation was particularly important in the peace and reconciliation process, he said, calling for the Government to make that participation a strategic aim in the transition.  Stability could not be achieved through military means alone, and reconciliation and institution strengthening should be Afghan-led to ensure sustainable peace.  There had been progress on strengthening rule of law and institutions, for which national reconciliation efforts were mutually reinforcing.  The international community would continue to support the people and Government of Afghanistan on inclusive social and economic development.  The United Nations presence, through UNAMA, was fundamental to the transition and would become even more so as the process progressed.

GERT ROSENTHAL ( Guatemala) hoped that 2014 would see the holding of credible elections that were acceptable to all and which provided sustainable solutions to Afghanistan’s problems.  Their importance could not be underestimated, as they were the best basis for establishing internal legitimacy.  They tested the ability for a peaceful transfer of power and ensured that a democratic process was accountable to the Afghan population.  He was disappointed, however, that the legislation adopted had reduced the quota for women’s representation from 25 per cent to 20 per cent.  He also voiced concern at issues relating to the protection and representation of women, noting the attack against senior police officers in Helmand Province as part of a trend against women in such positions.  Human rights must be defended, he urged.

He, meanwhile, welcomed the transfer of security functions to Afghans, but regretted the upsurge in terrorist attacks.  International terrorism and the narcotics trade undermined national security.  The strengthening of cross-border cooperation was essential for eradicating it.  The United Nations played a fundamental role in Afghanistan, and would continue to do so, especially in next year’s elections.  He supported its support for the crucial events of 2014.

MASOOD KHAN ( Pakistan) saw an even greater role for the United Nations in Afghanistan as gains were consolidated and assistance for the political and security transitions was needed.  There was renewed momentum in Afghan-Pakistan relations, driven by awareness that a peaceful, stable Afghanistan was vital to Pakistan’s interests.  Pakistan had no favourites in Afghan politics and would not interfere, but would instead work to improve engagement, particularly in trade, energy and communications.  Pakistan supported Afghanistan’s peace and reconciliation process, recently releasing seven Taliban detainees, including Abdul Ghani Barada, to facilitate negotiations.  He regretted the sputtering of talks, but urged all stakeholders to remain engaged and focused on the goals.

He commended improvements to Afghanistan’s security force, but felt more effort was needed to tackle organized crime, trafficking and arms proliferation, and to improve border security.  It was vital to stop militants shelling across the two countries’ border to prevent either side from escalating tensions.  Equally vital was for drone strikes to cease because they infringed sovereignty, violated international law and harmed the fight against terrorism.

Representative institutions were the foundation of a stable transition, he said, urging the international community to honour the pledges and commitments made, even as progress under the Tokyo Mutual Accountability Framework was reviewed.  For its part, Pakistan had provided $330 million for infrastructure, energy, education and health projects, and had continued to offer a safe haven for Afghan refugees.  Stressing the link between the drug industry and extremism, he noted Afghanistan’s 74 per cent share of global opium production in 2012 and said he was working to establish a regional contact group on counter-narcotics.  In addition, he hoped UNAMA would support efforts made by UNODC in tackling the trafficking.

PHILIPPE BERTOUX ( France) said on 18 June, Afghanistan had begun the final phase of the security transition, signalling a return of Afghan sovereignty.  That had been made possible by ISAF, whose support would not cease with the end of the transition.  France and others were formalizing different bilateral relationships, based on military and civilian cooperation.  Future support missions to Afghanistan also were being defined in line with Afghan priorities.  A new era was dawning, filled with promise and heavy with risk.  The country had a number of advantages in a volatile environment.  The Afghan electoral process must be exemplary, and the elections themselves must be credible, transparent and peaceful.  He called on all parties to take ownership of the process and make their voices heard.

He went on to say that the quality of the Afghan security forces must be enhanced.  France was appalled by the killing of women police officers. The commitment of all international partners must be reaffirmed, he said, stressing the importance of the regional framework against drug trafficking.  France would soon disperse €2 million to the Independent Electoral Commission, through the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).  UNAMA’s political role was important; its mandate should be simplified and the coordinator’s functions for funds, agencies and programmes should be strengthened.

SUL KYUNG-HOON ( Republic of Korea) said Afghanistan was at a critical juncture, with success in the upcoming presidential elections vital to a peaceful transition and to continued international support.  He welcomed key electoral laws establishing the legal frameworks for fair and credible elections and condemned the recent killing of a senior electoral official.  Such actions undermined the efforts of the Afghan people to achieve a peaceful transition.  A safe environment for the elections was vital and women’s participation was essential.  UNAMA would be central to ensuring the legitimacy and integrity of the process.

Security also was vital to the transition, especially its sustainability, he said, adding that the Afghan National Security Forces were now fully responsible for leading and conducting operations throughout the country, and efforts to enhance their capabilities were under way.  At the same time, the 23 per cent rise in civilian deaths showed that grave challenges remained.  Protection of civilians was vital and efforts to train Afghan security forces should be accelerated.  The international community’s long-term support would be dependent on progress made in key areas of the Tokyo Mutual Accountability Framework, and he welcomed the constructive dialogue held between Afghanistan and its international partners in July.  That meeting had confirmed the need for Afghanistan to deliver on its financial management system and efforts to tackle corruption.  Another key commitment concerned human rights, particularly those of women, and he stressed the need to implement the law on eliminating violence against them.

LIU JIEYI ( China) said Afghanistan faced an arduous task of restoring security.  It had seen noticeable progress in its reconstruction, and China welcomed a number of recent developments, including adoption of the electoral law, the appointment of the head of Independent Electoral Commission and the nomination of presidential candidates.  He voiced concern, however, about the security situation, and urged observance of international humanitarian law.  He hoped all parties would hand over the security responsibility to the Afghan Government, focus on capacity-building and ensure completion of the security transition.  China supported the Afghan-led and Afghan-owned security transition, as well as the role of the High Peace Council in promoting national reconciliation.

He went on to call for vigorous international support, which respected the country’s territorial integrity.  China supported UNAMA in playing a lead role in coordinating international efforts in solving the Afghanistan question and rebuilding the country.  It also supported strengthened relations with its neighbours, and combating such challenges as terrorism and narcotics.  Regional cooperation initiatives should make full use of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, he added.

OLIVIER NDUHUNGIHERE ( Rwanda) said that, despite challenges in reconstruction and the handing over of security, among others, there had been tremendous progress.  The country was geared towards democracy and reconciliation, and he welcomed efforts to reach out to groups like the Taliban.  He reiterated his support for Afghan-led peace initiatives, and acknowledged progress in the electoral preparations, with the adoption of electoral legislation and the establishment of electoral institutions.  He hoped for the full participation of Afghans, especially women, and expressed deep concern over increased attacks against officials, especially women.  The perpetrators must be held accountable, and international and regional partners should help Afghanistan avoid further heinous crimes.

He stressed the need for Afghan forces to be equipped according to present realities and threats.  The country remained dependent on its neighbours and, in that context, he welcomed President Karzai’s recent visits to Pakistan and Iran, which he said were vital to building and reinforcing long-run stability.  Also welcome had been the commitments made in Tokyo in 2012, and he encouraged the Afghan Government to honour the Tokyo Mutual Accountability Framework.  He praised the work of UNAMA and noted that its role was likely to increase as ISAF’s drawdown proceeded.

SAMANTHA POWER ( United States) recognized Afghanistan’s progress in the security transition, with Afghan security forces taking responsibility for national security.  Today, those forces were defending the Afghan people.  “That is as it should be,” she said, encouraging continued support.  She also stressed that the coming months would be critical for ensuring a peaceful political transition, with a credible electoral process vital for stability and future international support.  She commended the passage of electoral laws and their ongoing implementation, including the seating of the Independent Electoral Commission, for which international support remained essential.

Also imperative, she said, was that human rights — especially those of women and girls — were protected and promoted.  She was deeply disturbed by reports of targeted attacks against female police, civil servants and others.  Women had a tremendous contribution to make and must be part of Afghan civil life.  There could be no overall progress without women’s progress.  As for the Independent Human Rights Commission, its commissioners must be independent.  Regional and international support must be sustained beyond the transition, and the United States looked forward to the “Heart of Asia” meetings.  UNAMA should provide electoral support, including through engagement with the Independent Electoral Commission.  A pivotal period was ahead, and her country was committed to a lasting partnership with Afghanistan as it approached its decade of transformation.

MARK LYALL GRANT ( United Kingdom) condemned recent attacks on Afghan officials.  He said the Afghan National Security Forces had assumed the lead on security and were growing in confidence and capability.  Nonetheless, he warned against complacency, pointing to rising casualties, which showed the need for continued international support.  The United Kingdom would take the coalition lead at the Afghan National Officer Academy.  He stressed the importance of the 2014 elections, noting that the registration window for candidates was open and expressing hope that women would participate.  A strong framework was essential and the legislation and institutions established were vital to credible and inclusive polling.  He pointed out that the United Kingdom had contributed an extra $12 million to UNDP.

He saw good progress on the Tokyo Mutual Accountability Framework, but stressed the need for continued focus on its implementation.  Progress on women’s empowerment and human rights were vital to maintaining funding.  He called on UNAMA to continue assisting the country, and welcomed ongoing efforts by the Afghan Government to achieve an Afghan-led political settlement and reconciliation.  He stressed the importance of strong links between Afghanistan and its neighbours, underlining the tangible results achieved during President Karzai’s recent visit to Pakistan.  After the elections, the partnership between UNAMA and the Afghan Government would be highly important.  Although that relationship would evolve, UNAMA needed to retain the right presence throughout the country, with support particularly important for women and human rights.

MOHAMMED LOULICHKI ( Morocco) said the 2014 elections would be a prelude to the withdrawal of international forces from Afghanistan.  It was a watershed moment for the country and he commended the appointment of the Independent Electoral Commission and the outline of laws governing that process.  To be sure, there were several security challenges, including terrorist actions and an increase in the number of civilians killed, including 78 children.  The situation impacted Afghanistan’s neighbours, and he urged cooperation to help the country achieve stability, democracy and development.

He recalled Pakistan’s stated policy of good neighbourliness, by which it would continue to register Afghan refugees.  He also welcomed efforts to integrate Afghanistan into the regional economy, as had been seen in the signing of the Almaty Charter.  Economic and regional integration also had been stressed during the Shanghai Cooperation Organization ministerial meeting.  Afghan ownership of its future and fate would require pre-election assistance from the United Nations and international community.

KODJO MENAN ( Togo) said that, despite efforts undertaken, uncertainty still plagued Afghanistan’s political and security sectors, as well as its human rights situation.  And, while regional cooperation was improving, reconciliation and talks between the Afghan Government and the Taliban had stalled because of the opening of a Taliban office in Doha.  He called for a resumption of dialogue, and congratulated Afghans on efforts to reintegrate former insurgents.  Election preparations needed new impetus; UNDP’s input was vital to crafting new laws.  While he welcomed consultations on the Independent Electoral Commission, he regretted that civil society had not been involved.

He acknowledged Afghans’ assumption of greater responsibility for their security, but felt that the Council should examine the pre-election difficulties they faced.  Additionally, the security situation had not improved and violence was now more common.  Drug production and trafficking was also on the rise, requiring the Government to address poppy production.  Human rights was another area of concern and there had been irregularities in the appointment of the head of the Commission.  He encouraged the Government to take measures to end violence against women and children, condemning the use of child soldiers, and welcoming the action plan against recruitment of minors.  He paid tribute to Pakistan’s hospitality towards Afghan refugees and stressed the need for continued international support.

GARY QUINLAN ( Australia), speaking in his national capacity, said significant progress had been made in the security transition, with national security forces showing their capabilities.  Threats to law and order endured, making international support of Afghan armed forces essential for long-term security.  Fulfilling the commitments made in Tokyo was important, and while some progress had been made on the Tokyo Mutual Accountability Framework, more was needed.  Credible, transparent and inclusive elections were vital, as was strong and inclusive voter participation to ensure credible results.  Respect for human rights, including for women and girls, should be strengthened, and commitment to gender equality must be upheld.

There were significant humanitarian challenges, he said, including the worrying trend of growing internal displacement.  He condemned in the strongest terms the increase in targeted civilian attacks, including of female police, Parliament members and elected officials.  The Council’s Taliban sanctions regime would remain an important tool, which could act flexibly in support of the peace and reconciliation process.  UNAMA would remain vital in advocating human rights and coordinating the actions of United Nations agencies.  “We now need to protect the gains of the last decade,” he said, but added that the Afghan Government had the ultimate responsibility to seize the opportunity for creating a prosperous future.

SEBASTIANO CARDI ( Italy), stating that the transition until the end of 2014 involved the closely connected political and security levels, noted that the beginning of the fifth and last phase of the transition in June had been accompanied by “a fighting season that produced a never-ending series of high-profile terrorist attacks and victims”.  That was a source of concern, he said, warning, “we cannot let down our guard”, given the critical transfer of security from NATO.  Nevertheless, the Afghan armed forces had made clear and steady progress in ensuring national security.

At the political level, he said, the lead-up to the presidential elections had begun and he hoped the Afghan authorities would guarantee an inclusive, transparent and credible process, where the rules of the game were respected and multiple aspects of civil society and the various political parties were represented.  He stressed, however, that there could be no stabilization without national reconciliation and without the genuine contribution of regional stakeholders.  Italy firmly supported the Afghan-led peace process and expected that the transition would not become an occasion for reversals of gains made in the areas of democracy, civil rights and gender equality, or allow terrorism to flourish.

MANJEEV PURI ( India) said the 2014 elections would be another significant step towards political reconstruction.  The international community should continue supporting the preparations, working to combat any outside efforts to derail the process.  The situation remained fragile because of the threat posed by terrorist groups.  India had a “no exit policy” in Afghanistan and would not be deterred by attacks, such as the one on the Indian Consulate in Jalalabad.  Many terrorist attacks were coordinated by the Taliban with Al-Qaida and its affiliates, and the sanctions committee should remain proactive in listing and de-listing.  Concerted efforts were needed to root out the terrorist syndicate, which included elements of the Taliban, Al-Qaida and Lashkar e Toiba.

He pointed to UNAMA’s vital political, humanitarian and development role, and said its political mandate should be defined to ensure it remained focused on supporting the institutions of politics, rather than the Afghan political process itself, which must be left to Afghanistan’s own leaders.  The mandate also needed an increased humanitarian and development role through better delivery of assistance.  Finally, he said that the Mission, like others, had been plagued by problems of coherence in performing its mandated activities, which had inevitably led to a duplication of resources and a higher cost of programmes.  UNAMA’s renewed mandate should address that issue.

VÄINO REINART, Special Representative of Estonia for Afghanistan and Pakistan, expressed satisfaction that the Afghan people were taking ownership of the national responsibilities. He stressed the paramount role of elections in consolidating peace and democracy.  Calling upon the international community to remain engaged in supporting Afghanistan over the long term, he pledged continued Estonian support in security and development cooperation.

After ISAF’s withdrawal, he said, the Afghan national security forces would still need advice, assistance and training, and he, thus, hoped the modalities for further cooperation between NATO and Afghanistan would be defined in the coming months.  Estonia had been one of the highest per capita contributors to ISAF and, in order to help safeguard the Afghan elections, its contingent would stay on the ground until the end of the electoral period.  Careful attention must also be paid to the protection of human rights, especially of women and children, and he urged the Afghan authorities to uphold universal human rights and continue the balanced empowerment of all social groups, especially the most vulnerable.  As for the United Nations, its role in Afghanistan would likely increase in the years ahead.

FRANZ-MICHAEL SKJOLD MELLBIN, Special Representative for Afghanistan, European Union delegation, reiterated the organization’s firm commitment to Afghanistan and the Afghan people and the long-term partnership agreed between the Afghan Government and the international community.  Stating that good progress had been achieved in some areas, notably in establishing a legislative framework for the forthcoming elections, he said more needed to be done to tackle corruption, promote economic growth, strengthen the rule of law and safeguard human rights.

The European Union, he said, was supporting the creation of an effective justice system underpinned by a civilian police force and other rule of law institutions.  Recently, its own police mission in that country, known as EUPOL Afghanistan, had been extended until the end of 2014.  Also vital was to increase support for the State, he said, adding that the transparent flow of public funds at both national and local levels was the “backbone” of a functioning State.  He called on all regional Governments to use their influence to encourage all groups to support an Afghan-led peace, and he emphasized the importance of strengthening the Afghan security forces as part of the larger objective of ensuring Afghan ownership and sovereignty.

KAZUYOSHI UMEMOTO ( Japan) stressed that Afghanistan had travelled a long and difficult path leading up to the current political, economic and security transitions.  He said security challenges must be properly addressed to encourage the full participation of all eligible voters in the upcoming elections.  Welcoming recent moves towards reconciliation between Pakistan and Afghanistan, he said that timely implementation of the commitments in the Tokyo Framework was of paramount importance.   Japan expected the Afghan Government to redouble its efforts, especially in the areas of anti-corruption, public finance, rule of law and rights of women.  Condemning recent “brutal terrorist attacks” across the country, including the intimidation and targeted killings of female Afghan Government officials and public figures, he said the Afghan security forces had demonstrated increased competence and confidence.  The international community must remain united alongside Afghanistan in combating the threats posed by illegal armed groups.

PETER WITTIG ( Germany) noted that Afghanistan had taken major steps on its path through political and security transition in the past months.   Germany considered the comprehensive and timely implementation of the Tokyo Mutual Accountability Framework a key in achieving a peaceful and prosperous future for Afghanistan.  Welcoming the establishment of a legislative framework for the presidential and provincial elections in April 2014 and appointments to the election bodies, he stressed that more remained to be done to ensure transparent, credible and inclusive polling.

He said Germany would contribute more than €10 million for the election, but added that the focus on elections must not obscure the other challenges, such as preserving and consolidating gains in the protection and promotion of human rights and improving the capabilities of the Afghan security forces.  He remained confident that with “evolving but persistent” international support, the national security forces would continue to prove capable of the necessary response.

HALIT ÇEVIK ( Turkey) said Afghanistan’s assumption of full security responsibilities, momentum achieved in preparation for the 2014 elections, positive signs of engagement with neighbours and significant progress in carrying out the Istanbul Process were all promising developments.  Yet, security challenges remained, with the transition marked by uncertainty and a rising number of casualties among Afghan security forces.  He welcomed Afghanistan’s announcements indicating a desire to assume responsibility for its future.

Further, capacity-building complemented local ownership, he said, adding that achieving good governance and the rule of law was essential to a successful transition.  International support must continue, with no efforts spared in contributing to a secure, self-sufficient country.  Transforming the heart of Asia into a zone of peace and prosperity required strong regional commitment, especially as international forces withdrew.  He welcomed China’s offer to host the upcoming ministerial conference of the Istanbul Process next year, as well as the constructive role played by the Shanghai Cooperation Organization.

FRANTIŠEK RUZICKA ( Slovakia), aligning with the European Union, called for Afghanistan to remain in focus despite other global crises.  Past experiences, where the job had been left unfinished, underlined the importance of that.  He was encouraged by efforts to improve the ability of the Afghan National Security Forces to protect the most vulnerable.  More training was necessary to reduce attacks from within their ranks.  The Slovak National Council recently renewed the mandate for Slovak military personnel to remain engaged in Afghanistan beyond 2014, and he stressed the importance of security to the conduct of elections in 2014.

He said that progress in establishing a legal framework for the elections was impressive, but more was needed.  To help ensure the integrity of those elections, peace and reconciliation talks should continue on the basis of complete inclusivity.  The international community would assist, as would UNAMA, which he praised for its “extraordinary performance”.  He also welcomed increased regional cooperation manifested in discussions between Afghanistan and Pakistan, and Iran, which contributed to a promising future.

GUILLERMO RISHCHYNSKI ( Canada) welcomed Afghanistan’s recent achievements towards creating open, transparent and accountable institutions and expressed hope that the Government would provide them with the resources and independence needed to fulfil their mandates.  Emphasizing that a stable democracy also required that Government and civil society protected the rights of the most vulnerable, including women and girls, he urged the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission to work for greater protection for freedom of speech, religion and belief.

He said he recognized that there were those who sought to pull the country back from its path, as witnessed by the relentless targeting of the Afghan security forces, which demonstrated professionalism and preparedness in response.  The past few months had also seen a marked increase in the number of attacks on civilians, including humanitarian workers, Government contractors and politicians — particularly women.  Those cowardly attacks were designed to sow instability and decrease confidence in the Government.  But even in the face of such callous cruelty, the Afghan people had remained strong in their desire for peace and committed to the goal of rebuilding their country and to ensuring that it was never again a safe haven for terrorists.  Indeed, the country deserved independence from warlords, neighbours and aid dependency.

GHOLAMHOSSEIN DEHGHANI ( Iran) said regional cooperation was critical for Afghanistan’s long-term stability, underscoring a greater regional connectivity to challenges, such as rooting out illicit narcotics, terrorism and extremism.  He welcomed confidence-building measures between Afghanistan and its neighbours, which could serve as the basis for that cooperation.  International and regional partners should focus on laying the foundations for sustainable economic growth in Afghanistan.  Iran’s new Government was committed to expanding relations with its neighbours, including Afghanistan, with whom it shared linguistic and cultural commonalities.  Iran would continue its dialogue with Afghan authorities towards increased cooperation on security and counter-narcotics efforts.

He went on to say that narcotic drugs were a financial source for terrorism and had provided a breeding ground for terrorists who were intent on destabilizing the Afghan Government.  The increased poppy cultivation and drug trafficking showed that preventive measures had not yet yielded expected results.  Iran had hosted the seventh Regional Financial Intelligence Unit meeting on 7 July, which aimed to enhance regional cooperation in tackling money-laundering and improving information exchange on suspicious transactions.  Iran supported UNAMA in providing assistance for peace and reconstruction of Afghanistan within its mandate and through robust regional engagement on such issues as border security, immigration, refugees and drug control.  Its role should evolve in line with the situation on the ground, emerging realities and the aspirations of the Afghan people.

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For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.