Afghanistan’s Government Must Work to Improve Trust in Security Sector amid Rising Tensions, Terrorist Attacks, Special Representative Tells Security Council

SC/12882
21 June 2017
7980th Meeting (AM)

Afghanistan’s Government Must Work to Improve Trust in Security Sector amid Rising Tensions, Terrorist Attacks, Special Representative Tells Security Council

Warning that the situation in Afghanistan was unusually tense and that a recent tide of violent terrorist attacks had brought underlying political tensions to the surface, the United Nations top official in the country urged all parties to exercise calm and the Government to take steps to improve public trust in its security sector in particular.

“Without enhanced efforts by the National Unity Government to increase political inclusiveness, strengthen accountability and improve the Government’s credibility, particularly in the security sector, we are likely to face more crises in an increasingly fragile environment,” warned Tadamichi Yamamoto, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Afghanistan, in a briefing to the Security Council.

The most recent security and political crisis had been sparked by a terrorist bombing in Kabul’s centre on 31 May, which was followed by a large street demonstration protesting growing insecurity and had turned violent, he noted.  Over the past year, there were signs that Afghanistan’s broad political consensus was fraying, as a growing number of political factions began criticizing the Government and demanding reforms, with each side accusing the other of acting against national interests.

Those events should serve as a “clarifying moment”, he said.  “We are at a point where we need to take conscious decisions to reverse negative trends and seek stability or face far worse.  The recent crisis has illustrated the dangers of pushing narrow interests, be they domestic or international, in Afghanistan’s fragile context,” he said.

For their part, delegates echoed those concerns, with the representative of Japan describing the devastating 31 May terrorist attack as a “tragic wake-up call” for Afghanistan and the international community to recognize the urgency of revitalizing the peace process.  There was a growing tendency of treating violence in Afghanistan as routine, warned India’s representative, adding that the international community was failing to ask such critical questions as to where the anti-Government elements were getting their weapons, training and financing.

Nevertheless, the Government’s ability to hold a high-level meeting of the Kabul process on regional peace and security on 6 June was heralded by many delegates throughout the debate, with several saying that meeting demonstrated the Afghan Government’s resilience and the international community’s determination to maintain its support for the country and the National Unity Government.

Reversing the tide against terror was contingent on eliminating support centres beyond the country’s borders that produced, nurtured and empowered terrorists operating in Afghanistan, underscored that country’s representative.  The number of cross-border violations, which had dramatically increased, was another external threat to Afghan sovereignty, he said.

Those violations ranged from the firing of artillery shells, air space violations, and construction of military posts and barriers to digging deep ditches; all of which exacerbated the current situation, he said.  The country had been pursuing a three-pronged strategy, including strengthening global counter‑terrorism efforts with a focus on engaging Pakistan in genuine cooperation, strengthening security and defensive capabilities, and improving national unity.

Continued reliance on a military option, or enhancing troop numbers without an accompanying political strategy, would only lead to more violence and bloodshed, stressed Pakistan’s representative.  Emphasizing that her country did not allow its territory to be used for terrorism against other countries, she pointed to an agreement reached between her country’s Prime Minister and Afghanistan’s President in Astana earlier this month as evidence of efforts to re‑energize counter-terrorism cooperation.

The entire international community must take decisive steps to eradicate the scourge of terrorism, said Omirtai Bitimov, Kazakhstan’s ambassador to Kabul, who added that the troubling appearance of certain radical terror groups in the north of Afghanistan represented a growing security threat for Central Asia.  He recommended a review of existing international approaches to Afghanistan, including the Security Council’s own position, as well as stronger links with countries in the region.

“Our support for the Afghan National Unity Government is unrelenting,” emphasized the representative of Iran, welcoming an Afghan-owned, Afghan-led peace process.  Underscoring their close neighbourly relations, he said Afghanistan’s security situation directly affected security at Iran’s borders, and strengthening regional cooperation remained a priority.  Projects, such as the Trilateral Chahbahar agreement among Iran, India and Afghanistan, had the potential to transform the region and stabilize Afghanistan.

Describing as “alarming” attempts by several regional players to cooperate with certain factions of the Taliban — ostensibly with the goal of preventing Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh) from expanding its presence in Afghanistan — the representative of Ukraine stressed that no tactics based on the idea that “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” should be applied to contact with terrorists.  He called on Afghan authorities to conduct a thorough investigation into recent terrorist attacks, expressing concern about the suffering of Afghan civilians and the country’s growing number of refugees and internally displaced persons.

It was essential that the Government mobilize its efforts and fully implement its commitments regarding the rights of women and children, emphasized the representative of France, who drew attention to the large number of refugees returning from Pakistan and Iran.  That sentiment was echoed by the representative of the European Union, who said efforts must be bolstered to address migration, returnees and the increasing numbers of children and women among civilian casualties.

Also speaking today were the representatives of the United States, Sweden, Senegal, Russian Federation, United Kingdom, China, Ethiopia, Italy, Egypt, Uruguay, Bolivia, Turkey, Germany, Netherlands, Spain, Belgium, Australia and Canada.

The meeting began at 10:22 a.m. and concluded at 1:37 p.m.

Briefing

TADAMICHI YAMAMOTO, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Afghanistan, noted that, in the months since his last briefing in March 2016, the situation in the country had been unusually tense.  Deteriorating security had brought underlying political tensions to the surface, although the National Unity Government had demonstrated a willingness to take steps towards peace.  “Without enhanced efforts by the National Unity Government to increase political inclusiveness, strengthen accountability, and improve the Government’s credibility, particularly in the security sector, we are likely to face more crises in an increasingly fragile environment,” he warned, adding that recent events were a reminder of the need for caution, calm and unity.

The most recent security and political crisis had been sparked by a terrorist bombing in Kabul’s centre on 31 May, which was followed by a large street demonstration protesting growing insecurity, which had turned violent, he said.  That was followed by a suicide attack at the funeral of a person killed in the demonstration.  Political fault lines were increasingly along ethnic lines, which was particularly worrying at a time when Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh) was attempting to provoke sectarian strife in the country through attacks against Shia Muslims.  During the 2 June anti-Government demonstrations, the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) had conducted extensive outreach to leaders on all sides, while urging restraint.  “I remain concerned, however, that without changes in governance practices, we are likely to face future crises that might be more difficult to contain,” he stressed.

Since a year ago, there had been indications that Afghanistan’s broad political consensus was fraying and in recent months a growing number of political factions had begun to criticize the Government and demand reforms, he said.  Each side accused the other of acting against national interests, he said, adding:  “It appears to me undeniable that these perceptions have contributed to tensions that characterize today’s political environment”.  Efforts at inclusiveness and building consensus for political stability were critical.  The Government’s ability to hold a high-level meeting of the Kabul process on regional peace and security on 6 June demonstrated its resilience and the international community’s determination to maintain its support for Afghanistan and the National Unity Government.  The Afghan vision for peace was premised on the fact that a stable Afghanistan would lead to a stable and more prosperous region.  Achieving that vision would require the strong determination of all States concerned, particularly those in the region and neighbourhood.

Afghanistan faced numerous internal challenges beyond fighting an insurgency that seemed to be gaining ground, he said.  They included deeply rooted political tensions, the difficulty of socially and economically integrating the thousands of Afghan refugees that returned each day, an economy that was only very slowly recovering after the international drawdown of 2014 and pervasive corruption.  The international community was at a point where it needed to take conscious decisions to reverse negative trends and seek stability or face far worse.

The 31 May attack and the events that followed should serve as a “clarifying moment”, he said.  “We are at a point where we need to take conscious decisions to reverse negative trends and seek stability or face far worse.  The recent crisis has illustrated the dangers of pushing narrow interests, be they domestic or international, in Afghanistan’s fragile context,” he said.  In the domestic sphere, preparations must be accelerated for the next round of elections, including decisions on the use of technology and the role and modalities of international electoral assistance.  Work must start on voter registration and the electoral calendar must be made clear.  Further, a genuine peace process with the Taliban was essential and urgent.  The need for a modus vivendi between Afghanistan and its neighbours had been stressed, while, at the same time, he encouraged the Afghan people to begin an internal dialogue on the meaning of peace and reconciliation.  The Government and the Taliban needed to directly engage with each other to define a political solution.

Statements

MAHMOUD SAIKAL (Afghanistan) noted that the meeting came at a time when his country was undergoing another test in overcoming adversity, remaining under almost constant attack.  Given the efforts of the Afghan security forces, the Taliban’s recent offensive had come later than expected.  Unable to confront the Afghan forces directly, the Taliban resorted to desperate urban terrorist attacks on soft targets and attempted to sow discord among the Afghan people.  In recent months, the country had seen attacks of an unprecedented nature, and since the beginning of the year, major terrorist attacks had caused significant loss of life, including the deaths of more than 500 people and 1,100 wounded.

The sheer carnage of the 31 May truck bombing in the heart of Kabul was a crime against humanity which had spread horror instead of peace and piety during the holy month of Ramadan, sending the nation into deep mourning, he said.  The attack triggered social frustration and a wave of angry protests seeking security reform, which unfortunately resulted in more deaths and injuries.  The Government firmly believed in the constitutional right of people to protest and no element of Afghan security forces should ever inflict unnecessary harm upon civilians.  Given the events, the commander of the Kabul garrison and the police chief had been suspended and the events were being investigated.  The Government remained committed to reassuring its people that the security forces were there to protect all Afghans and were at their service.

Reversing the tide against terror was contingent on eliminating support centres beyond the country’s borders that produced, nurtured and empowered terrorists operating in Afghanistan, he said.  The number of cross-border violations, which had dramatically increased, was another external threat to Afghan sovereignty.  Those violations ranged from the firing of artillery shells, air space violations, and construction of military posts and barriers to digging deep ditches; all of which exacerbated the current situation.  To address it, the country had been pursuing a three-pronged strategy, including strengthening global counter-terrorism efforts with a focus on engaging Pakistan in genuine cooperation, strengthening security and defensive capabilities, and improving national unity.  Despite the enormous violence, the Government remained firmly committed to the goal of sustaining peace, and in that regard, the 6 June Kabul process conference marked the resumption of an important initiative for stability.

Notwithstanding the difficult situation in the country, the security forces stood vigilant and had robustly responded to protect people and infrastructure, despite various logistical constraints in terms of resources, heavy weaponry and air capability, he said.  The Government was in the process of a national dialogue to strengthen consensus on relevant issues and address political grievances based on the belief that good governance could only flourish in an environment free of any particular ethnic or linguistic consideration.  Nevertheless, the Security Council had yet to take concrete action against regional safe havens and logistical support to terrorists, or cross-border violations.  Further, the Council had yet to act upon the strict enforcement and strengthening of the sanctions regime.

KORO BESSHO (Japan), noting that the recent brutal terrorist attacks crystalized his delegation’s concerns about Afghanistan’s deteriorating security situation, said the international community’s continued political and financial support to the country had unfortunately yielded few improvements.  More fundamentally, the seeming erosion of unity in the National Unity Government was profoundly concerning, and flare-ups of political and ethnic tensions within the Government must be absolutely avoided.  The Government must return to its 2014 commitments with attention to inclusivity and by announcing a timeline for the parliamentary and district council elections which should have been held in 2015.  Describing the devastating 31 May terrorist attack as a “tragic wake-up call” for Afghanistan and the international community to recognize the urgency of revitalizing the peace process, he added that the implementation of Council resolution 2344 (2016) — which had mandated UNAMA to support the people and Government in achieving peace and stability — was essential, as was the strategic review authorized by that resolution.

OMIRTAI BITIMOV (Kazakhstan), his country’s ambassador to Kabul, said that, despite the Taliban’s refusal to participate in negotiations, efforts for a peaceful solution must continue.  There was no other option.  The entire international community must take decisive steps to eradicate the scourge of terrorism, he said, adding that the troubling appearance of certain radical terror groups in the north of Afghanistan represented a growing security threat for Central Asia.  He recommended a review of existing international approaches to Afghanistan, including the Security Council’s own position, as well as stronger links with countries in the region.  UNAMA’s role should be enhanced and efforts to facilitate Afghanistan’s integration with Central Asian neighbours increased.

MICHELE SISON (United States) said her country’s resolve to stand with the people and Government of Afghanistan would not waver.  The United States was currently reviewing its engagement and security posture in Afghanistan, but, in the meantime, there was no question that it remained wholly engaged in supporting the Government diplomatically and militarily.  Noting the 6 June inaugural meeting of the Kabul process, she said the United States commended the Government for its commitment to an inclusive Afghan-led peace process despite continuing attacks.  Peace talks were essential, she said, emphasizing that a military solution would not bring about a durable peace.  A path to peace was available and the Taliban must choose to take it.  The United States called on Afghanistan’s neighbours to unconditionally cease support for extremist groups, she said, affirming its strong support for UNAMA and looking forward to the Secretary-General’s strategic review.

CARL SKAU (Sweden), urging the Afghan Government and people to put aside internal differences in favour of progress on the country’s reform and peace agendas, commended the Government on convening the first meeting of the Kabul process.  Also echoing the Secretary-General’s calls to restart the dialogue with the Taliban towards a lasting political settlement, he went on to note that regional tensions continued to undermine Afghanistan’s long-term stability and economic growth, calling on all parties to act constructively and work together towards sustaining peace.  Pointing out that an efficient, effective and appropriately configured United Nations presence in Afghanistan was vital, he welcomed the ongoing strategic review of UNAMA, and drew attention to a number of his delegation’s priorities going forward including:  a comprehensive approach involving development, human rights, the rule of law and humanitarian assistance; the continuation of UNAMA’s field presence at the current levels; a stronger mandate for the Special Representative of the Secretary-General, including on regional issues; increased women’s participation in the country’s political, economic and social life; and enhanced focus on children and armed conflict.

GORGUI CISS (Senegal) recalled that, during the first half of 2017, the security situation had deteriorated in Afghanistan with an increase in deadly terrorist attacks that had covered the country in blood.  The demonstrations after those attacks served to exacerbate both the political and ethnic tensions, yet he pointed out that the authorities of the country had undertaken a constructive dialogue in order to improve relations with the people.  Peace talks were required between the Government and the Taliban in order to contain the high level of violence in Afghanistan.  He welcomed the Government’s determination to make efforts to allow peace and stability to return to the country, while the efforts of international forces to support Afghanistan were a key determining factor to defeat terrorist groups, particularly ISIL and the Taliban.  He commended efforts aimed at regional cooperation, in which some neighbouring countries had spared no efforts.  UNAMA continued to support local peace initiatives in several provinces and had taken many actions to support the Afghan Government and people.

VLADIMIR SAFRONKOV (Russian Federation) said that Afghanistan would remain a friend of the Russian Federation, and in that context, the recent string of terrorist attacks weighed heavily on his country.  His delegation was seriously troubled by the political situation in Afghanistan, which could not break its vicious cycle of violence.  In fact, the situation seemed to be worsening.  The issues facing the country were a major burden on the shoulders of the people of Afghanistan, including the country’s armed forces.  National reconciliation was of critical importance, and in that regard, the Russian Federation supported the recent efforts undertaken by the Government, although he noted the declining effectiveness of many international mechanisms meant to support the reconciliation process in Afghanistan.  The Moscow negotiations were an inclusive process and the most promising method for forging a direct and constructive dialogue on issues of national reconciliation.  The main tasks over the last 15 years facing the international military presence in the country had gone unresolved, and in fact, had only gotten worse.  Only collective, joint work would allow for the unravelling of the complex morass of problems facing Afghanistan.  He expressed concern about the increasing capabilities of ISIL in Afghanistan, which must not be ignored or “glossed over”, as well as the spike in drug production there.

STEPHEN HICKEY (United Kingdom) said Afghanistan was facing “trying times” as the number and impact of terrorist attacks seemed to be on the rise.  The message of the international community must be clear and unwavering:  “Enough was enough.  These attacks must come to an end.”  The region must work together to create the conditions for a more stable future for Afghanistan.  His delegation acknowledged the successes of the Government and believed Afghans must work together to protect those gains in the face of such monumental challenges.  Afghanistan must be looking towards the future in hope, not in fear; and the people of the country needed to feel they had a stake in that future.  The tragic events in Kabul should serve as a stark remind that now was the time for action and implementation of the structures and process that would bring progress on the daunting but essential issues facing the country.  The Afghan people must feel that they had a role to play in the national consensus on peace and, in that regard, his country welcomed the participation of all segments of society, including women and girls.

LIU JIEYI (China) said the international community must step up efforts to promote peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan.  It should adhere to a unified standard in combating terrorism, including cutting off the flow of weapons and funds.  Emphasizing the need to promote national reconciliation, he said the international community should extend full support to an inclusive process led and owned by the Afghan people.  At the end of the day, Afghan issues should be managed by Afghan people, with the international community respecting their right to independently choose their political system and development path.  Targeted assistance should be provided to help the Government develop its capabilities, he said, underscoring also prospects for regional cooperation and the Belt and Road Initiative.  Commending the work of UNAMA, he said China hoped that the ongoing strategic review would lead to the Mission focusing more on peace, reconciliation and development.

TEKEDA ALEMU (Ethiopia) said long-term security and stability could only be assured through an Afghan-led, Afghan-owned political process.  He noted the lack of progress in talks between the Government and the Taliban, adding that their trajectory did not look promising.  He welcomed the convening of the Kabul process despite a difficult security situation and emphasized the critical role of countries in the region in creating conditions for combatting terrorism and advancing peace efforts.  He welcomed Government efforts to pursue reforms, fight corruption and ensure accountability, adding that it was critical for the Government to maintain a level of coherence.  Ethiopia hoped that commitments made at the Brussels donor conference in October 2016 would be honoured.

INIGO LAMBERTINI (Italy) underscored the crucial importance of cooperation among regional stakeholders, noting that terrorism and violent extremism threatened them, as well.  The need for a credible and broad-based reconciliation in Afghanistan underscored the fact that there was no military solution to the conflict, he said.  Focusing on an inclusive consensus was key, he said, emphasizing the need to ensure women’s participation in the process.  Continued violence by hostile insurgent groups was a reminder of the importance of strengthening Afghanistan’s security institutions.  Given the enormous and complex challenges it faced, the future of Afghanistan could not be imagined without unity and cohesion within its Government and institutions, he said.

AMR ABDELLATIF ABOULATTA (Egypt) noted that the security situation across Afghanistan was deteriorating, particularly following the Taliban’s announcement of the launch of its seasonal offensive and the increase of terrorist attacks over the last year.  Egypt had traditional and historical ties with Afghanistan, he recalled, in addition to a mutual interest in the political situation in the Central Asian region.  His country supported all regional and international efforts towards economic and social development to achieve prosperity for all the people of Afghanistan and for the return of refugees and internally displaced persons.

ANNE GUEGUEN (France), associating herself with the statement to be delivered by the European Union, said the deteriorating security situation in Afghanistan was a source of major concern for her country, particularly as it affected vulnerable groups, including women and children.  She expressed concern about the humanitarian situation in Afghanistan, especially given the large number of refugees returning from Pakistan and Iran.  The best response to terrorism was unity, coupled with the determination to strengthen Afghanistan’s democracy.  It was essential that the Government mobilize its efforts and fully implement its commitments regarding the rights of women and children.  The support of all of Afghanistan’s neighbours to peace was indispensable.  Her delegation would await with great interest the conclusions of the strategic review of UNAMA, which was due in July.

OLEH HERASYMENKO (Ukraine), associating himself with the European Union, pointed to encouraging progress on Afghanistan’s political track including a number of high-level appointments, consistent efforts to counter corruption and the creation of an environment conducive for future elections.  Yet, those and other recent achievements had been overshadowed by increasing political tensions ahead of the election season.  “It is absolutely imperative to preserve what has been achieved with such an enormous effort and sacrifice,” he stressed.  Describing as “alarming” attempts by several regional players to cooperate with certain factions of the Taliban — ostensibly with the goal of preventing ISIL from expanding its presence in Afghanistan — he stressed that no tactics based on the idea that “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” should be applied to contact with terrorists.  Calling on Afghan authorities to conduct a thorough investigation into recent terrorist attacks, he expressed concern about the suffering of Afghan civilians and the country’s growing number of refugees and internally displaced persons.

CRISTINA CARRIÓN (Uruguay) said a lack of dialogue between the National Unity Government and the Taliban was disappointing and created great suffering for the population.  Instability and insecurity left civilians vulnerable, with a high death toll, particularly among women and children.  Uruguay was troubled by the grave human rights situation, as well as humanitarian problems caused by the swift increase in internally displaced persons and returning refugees.  Economic and security challenges called for constant support from both countries in the region and the international community, including the United Nations and the Security Council.

SACHA SERGIO LLORENTTY SOLÍZ (Bolivia), Council President for June, spoke in his national capacity, emphasizing the need for an internationally coordinated response to terrorism, as well as efforts for the return of internally displaced persons and refugees in a sustainable fashion.  He hailed the work of the United Nations Mine Action Centre and expressed gratitude for UNAMA’s efforts.  He went on to call on the entire international community, including countries in the region, to contribute positively so that the people and Government of Afghanistan could achieve reconciliation.

MALEEHA LODHI (Pakistan), expressing hope that political differences within the Afghan Government would be reconciled, said the Taliban insurgency and a campaign of terrorism promoted by ISIL and associated groups posed a global threat.  Peace could be restored only through a negotiated settlement between Kabul and the Tehrik-i-Taliban Afghanistan.  Continued reliance on a military option, or enhancing troop numbers without an accompanying political strategy, would only lead to more violence and bloodshed.  Pakistan did not allow its territory to be used for terrorism against other countries, she said, noting that its Prime Minister and Afghanistan’s President agreed in Astana earlier this month to re-energize counter-terrorism cooperation.  Pakistan urged all parties, including the Tehrik-i-Taliban Afghanistan, to return to the path of negotiations.  Others could help by promoting a negotiated settlement, but peace could only be negotiated when the Afghan parties desired it and eschewed a military solution.

FERIDUN SINIRLIOGLU (Turkey) said that continued support to Afghanistan during its transformation decade was essential.  “It is imperative to live up to the commitments,” he said, underscoring his Government’s continued pledges and contributions.  In addition to providing funds, Turkey was supporting the Afghan Government’s security and development efforts both bilaterally and on multilateral platforms.  The National Unity Government had continued to require international support in upholding the rule of law and eliminating impunity.  Both of those were imperative to the stability of the Central Asian nation.  However, the case against First Vice-President Abdul Rashid Dostum might not be the most appropriate occasion to prove that point.  The case should be handled in a way that would not further deteriorate the security situation especially in northern Afghanistan.  He also commended the efforts of the Kabul process as an opportunity to display solidarity with Afghanistan during the current difficult time.

HARALD BRAUN (Germany), aligning himself with the European Union, condemned senseless killing, including the attack on the German Embassy in Kabul in May, and called on authorities to investigate and hold those responsible for their crimes.  Germany remained strongly committed to working with Afghan partners to tackle those challenge and commended the National Unity Government’s peace negotiation efforts.  A peace and reconciliation process remained the only way to achieve long-term stability.  Given the fragile situation, more needed to be done to protect civilians.  Encouraging electoral reform efforts, he said a clear and realistic timetable for elections was needed.

HEDDA SAMSON (Netherlands), associating herself with the European Union and expressing her delegation’s solidarity with the National Unity Government, said that, on top of the Netherlands’ €230 million commitment at the 2016 Brussels Donor Conference, it had also committed an additional €4.5 million last week to assist vulnerable groups in Afghanistan.  Calling on all parties to cooperate in the framework of an Afghan-owned and Afghan-led peace and reconciliation process, she stressed that only by having all parts of society represented in the peace talks would sustainable peace be reached.  Highlighting UNAMA’s important role, she voiced support for the Mission’s stronger role in the area of regional political cooperation and underscored that the international community itself must remain committed to the situation in Afghanistan.

JUAN MANUEL GONZÁLEZ DE LINARES PALOU (Spain), associating himself with the statement to be made by the European Union, expressed his country’s satisfaction with the Secretary-General’s recent visit to Kabul, which demonstrated firm support for Afghanistan by the international community and Member States.  Listing the many challenges faced by Afghanistan, he said there had been progress in recent years, but much remained to be done and the reality was far from positive.  Spain called on all political stakeholders to always put the progress and well-being of all Afghan citizens first.

SYED AKBARUDDIN (India) said the adversary committing terrorist attacks in Afghanistan — which was clearly not averse to flagrantly violating international humanitarian and human rights law — was also flush with resources, weapons and operational support, and had access to sanctuaries outside the sovereignty of Afghanistan.  The country’s multiple crises had unfortunately made it attractive to criminal and terrorist groups.  “You can’t change what you can’t see,” he said, referring to the international community’s collective inability and unwillingness to “see the problem for what it is”.  For example, the Council still did not find it appropriate to meet more often on the situation in Afghanistan, beyond its routine quarterly debates, and at times it had even shied away from condemning some terrorist attacks in the country.

“We see a growing tendency of treating violence in Afghanistan as routine,” he warned, adding that the international community was failing to ask such critical questions as where the anti-Government elements were getting their weapons, training and financing.  Recalling a number of India’s efforts to fight terrorism and support the people of Afghanistan — including an agreement between the two countries to open an air corridor and the ending of trade obstructions — he nevertheless said that more must be done to ensure that the resurgent forces of terrorism and extremism did not find sanctuaries or safe havens anywhere, at any level.  Finally, he said, “we must not distinguish between good and bad terrorists or play one group against the other”.  The Taliban, Haqqani Network, Al-Qaida, Da’esh, Lashkar-e-Toiba, Jaish-e-Mohammad and other similar groups were all terror organizations and must be treated as such, with no justification offered for their activities.

GHOLAMALI KHOSHROO (Iran) recalled the 6,252 security-related incidents that had taken place in Afghanistan between 1 March and 31 May, the highest total ever recorded for that period since 2001.  More than a decade after its invasion, Afghanistan and the region were no safer.  The Taliban and Da’esh continued their attacks against civilians, and the proliferation of those groups required concerted international action.  “Our support for the Afghan National Unity Government is unrelenting,” he said, welcoming an Afghan-owned, Afghan-led peace process.  Underscoring their close neighbourly relations, he said Afghanistan’s security situation directly affected security at Iran’s borders, and strengthening regional cooperation remained a priority.  Projects, such as the Trilateral Chahbahar agreement among Iran, India and Afghanistan, had the potential to transform the region and stabilize Afghanistan.  Any increase in narcotics production was a direct reflection of insecurity and poverty, and he called for stronger international cooperation to deter that menace, which he called a major social health challenge and a source of income for terrorist groups.

JOANNE ADAMSON (European Union) expressing support for the Government’s efforts, said the international community should continue to build on emerging consensus around regional and global support to the peace and reconciliation process, which should be owned and led by Afghanistan.  The Kabul Process on Peace and Security Cooperation could give new impetus to efforts, leading to settlement of the conflict.  Welcoming the Afghan Government’s efforts to engage with the Taliban and other groups, and to implement its commitments on anti-corruption, election preparation, revenue collection and budget execution, she expressed hope that Afghanistan would soon ratify the Cooperation Agreement on Partnership and Development.

Turning to other issues, she said human rights must be priority on the Government’s agenda and more must be done to tackle corruption.  Urging the Afghan authorities to advance the electoral reform, she said the European Union supported the process, capacity-building and the institutional strengthening of electoral management bodies and UNAMA’s coordinating role.  Joint State-building and development efforts must expand upon reinforced regional cooperation.  Raising concerns, she said efforts must be bolstered to address migration, returnees and the increasing numbers of children and women among civilian casualties.

MARC PECSTEEN (Belgium), emphasizing the prevalence of anti-personnel mines in Afghanistan, said Belgium recently decided to support a new United Nations Mine Action Centre project that would strengthen the capacity of Afghanistan’s mine action authority.  He expressed deep concern over the conflict’s impact on children and called on the Secretary-General to maintain UNAMA’s special child protection capability.  He also underscored the importance of a national plan of action against violent extremism with a view to eradicating terrorism.  Understanding the factors behind radicalization, recruitment and financing networks were key elements for effective action in that regard.

GILLIAN BIRD (Australia) urged the people of Afghanistan to maintain solidarity despite their frustration and suffering.  Current events had underlined the critical need for the international community to stand with Afghanistan as it worked to end the violence.  To that end, Australia recently announced an increase to its military commitment in Afghanistan to about 300 personnel, to support the development of the long-term capabilities of Afghanistan’s security forces.  That important work was part of the broader commitment to Afghanistan’s governance and reform agenda.  Securing a future for Afghanistan was not just about security.  The revised penal code and anti-corruption initiatives were commendable achievements in governance and the rule of law.  She also welcomed positive steps on human rights.

CATHERINE BOUCHER (Canada) said his country would continue to focus on women’s and girls’ rights in all of its programming in Afghanistan, in line with Canada’s recently announced Feminist International Assistance Policy.  Such efforts included education, awareness-raising and capacity-building on women’s rights and gender-based violence, as well as efforts to facilitate the involvement of women at the centre of decision-making.  Highlighting Afghanistan’s recent progress in those areas, he added that women’s participation in the peace and reconciliation process was essential.  “I hope that events such as this, along with efforts to alleviate gender-based violence and provide more education to women and girls, will push Afghanistan closer to peace and stability,” he said.

For information media. Not an official record.