Under-Secretary-General Ladsous, thank you for your briefing today detailing the important work UNAMA’s staff performs every day under very difficult conditions. Executive Director Fedotov, thank you for your briefing as well, on this important issue. And, Ambassador Tanin, thank you for joining today’s discussion, as always, we value your participation and your close cooperation with the Security Council.
Mr. President, in the last few months the international community has underscored its support for strengthening Afghan leadership and Afghan sovereignty while reinforcing its commitment to Afghanistan well beyond 2014. As President Obama has said, the message to the Afghan people is clear: As you stand up, you will not stand alone.
This morning, I will focus my remarks on recent and upcoming events that have reinforced this message.
On May 2nd, Afghanistan and the United States signed a Strategic Partnership Agreement. It is one of several bilateral agreements Afghanistan has concluded that demonstrates how the international community continues to come together to support Afghanistan as it prepares for the transition in 2014. The agreement provides a long-term framework for relations between Afghanistan and the United States after a responsible drawdown of U.S. forces. It reaffirms the sovereignty, independence, territorial integrity and national unity of Afghanistan. I want to be clear that the United States does not seek any permanent American military bases. The post-2014 U.S. presence will be shaped in close consultation with the Afghan government and will support Afghanistan’s social and economic development, security, institutions and regional cooperation.
This agreement enshrines a range of mutual commitments, including on combating terrorism and strengthening democratic institutions. The United States welcomes a strong Afghan commitment to strengthen accountability, transparency, oversight, and to protect the human rights of all Afghans – men and women. Afghanistan and the United States have taken steps together to show that Afghanistan’s progress will be irreversible and that our commitment is real and enduring.
Mr. President, the Strategic Partnership is just one piece of a larger international effort to work with the Afghans for a successful transition. At the NATO Summit in Chicago in May, world leaders reaffirmed the Lisbon framework for transition in Afghanistan and further outlined the support the Alliance and individual nations will provide to the Afghan military and police after 2014. As the Afghans assume full responsibility for security by the end of 2014, the enemies of the Afghan people should know that there will be steadfast and capable Afghan forces standing against them, with strong NATO support.
President Karzai’s recent announcement of the third of five tranches of areas to transition to Afghan security lead is an important step forward. As transition begins in these areas, nearly 75 percent of the population of Afghanistan will be living in provinces, districts and villages where Afghan forces are beginning to lead. This would not be possible without the growing strength of the Afghan National Security Forces, which remain essential to our shared goal of an Afghanistan that can secure and govern itself. The transition is on track, Afghans are increasingly standing up for their own security and future, and NATO remains united in its support for the Lisbon timetable, and an enduring commitment to Afghanistan.
Mr. President, the region is also supporting Afghanistan through its transition. We applaud the recent “Heart of Asia” Ministerial Conference in Kabul that endorsed “a process of continuous dialogue” and confidence building measures that will contribute to achieving regional peace and stability and we welcome the positive role UNAMA played in helping ensure the conference was a success. Security improvements will also contribute to the sustainable reintegration of returning Afghans and enable economic opportunity. We are encouraged by the success of the UNHCR international conference on Afghan refugees in May and urge the United Nations to continue focusing attention on the needs of “high return” communities to ensure voluntary and sustainable reintegration. And the March Regional Economic Cooperation Conference on Afghanistan in Dushanbe accelerated Afghanistan’s growing connections with its South and Central Asian neighbors. We also applaud the private sector conference being hosted in New Delhi this week to promote investment in Afghanistan’s people and industries.
Mr. President, we look forward to the Tokyo Conference next week, which is an important opportunity for the Afghan government to clearly commit to improve governance and intensify the fight against corruption. These reforms are vital. Afghanistan cannot rely on donor financing indefinitely. Sustainable development requires private investment and improved regional connectivity. And as Afghanistan makes progress on governance and anti-corruption, the United States and the international community will take concrete steps of our own to help, as we promised at Bonn. Despite serious fiscal challenges of our own, our continued investment in Afghanistan is essential, and it should come from both governments and the private sector.
Mr. President, the coming months will be a dynamic time for Afghanistan. The Afghan people, the international community, the UN and UNAMA have been unfaltering in their commitment to Afghanistan. I want to underscore the enduring importance of the United Nations and UNAMA’s work, from its good offices to promote regional cooperation and co-chairing of the Joint Coordination and Monitoring Board to its humanitarian assistance and support for refugees and internally displaced persons. The United Nations has remained steadfastly committed to the Afghan people, and we are grateful.
The Afghan government and people, the region and the international community have demonstrated their resolve and long-term commitment to a secure, stable, and prosperous Afghanistan. The United States will work with all of them, every step of the way.
Thank you, Mr. President.