Thank you Mr. President. Foreign Minister Rassoul, welcome back and thank you for your remarks. Special Representative Kubis, thank you again for all you do and for your briefing. And I want to extend, through you, again, our thanks to the staff of UNAMA and the whole country team for your dedicated work under very difficult circumstances.
Mr. President, since we last met, the international community has further demonstrated its commitment to the Afghan people beyond 2014. As recent events have shown, the transition is on track and our commitment to Afghanistan is enduring.
On July 7, President Obama officially designated Afghanistan a major non-NATO ally of the United States. This is a powerful symbol of our commitment to Afghanistan’s future.
Afghanistan and its international partners have charted a responsible transition, which will transfer full responsibility for security back to Afghanistan. The Afghan National Security Forces continue to grow in size and capability. The ANSF remains on track to reach 352,000 personnel later this year. Two-thirds of all of those who serve in uniform defending Afghanistan are now Afghans, and over half of the Afghan population is protected by a predominantly Afghan force. We look forward to full implementation of tranche three of the transition later this year, at which point 75 percent of the Afghan population, including every provincial capital, will be in the transition process. As pledged at the NATO Summit in Chicago in May, the international community will support the ANSF beyond 2014.
While we applaud these developments, we recognize that many challenges remain, including so-called insider attacks. The reasons for these attacks vary, but we are working closely with the Government of Afghanistan on a range of measures to stop them. We have not and will not allow these attacks to undermine international efforts to strengthen the Afghan National Security Forces and put them increasingly in the lead.
We know Afghanistan’s security depends not only on strong, capable security forces, but also on the Afghan people’s access to economic opportunity and on whether they believe their government is effectively serving their needs. The international community’s total pledges in Tokyo of $16 billion in economic assistance through 2015 meet the World Bank’s estimate of Afghanistan’s requirements, just as Chicago met its security requirements. This assistance will help Afghanistan to attract private sector investment and help usher in a Transformation Decade marked less by aid and more by trade – all in a framework of mutual accountability and shared responsibility. We welcome President Karzai’s decree last month aimed at tackling corruption in Afghanistan’s institutions and his recent comments on reforming the justice sector. Both are necessary to strengthen the rule of law and attract more trade and investment. Nothing offers a more credible alternative to insurgency than the jobs and opportunities that accompany foreign investment and the expansion of markets.
As Afghanistan develops, we see it at the center of a region whose integration will bring greater prosperity for Afghans and their neighbors. This New Silk Road is already emerging. Electricity from Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan is powering Afghan businesses. Trains are running on a new rail line from the Uzbek border to Mazar-e-Sharif. The TAPI pipeline could one day ship billions of dollars worth of natural gas from Central Asia across Afghanistan to South Asia. The help of Afghanistan’s neighbors and near-neighbors is necessary for Afghanistan to become secure, stable, and prosperous. We are pleased to see this vision beginning to come to fruition through the Istanbul Process and various regional and trade agreements.
To be sustainable, improved security and greater economic development must rest on a foundation of good governance. Credible and broadly inclusive elections in 2014 and 2015 will bolster the legitimacy of the government in Kabul, vest Afghans in its success and send a message to all Afghan factions that their interests are better advanced through political participation rather than violence. The protection of the rights of Afghan women is essential to Afghanistan’s future. We strongly condemn all violence against women and are troubled by recent reports that underscore the seriousness of the problem. The United States continues to work with the Afghan government, civil society and the international community to increase awareness of women’s rights, prevent abuse and detention of women and girls, and hold perpetrators of such violence accountable. We support the UN in Afghanistan’s continuing efforts to establish and expand protection and shelter services for victimized women.
Mr. President, the United Nations’ support for the Afghan people and the country’s transition has been indispensible. From supporting regional diplomacy and the political process to coordinating between the Afghan government and donors, and implementing the agreements of the Kabul process and the Tokyo Framework, UNAMA will continue to play a critical role in Afghanistan moving forward. The United States appreciates the UN’s development and humanitarian assistance contributions in Afghanistan, as exemplified by the UNHCR’s important work on the Solutions Strategy for Afghan Refugees. We look forward to further discussions on how the UN’s role will evolve to support the Afghan people following the security transition. And we trust that UNAMA will consult closely with the Government of Afghanistan, the members of this Council, and regional partners as it continues planning.
Mr. President, the Afghan people, their leaders and the region are the ones who must ultimately make the hard choices that will shape their future. As they do, the United States will continue to support them and welcome the valuable contributions of the United Nations in shaping this process. Thank you.