United Nations Security Council Debate: The Situation in Afghanistan

Ministry Statements & Speeches:

Statement as delivered by Gerard van Bohemen, Permanent Representative of New Zealand to the United Nations, December 21, 2015.

Thank you Madam President,

And thank you Special Representative Haysom for your briefing and Ambassador Saikal for your statement.

The situation in Afghanistan is a sobering but compelling demonstration of how hard it is for a country to escape the ravages of civil war, terrorism and the breakdown of civil order – even after years of investment by the international community to defeat the terrorists, rebuild the national security forces and re-establish the basic infrastructure of a state.

As the Secretary-General’s report concludes, and Mr Haysom has reaffirmed, Afghanistan continues to face formidable security, economic and political challenges. Kunduz, a major provincial capital, was captured by the Taleban, albeit for a short period; Kabul continues to come under attack; hundreds of thousands have been killed and wounded. And the fighting has had the multiplying effect of hindering UNAMA and other international actors in Afghanistan from carrying out their work.

As the  Secretary General’s report also implicitly recognises, we have no option but to persevere in the determination that the situation will improve. To take any other course would be to concede to the terrorists and accept the failure of the Afghan state – with all of the consequences that would follow for Afghanistan and the Afghan people, for Afghanistan’s neighbours and the wider international community.

We commend the Afghan Government and the Afghan security forces for continuing to face challenges that must, at times, seem unending and unsurmountable. We welcome also the commitment from nations of the Resolute Support Mission to maintain current levels of support in training, assisting and advising Afghanistan security forces through 2016.

At the same time, we must urge the Government of Afghanistan to do more to cement the institutions of governance and build trust across the various dividing lines of geography, ethnicity and faith. Inclusivity must be the touchstone in re-establishing Afghanistan as a fully functioning state. We urge the Afghan people, including the Taleban, to embrace the reality that their future as a country depends on their overcoming rather than emphasising their divisions.

We endorse Mr Haysom’s exaltations to the Government of Afghanistan to demonstrate greater effectiveness, both in governance and in the delivery of government to the Afghanistan people and in particular in tackling the problem of corruption, that undermines confidence internally and externally. And we urge Afghanistan’s neighbours to embrace the reality that there can be no stability in the region without a peaceful and stable Afghanistan. We welcome the momentum in the Heart of Asia – Istanbul Process and urge participants to carry forward the progress of the most recent meeting in Islamabad.

Madam President,

I want to draw attention to three specific matters:

  • The growing threat of ISIL
  • The importance of the Taleban Sanctions regime in promoting peace and discouraging those who have no interest in peace
  • And the continuing threat posed by improvised explosive devices and the need for stronger response to that threat.

It was perhaps inevitable that ISIL would establish a presence in Afghanistan, whether by deliberate strategy or by Afghan groups seeking to take on their depraved aura. Whatever the motivation, those that associate with ISIL exclude themselves from any political dialogue and must be treated in the same manner as ISIL adherents in Iraq, Syria and elsewhere. It is important that we heed the call of the Security Council in resolution 2253 adopted last week, for Member States to forward listing requests for ISIL affiliates to the ISIL (Da’esh) and Al-Qaida Sanctions Committee. The framework and tools are there to target these groups. Their effectiveness depends on Member States using them.

The Taleban sanctions regime has more nuanced purposes; it seeks to encourage those members of the Taleban who are prepared to reconcile with the Government and to eschew links with listed international terrorists, while at the same time seeking to isolate those who continue to constitute a threat to the peace, stability and security of Afghanistan.

With respect to the first element, I note that the resolution adopted today clarifies the procedures for exemptions to the travel ban for peace talks. As Chair of the 1988 Sanctions Committee, I urge full use of those procedures and look forward to close coordination with the Sanctions Committee in their implementation. With regard to the second element, I urge member states to make full use of the listing procedures to list individuals associated with the Taleban who profit from ongoing instability. This is especially important in the effort to counter the narcotics trade.

As the Secretary-General reminds us, IEDs remain one of the biggest killers of Afghan security forces and civilians, including children. The resolution adopted today notes the problem, including the need for enhanced coordination between Member States and industry. But in New Zealand’s view that is not enough. We are disappointed that, unlike the General Assembly, the Security Council could not agree on stronger action to more effectively target the IED problem. In negotiations we proposed to incorporate component parts in the arms embargo. Regrettably that was not taken up. As Chair, I look forward to discussing what more our sanctions committee can do to address this insidious and devastating threat.

Lastly, Madam President,

We commend Mr Haysom and the staff of UNAMA for their dedication and commitment to Afghanistan and to the United Nations.

Thank you.


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