Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield
U.S. Representative to the United Nations
New York, New York
August 30, 2021
Thank you, Mr. President. Today’s resolution establishes three clear expectations regarding the future of Afghanistan.
First, the Security Council expects the Taliban to live up to its commitment to facilitate safe passage for Afghans and foreign nationals who want to leave Afghanistan, whether it’s today, tomorrow, or after August 31. Consistent with the right to leave any country, including one’s own, everybody must be allowed to safely leave Afghanistan, for whatever reason, whenever they want, by air or by land. This is of the utmost importance to us.
Sadly, the United States is grieving the loss of 13 young servicemembers who made the ultimate sacrifice while diligently working to help people depart the country in safety. We are also mourning the hundreds of Afghans who were killed or injured during the attack outside of the Kabul airport. They went to the airport in search of a better life. The international community and those in Afghanistan must honor their memory by doing everything we can to continue to help those who wish to leave.
As of this morning, the United States has facilitated the evacuation of more than 122,000 American citizens, foreign nationals, and at-risk Afghans out of Afghanistan since the end of July. So many have made this possible. Our courageous servicemembers. Our tireless diplomats. And dozens of countries, including many on this Council. Our allies and partners around the world have contributed to the airlift, serving as transit countries, and some resettling Afghan refugees permanently. We are grateful to all who have joined forces in this remarkable effort.
Second, the resolution makes the Security Council’s enduring commitment to assisting those who remain in Afghanistan crystal clear. It underscores that all parties need to facilitate humanitarian assistance, and that humanitarian actors be given full, safe, and unhindered access to continue service delivery to those in need. The Afghan people are suffering not just from conflict and massive internal displacement, but also from a nationwide drought and the COVID-19 pandemic. UN agencies are warning that humanitarian needs in the coming months will be vast.
The UN Refugee Agency estimates that nearly a half million Afghans have been internally displaced this year alone. The World Food Program estimates that 14 million people in Afghanistan are at risk of starving without food assistance. And UNICEF has reported that COVID-19 vaccinations have dropped by 80 percent in recent weeks. Vital humanitarian assistance must flow to people in desperate need.
Third, the resolution reiterates in strong terms several of the Council’s enduring calls regarding the situation in Afghanistan. Today, we have spoken once again on the urgent need to tackle the serious threat of terrorism in Afghanistan. Last week’s horrific attack in Kabul demonstrated the very real threat that terrorist groups like ISIS-K pose. President Biden has made clear that we will do what’s necessary to defend our security and our people. And the entire international community is committed to ensuring that Afghanistan is never again a safe haven for terrorism.
Through this resolution, the Security Council has also reiterated the vital importance of respect for the rights of Afghanistan’s people, including its women, girls, and minorities. We will not waver on this point. Respect for the rights of all the people of Afghanistan goes hand-in-hand with the need for parties to engage in an inclusive, negotiated settlement to bring stability to Afghanistan, which the Council also emphasizes through this resolution.
As Afghanistan enters the next chapter, it is imperative that the international community remain unified and resolute, including in holding the Taliban accountable for its commitments. One such commitment, which the Taliban has made publicly and privately, is that those who wish to leave Afghanistan will be able to do so. Today’s resolution signals just how seriously the Security Council takes that commitment – along with the commitments to allow humanitarian aid to flow and prevent terrorism.
Through this resolution, the Security Council has issued a set of calls that are clear, necessary, and in the interests of Afghanistan’s people. Moving forward, we must address the most pressing security threats, stand up for the rights of the Afghan people, and lay the groundwork for a stable and inclusive Afghanistan. The people of Afghanistan deserve nothing less.
Thank you, Mr. President.