Ambassador Cherith Norman Chalet
Acting Deputy Permanent Representative
U.S. Mission to the United Nations
New York, New York
March 10, 2020
Thank you, Mr. President.
On February 29th, the United States took a decisive step toward a negotiated peace in Afghanistan with the announcement of a joint declaration with the Afghan government and an agreement with the Taliban. We were pleased to introduce this resolution endorsing the U.S.-Taliban agreement and the U.S.-Afghanistan joint declaration, and we appreciate the Security Council’s support for this resolution and the constructive engagement of all of our colleagues during negotiations. The support and engagement of the international community will continue to be critical in the next steps of the peace process. We are especially grateful to His Highness Sheikh Tamim for Qatar’s support, and the critical role it played in hosting the talks that led to this momentous occasion.
We are eagerly looking forward to the next steps of the peace process, though unfortunately, the presidential electoral process and unacceptably high levels of violence by the Taliban in Afghanistan have not permitted intra-Afghan negotiations to start on time. Prioritizing an inclusive government and unified Afghanistan is paramount for the future of the country and especially for the cause of peace. To that end, we welcome President Ghani’s statement at his inauguration on March 9th that discussions and negotiations will continue for the next two weeks to reach an agreement on an inclusive government – one which unifies the country and prioritizes peace. We also appreciate Dr. Abdullah’s March 9th statement underscoring similar commitments to peace and inclusivity. We hope that all parties will resolve their political differences without resorting to violence and come together to focus on peace. Similarly, President Ghani’s March 10th decree on a Taliban prisoner release in exchange for prisoners held by the Taliban is a significant measure that brings Afghans one step closer to intra-Afghan negotiations. Significantly, the decree means that technical talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government representatives in Doha – as well as actual releases – can start immediately.
All of this brings Afghans closer to the opportunity to chart a political roadmap for their country’s future. For Afghanistan to enjoy international standing, support, and investment, fundamental rights must be safeguarded and championed. We hope the people of Afghanistan seize the opportunity to achieve an historic peace settlement that ends the conflict in Afghanistan; preserves the gains of the last two decades in human rights, basic freedoms, and the meaningful participation of women in political and civil institutions; and ensures that the territory of the Afghan people will never again be used by international terrorists to threaten the world. As part of the agreement endorsed by today’s Security Council resolution, the Taliban has made strong commitments to end its relationships with international terrorists and to prevent any group or individual, including al-Qaida, from using Afghanistan to threaten the security of the United States and our allies. We will be carefully monitoring and tracking Taliban progress and we will continually assess whether the Taliban is living up to its side of the bargain.
Other challenges remain. The current high level of violence by the Taliban is not conducive to advancing the peace process. We acknowledge the Taliban have taken steps to stop attacks in cities and against major bases. But more needs to be done and we urge them to also reduce violence against Afghan forces in the countryside to give intra-Afghan negotiations and peace the opportunity to succeed. Violence at these levels risks drawing both sides into a vicious cycle, serves no one, and undermines peace. As Secretary Pompeo has stated, we expect the Taliban and all Afghans to embrace the progress that has been made for women and girls, and to build on it. A brighter future for Afghanistan needs to honor the dignity and potential of all Afghans, taking care to respect the rights of women and those on the margins of society. With that in mind, the text of today’s Resolution makes clear that the Security Council does not support the restoration of the Islamic Emirate – and most especially its oppressive policies against women, girls, and minorities. We urge the Taliban to learn the negative lessons of the past and be prepared to respect the contributions of all Afghan citizens to the country’s development.
Mr. President, as illustrated by our Joint Declaration with the Government of Afghanistan, the United States will continue to steadfastly support Afghanistan. This occasion does not mark the end of the close U.S. partnership with the government and people of Afghanistan, but a new beginning. After almost two decades and more than a trillion dollars in investment in Afghanistan’s security and development, the United States is not walking away. We will continue to invest in a durable relationship with the Afghan government, including through development and security assistance. We will maintain our engagement with the Afghans to help them achieve a sovereign, unified Afghanistan at peace with itself and its neighbors.
The developments endorsed by this resolution are the product of more than a year of unprecedented U.S. diplomatic engagement with the Taliban, in coordination with our partners in Afghanistan, the region, and around the world. They were made possible by 19 years of military, diplomatic, and economic engagement by NATO and our other coalition partners. We are proud of our achievements. The Afghanistan of today is not the Afghanistan of 2001 and that is because of the sincere efforts of Afghans working hand in hand with their friends in the international community. This is a hopeful moment, but it is only the beginning. The United States is conscious of the long-held desire of the Afghan people for peace. And as we have in the past, we will continue to support the goal of a lasting peace in Afghanistan. We hope that you will join us in doing so as well.