Remarks at a UN Security Council Arria-Formula Meeting on Afghanistan

John Kelley
Political Counselor
New York, New York
November 17, 2022


Thank you. The United States remains committed to supporting the people of Afghanistan amid ongoing economic, humanitarian, and human rights crises.

We believe economic stability is essential and have taken action to promote it: The United States—in coordination with international partners including Switzerland and Afghan economic experts—supported the establishment of the Afghan Fund in September.

This Fund will protect, preserve, and make targeted disbursements of Afghan Central Bank Reserves to help provide greater stability to the Afghan economy while denying resources to the Taliban and other malign actors.

The people of Afghanistan face humanitarian and economic crises borne of decades of conflict, severe drought, COVID-19, and endemic corruption.

The Afghan Fund is a concrete step forward. It ensures that additional resources can be brought to bear to reduce suffering and to improve economic stability for the people of Afghanistan, while continuing to hold the Taliban accountable.

It would be untenable to disburse these funds unconditionally.

The Taliban’s repression and economic mismanagement have exacerbated longstanding economic challenges. The Taliban’s actions have diminished the capacity of key Afghan economic institutions.

The United States is already the largest donor of humanitarian assistance in Afghanistan. In response to dire humanitarian situation, we have worked with the World Bank and Asian Development Bank to make available more than 1 billion dollars in assistance for basic services and other urgent needs, in addition to providing over 1.1 billion dollars in U.S. humanitarian aid directly to implementing partners to support the Afghan people since August 2021.

We call on others to generously support Afghanistan’s humanitarian needs. It is unfortunate that some members of the Security Council put more effort into criticizing U.S. efforts than helping the Afghan people.

Even so, Afghanistan’s economy faces serious structural challenges that no amount of external support can resolve.

The onus is on the Taliban to present and implement a coherent economic plan that supports a private sector-led recovery, welcomes all Afghan workers back to the labor force, and makes critical investments in the infrastructure and human capital necessary for Afghanistan to move forward.

As we all know, the Taliban have severely restricted the enjoyment of human rights for all Afghans, and particularly for women and girls.

Just this weekend, we saw the Taliban take actions to prevent Afghan women from going to parks, gyms, and public baths. These actions are a systematic effort to limit women’s participation in Afghan society.

We are concerned that more unacceptable restrictions may be on the horizon. We are deeply troubled by media reports that the Taliban are potentially planning to restrict women’s access to public and private universities in Afghanistan.

Such restrictions would further rob another generation of women of their prospects to support their families and to contribute to their communities.

Without the full participation of women in the Afghan economy, it will be impossible for Afghanistan to have a full recovery.

When women are cut out of the workforce, society loses talent and productivity from half its population.

According to UNDP, the Taliban have reversed 10 years of economic growth in just 12 months, and their restrictions on women could result in an economic loss of up to 1 billion dollars.

Women could provide lifelines for families facing poverty if they were simply allowed to. They could help create more stable, more resilient communities at a time when those are desperately needed in Afghanistan.

In September, Secretary Blinken announced the launch of the Alliance for Afghan Women’s Economic Resilience.

The Alliance is a public-private partnership that aims to advance Afghan women’s workforce participation, entrepreneurship, and education.

As part of our commitment, we awarded 1.5 million dollars to a platform that will support women’s entrepreneurship.

In August, the United States announced a 30-million-dollar commitment to support gender equality and women’s empowerment in Afghanistan.

In conclusion, the United States remains invested in the future of the Afghan people. We will continue to work with the international community to support a stable, prosperous, and self-reliant Afghanistan that respects the human rights of all its citizens.

The United States has repeatedly stated that the legitimacy and support that the Taliban seeks from the international community begins with the legitimacy they earn from the Afghan people.

We need to remain unified in continuing to watch the Taliban’s actions closely, urging that they respect the fundamental freedoms of all Afghans.