Remarks at a UN Security Council Briefing and Consultations on Afghanistan

Ambassador Jeffrey DeLaurentis
Acting Alternate Representative for Special Political Affairs
U.S. Mission to the United Nations
New York, New York
March 2, 2022


Thank you, Madam President.

Special Representative Lyons, thank you for your briefing, and to your team at UNAMA for their work and commitment. Thank you, Ms. Safi, for your intervention and perspective. The United States remains firmly in support of UNAMA and its mission: we welcome the Secretary-General’s recommendations for UNAMA’s strategic objectives and priorities moving forward.

I want to express my sorrow for the polio workers who were killed last week in Afghanistan while carrying out their lifesaving work. We condemn these horrific attacks unequivocally, and extend our deepest condolences to the families, friends, and colleagues of those killed. We are further saddened that children in Kunduz and Takhar provinces will suffer without access to the critical services these workers hoped to provide.

As this Council considers how to approach the renewal of UNAMA’s mandate, the United States underscores our strong support for UNAMA’s good offices; human rights monitoring reporting functions; humanitarian coordination role; child and civilian protection activities; and work to promote the full, equal, and meaningful participation of women in all aspects of public life.

The need for the international community to support and adequately resource the UN’s humanitarian efforts also remains of the utmost urgency. The United States remains the largest donor of funding to the UN’s humanitarian operations in Afghanistan, and we already have contributed more than $308 million to this year’s Humanitarian Response Plan and Regional Refugee Response Plan.

But the scale of the current humanitarian crisis demands much more support from the international community than any of us alone can provide. That’s why we’re urging donors to contribute generously to these efforts during the pledging summit Germany, the United Kingdom, and the UN will co-host later this month.

That’s also why we have worked with the World Bank and Asian Development Bank to transfer hundreds of millions of dollars out of their Afghanistan-related funds to support the work of UN organizations in Afghanistan. We expect the multilateral development banks to issue more support to these lines of efforts in the coming months.

We cannot forget that Afghanistan’s humanitarian crisis is inextricable from the broader economic challenges facing the country resulting from the Taliban’s decision to seek power by force rather than through negotiation. The United States has taken several concrete measures to help address these challenges in recent weeks.

On February 11, President Biden signed an Executive Order on protecting certain Afghan central bank assets held in the United States and simultaneously requested relief from the court to make them available for the benefit of the Afghan people.

Certainly, no decision has been made about how these protected funds will eventually be used to benefit the Afghan people. But any disposition of these funds will have to be made through close and meaningful consultations with a wide variety of stakeholders including Afghan economic and technical experts, civil society, and international organizations on how these funds can be used most effectively to address Afghanistan’s economic and humanitarian needs.

Our courts will also have to determine how much – if any – of the remainder of the assets held in the United States should go under U.S. law to victims of terrorism who hold judgments against the Taliban.

However, without this Executive Order and accompanying actions, all of the reserves subject to U.S. jurisdiction would have remained inaccessible to the Afghan people for the foreseeable future in light of established safeguards and these funds’ attachment to ongoing litigation by victims of terrorism.

Madam President, it seems that these steps do not satisfy our Chinese colleagues. We have listened time and time again to their criticism of U.S. actions in various meetings we’ve had on Afghanistan. It’s a pity that China spends more time criticizing U.S. actions, than focusing on helping the Afghan people themselves. China’s the second largest contributor to the UN. What China has done to help the people of Afghanistan, or contribute to regional security, does not match that standing.

Madam President, we also continue to take steps to implement UN Security Council Resolution 2615, which this body passed in December of last year. Just last week, our Treasury Department issued General License 20 to ensure that U.S. sanctions do not stand in the way of the commercial transactions or institutional engagement necessary for providing aid to and addressing the basic human needs of the Afghan people.

Let me be clear: all these measures should not belie the fact that the onus is on the Taliban to create the conditions needed for Afghanistan to achieve economic stability. We want to see the Da Afghanistan Bank get to a position where it takes normal central bank activity back on, for example – but whether it can do so, is frankly, not up to us.

Moreover, our attention to Afghanistan’s immense humanitarian and economic needs cannot distract us from continuing to demand that women, girls, and members of minority groups be fully able to enjoy their rights and participate in political, economic, and social life in Afghanistan.

As public schools reopen throughout Afghanistan this month, we will be watching carefully to see if girls and women are able to access education at all levels, as the Taliban have publicly committed. Girls have been denied the right to access education for too long now.

We call on the Taliban to put an end to reprisal killings and forced disappearances, as well as to respect freedom of expression, including for members of the media, and freedom of peaceful assembly.

I thank you.