Remarks at a UN Security Council Briefing on Afghanistan

Ambassador Jeffrey DeLaurentis
Senior Advisor for Special Political Affairs
New York, New York
November 17, 2021


Thank you, Mr. President. Special Representative Lyons and Ms. Karim, thank you for your briefings. We appreciate your efforts to draw attention to the plight of the people of Afghanistan as this Council considers the action it should take to better support the country’s peace, security, and stability. I would also like to express our deep appreciation for the tireless work and commitment UNAMA’s national and international staff have shown during the past few months. It’s clear that the UN presence in Afghanistan is more critical than ever. We are deeply grateful for the support UNAMA continues to provide to the Afghan people and the international community through its work.

We meet today as Afghanistan faces immense challenges; among them, a humanitarian crisis of daunting proportions. A variety of factors lay at the root of this crisis – endemic aid dependency exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic; severe drought and the seasonal impact of winter conditions; and decades of prolonged conflict that culminated in a seizure of power through military means instead of a negotiated settlement.

Over the years, the international community – including this Council – made it clear to the Taliban, time and time again, that it was in the Taliban’s own interest to peacefully pursue a political settlement to the conflict in Afghanistan, instead of a battlefield victory. The Taliban chose the latter path, and we are now seeing the terrible consequences of this choice unfold before our eyes.

But the Afghan people should not have to pay twice for the Taliban’s decision. That’s why we must all do our part to address the emerging humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan.

Just last month, the United States announced more than $144 million in additional assistance to Afghans affected by the ongoing humanitarian crisis. This brings our total humanitarian assistance contribution to Afghanistan to $474 million in 2021 alone. We are proud to remain the largest contributor in support of Afghanistan’s humanitarian assistance needs. This assistance will flow through independent humanitarian organizations, including UNICEF, UNHCR, and the World Health Organization, and it will directly support some of the estimated 24 million vulnerable people likely to need assistance in Afghanistan by next year.

We welcome the efforts of agencies like the World Food Program, which is undertaking an immense operation to combat escalating food insecurity in Afghanistan; we are encouraged by its efforts to rapidly scale up its programming month by month to reach millions of people in need.

For international assistance to continue to be effective as needs grow, however, all aid workers – including women staff members – must be permitted to operate independently and safely. Without women staff members, safe and principled humanitarian programming is simply not possible. Humanitarian implementers must also be able to reach all populations in need – including women and girls – without impediments.

Through Resolution 2593, this Council has stressed the need for full, safe, and unhindered access for the United Nations, its specialized agencies and implementing partners, and all humanitarian actors engaged in humanitarian relief activity to all those in need. The United States and our partners will continue to call on the Taliban to live up to the international community’s expectations in this regard.

U.S. aid is, of course, not sufficient to address Afghanistan’s looming needs, and we therefore urge other Member States to increase their assistance to humanitarian efforts in Afghanistan, as well, and thank those who already have.

We are also deeply concerned by the ongoing liquidity shortage, inflation, and other economic factors hampering the delivery of humanitarian assistance in Afghanistan. We welcome creative solutions from the international community to help mitigate these challenges in a way that limits undue benefit to the Taliban and sanctioned individuals.

And although we and many others are rightly seized with Afghanistan’s humanitarian needs, we continue to pay close attention to whether the Taliban is demonstrating compliance with its commitments on counterterrorism, respect for human rights, and inclusivity. Women and girls must be able to participate fully in political, economic, and social life in Afghanistan. This is not a demand unique to the West, or to the United States, or even to the Biden Administration: we are simply demanding that Afghanistan’s women and girls be afforded the ability to enjoy the universal human rights to which all of us are entitled.

There is no excuse for the disruption of women’s and girls’ access to education: all girls – including those in secondary and post-secondary schools – must be allowed and publicly encouraged to return to school immediately. Women also must be allowed to return to their workplaces: allowing half of the country’s workforce to participate in economic life would be a good place to start helping Afghanistan’s economy move in a positive direction.

In light of all of the challenges we have discussed today, the United States looks forward to receiving the Secretary-General’s strategic and operational recommendations for the future of UNAMA’s mandate. The UN’s role in coordinating humanitarian operations, reporting impartially on developments on the ground, and providing crucial good offices is vital now more than ever.

Thank you, Mr. President.