Remarks at a UN Security Council Briefing on Afghanistan

Trina Saha
Acting Minister Counselor for Political Affairs
New York, New York
June 23, 2022


Thank you, Under-Secretary-General Griffiths and Deputy SRSG Alakbarov, for your presentations. And thank you Ms. Royan and Ms. Hakim for your valuable perspectives. We welcome the work of civil society organizations to improve the lives of Afghans in need, and of the journalists who shine a light on the challenges they face.

Our hearts go out to the victims of yesterday’s horrific earthquake in Paktika and Khost Provinces. This disaster is a devastating blow to a population that is already suffering gravely, and we call for urgent donor assistance to relief efforts.

This is a perilous moment for Afghanistan. As Ms. Royan and Ms. Hakim indicated, space for members of the media to do their work is shrinking, while threats facing members of religious and ethnic minority groups are on the rise. We have been alarmed by the resumption of fighting and reports of abuses against civilians in various parts of Afghanistan, including in Panjshir. And this Council has had to meet twice since our last public meeting on the situation in Afghanistan to address the actions the Taliban has taken to restrict the rights and freedoms of Afghan women and girls.

Ms. Hakim, thank you for elevating the voices of women like Sheila, Mariza, and Farizha. Afghans from all walks of life, Islamic scholars, and ordinary people all over the world have decried the decrees the Taliban has issued depriving women and girls of their dignity. The United States joins these voices in our unequivocal condemnation of the Taliban’s March 23 announcement forbidding girls from returning to secondary schools throughout most of the country, and of the May 7 decree imposing further restrictions on women and girls.

When the Taliban takes steps to fulfill its commitments, we’ll welcome those actions. For example, we welcome the Taliban’s ban on narcotics as a positive first step towards the establishment of a lawful agricultural sector – recognizing, of course, that follow-through will be key.

But the UN Security Council has been clear and unanimous: If the Taliban wants to normalize its relations with the international community, it needs to reverse the steps it’s taken to exclude women from social, political, and economic life – immediately. Our expectations are simple and grounded in the founding principles of the UN system: All Afghans should be able to speak, practice their faith, and learn without fear. Each and every one of them is entitled to equal access to education, employment, and participation in public life.

Ms. Royan, thank you for sharing the stories of those who could no longer share them and speak for themselves. Allowing Afghans to enjoy their human rights and fundamental freedoms isn’t only what the Afghan people deserve and part of what the Taliban needs to do to gain legitimacy and recognition from the international community. It’s a prerequisite for a stable, prosperous Afghanistan. Afghan history has also made it clear, and as the Deputy SRSG mentioned, ruling by decree in an exclusionary fashion is a recipe for instability – and yet the Taliban still has not embraced other Afghan constituencies in its approach to leadership. It’s no wonder, then, that Afghans’ humanitarian needs remain severe, even if the international community’s support has helped stave off the worst of humanitarian disasters over the last year.

That’s why the United States remains the world’s leading humanitarian donor in Afghanistan and source of funds for UN operations in Afghanistan more broadly. As part of our commitment to the humanitarian response in Afghanistan, we’ve spearheaded a variety of additional steps to facilitate the flow of humanitarian assistance to and commercial activity in Afghanistan. We are proud to have championed Resolution 2615 last December, which established a humanitarian carveout to facilitate the critical delivery of aid to support the basic needs of the Afghan people. We’ve also clarified that financial institutions, NGOs, international organizations, and private sector companies can engage in wide-ranging financial transactions and economic activities to benefit the people of Afghanistan, while still complying with U.S. sanctions.

But food insecurity in Afghanistan remains grave. As Under-Secretary-General Griffiths noted, nearly half the population is food insecure. The UN’s 2022 Humanitarian Response Plan has only been partially funded. Yesterday’s earthquake highlights the vulnerability of the Afghan people and underscores the dire need for continued humanitarian assistance. We’ve announced more than $720 million in humanitarian assistance for Afghanistan since August 2021, and we urge others in the international community to do their part in stepping up to provide the assistance needed to meet the dire funding shortfall.

In concert with the international community, we also urge the Taliban to follow through on its stated commitments relating to counterterrorism and safe passage. UNAMA continues to play a crucial role, as always, in support of the Afghan people’s many and varied needs. We thank the team at UNAMA for their ongoing work and commitment to implementing their mandate. And we would like to take this opportunity to applaud and recognize the leadership and dedication of Ambassador Deborah Lyons upon the conclusion of her service as Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of UNAMA.

The United States remains ever committed to supporting the people of Afghanistan.

Thank you.