Remarks at a UN Security Council Briefing on Afghanistan

Ambassador Jeffrey DeLaurentis
Senior Advisor for Special Political Affairs
New York, New York
September 27, 2022


Thank you, Madam President. We thank Executive Director Waly, Deputy Representative Potzel, and Ms. Koofi for their presentations. We also thank newly appointed Special Representative of the Secretary-General Roza Otunbayeva for accepting the Secretary-General’s call to lead UNAMA at this critical juncture. The leadership and staff of UNAMA deserve special praise for their tireless efforts in Afghanistan.

The Secretary-General’s most recent quarterly report makes clear the dire implications of the Taliban’s takeover: The security situation is deteriorating. The Taliban have restricted most human rights for women and girls, refusing to let girls go to school past sixth grade. Afghanistan’s economy continues to decline. And the already overwhelming humanitarian needs are growing.

On the security situation, two deadly terrorist attacks have occurred in Herat and Kabul since this Council last met to discuss Afghanistan. We condemn these heinous acts of terrorism.

These events, coupled with the recent revelation that the Taliban was sheltering the leader of al-Qa’ida, underscore the importance of remaining clear-eyed in our dealings with the Taliban.

On human rights for women and girls, we must recognize that September 17 marked one year since the Taliban banned girls from attending secondary school. Indeed, the United States regrets that some members prevented this Council from acknowledging this reprehensible milestone more formally.

A Taliban spokesperson recently affirmed to an international news outlet that Islam grants women the right to education, work, and entrepreneurship. The spokesperson then claimed the Taliban first needs to create a so-called “safe environment” for women and girls in the workplace and in schools. We saw a similar media report along these lines this morning. But we need action, not words. Let me remind the Taliban that Afghan girls attended secondary school for two decades until one year ago. During that time, the primary threat they faced was from the Taliban.

The United States and most other members of this Council are merely echoing what Afghan parents have already told the Taliban. Afghan parents in many provinces are in the streets demanding that schools be reopened to their daughters. The Taliban should listen.

In the past month, Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield and I have met several different groups of Afghan women. They told us that not all Council members have accepted their invitations to meet since the Taliban takeover. All Council members should listen, too.

For our part, we are doing everything we can to assist Afghan women and girls in light of the Taliban’s destructive polices. Last week, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced the launch of the Alliance for Afghan Women’s Economic Resilience. The Alliance will foster career-enhancing educational and entrepreneurial opportunities for Afghan women living in Afghanistan and third countries. We ask that Council members join us in pursuing creative ways to support all Afghans during this particularly harrowing time.

The United States is taking action to address Afghanistan’s dire economic situation, as well. This month, in coordination with international partners and Afghan economic experts, we announced the establishment of the Afghan Fund – a fund to benefit the people of Afghanistan. The Afghan Fund will protect, preserve, and make targeted disbursements of $3.5 billion in Afghan Central Bank reserves to provide greater stability to the Afghan economy. Robust safeguards are in place to prevent the funds from being used for illicit activity.

Some Council members, as we have just heard, have made it a sport to criticize our efforts. Let me repeat what we have said before: In light of what we know about the Taliban’s apparently renewed willingness to harbor the leader of al-Qa’ida, no country that is serious about containing terrorism in Afghanistan would advocate giving the Taliban ready access to $3.5 billion in Afghan Central Bank assets at this time. We believe Council members’ attention would be better spent on what more they can to do address the ongoing humanitarian and economic crises in Afghanistan.

For our part, the United States, just four days ago, announced an additional nearly $327 million in humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan to respond to the ongoing crisis. This additional funding brings U.S. humanitarian assistance for Afghanistan to more than $1.1 billion since August 2021.

We will continue to focus these discussions on what Council members can do to help Afghanistan. The United States has stepped up. We have contributed over $1 billion in humanitarian assistance since last August, passed seven general licenses, and championed a Security Council resolution explicitly designed to enable relief organizations to meet needs, and worked with international financial institutions to make available another $1.5 billion for basic services in Afghanistan.

We remain deeply committed to providing essential assistance to the Afghan people, and we will continue to work closely with UNAMA to aid the Afghan people now and in the future.

Let me just say to my Russian colleague that you were chased out of Afghanistan in the 1990s, so you are really not in the position to lecture us, or anyone else, how to go about your affairs. You had a security blanket, free of charge, for 20 years while we were there. And I know you would like nothing more for our troops to be bogged down in Afghanistan. As you have said many times, it’s your neighborhood, and now you need to step up.

And I don’t mind saying that the last time we had this discussion, your Representative could only claim supposed “industrial achievements” from the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan as Russia’s contribution to the Afghan people in this current time of need. Let me repeat: You need to step up.

Thank you, Madam President.