Remarks at a UN Security Council Briefing on Afghanistan

Ambassador Cherith Norman Chalet
U.S. Representative for UN Management and Reform
U.S. Mission to the United Nations
New York City
July 26, 2019


Thank you, Mr. President. We also join colleagues today in expressing condolences to the government of Tunisia for the passing of their President, but also to the victim’s families for the senseless attacks in Kabul yesterday.

Deputy Secretary-General Mohammed, it’s good to see you here in the Council, and thank you for your briefing and for the continued hard work the UN undertakes to support peace, human rights, and economic development in Afghanistan. As you have noted in your remarks, women have a critical role to play in supporting the development of a comprehensive and sustainable peace agreement in Afghanistan. We also appreciate the updates provided by the Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, Rosemary Dicarlo, and the statement highlighting critical issues by Ms. Jamila Afghani.

This week, President Trump reiterated that there is no military solution to the decades-long war in Afghanistan. Now is the time to seize the opportunity to end the war.

U.S. efforts are focused on achieving an inclusive political settlement that ends the war in Afghanistan. As we seek a negotiated political settlement to the Afghan conflict, the United States continues to support bringing Afghans together at the negotiating table to decide the future of their own country – one that is inclusive of women, representatives from opposition parties, civil society, and minority groups.

Let me reaffirm that the United States does not seek a withdrawal agreement. Rather, we are committed to pursuing a comprehensive peace agreement that would guarantee Afghanistan never again becomes a platform for transnational terrorism.

The United States and the Taliban reached an agreement, in principle, in January that any comprehensive peace agreement must address four interconnected issues: counterterrorism, foreign troop presence, intra-Afghan dialogue leading to intra-Afghan negotiations, and a permanent and comprehensive ceasefire. We have continued to talk in more detail about these issues with the Taliban, most recently in Doha last month.

We have been clear that we are not negotiating, nor will we negotiate, with the Taliban on behalf of the government or the people of Afghanistan.

While the Taliban negotiations are continuing, we have been conducting parallel talks with the Afghan government. Our goal is to facilitate an intra-Afghan negotiation so Afghans themselves can reach a political settlement and chart a peaceful and prosperous path for their country.

In June, during his visit to Kabul, Secretary Pompeo set an ambitious target date of September 1 for the Taliban and Afghans to reach a framework agreement through negotiations.

Peace is our priority, and it must not wait for the Afghan presidential election scheduled for September 28. At the same time, we continue to press the Afghan government and electoral institutions to take all steps necessary to be prepared to hold a credible election.

Special Representative Khalilzad is currently in Kabul for consultations with the Afghan government on next steps in the peace process, including identifying a national negotiating team that can participate in intra-Afghan negotiations. Special Representative Khalilzad has continuously advocated for Afghan women to be included in these negotiations.

Not only should Afghan women have a seat at the negotiating table, they should have meaningful participation and a role in decision-making, as has been said by others this morning and reiterated by Ms. Afghani. Representative Khalilzad is also continuing his engagement with representatives of civil society, including peace advocates and women’s rights groups, to further encourage broad participation in the peace process.

Afghans, men and women, are already coming together in support of peace. The July 7 to 8 Intra-Afghan Conference for Peace hosted in Doha, Qatar, and with the critical support from Germany, marked a positive step forward toward an inclusive dialogue among all Afghan national stakeholders. We were encouraged that women made up nearly 25 percent of non-Taliban participants at this crucial conference.

The strong presence and engagement of Afghan women at the recent talks reflects the gains Afghanistan has made in the last 18 years. In 2001, conditions for women in Afghanistan were dire. Access to education was limited, with fewer than 900,000 children in schools and almost no girls registered.

Today, nine million children, including over 3.5 million girls, attend primary and secondary school. An additional 100,000 women are also studying at public and private universities. Women today make up 27 percent of civil service employees in Afghanistan. They have served in key cabinet positions – including as Ministers of Public Health, Women’s Affairs, Counternarcotics, and Mining, and now here in New York as Permanent Representative to the UN.

The United States shares the desire of Afghans and the international community to protect these gains and our shared investment. We remain committed to all Afghans who support human rights, including the rights of women and girls and ethnic minorities.

As Afghans continue to pursue peace, planning for a timely and credible presidential election continues. Preparations for the presidential election – including the publication of the final voter list, printing of ballots, and recruitment and training of poll workers – is continuing apace.

Donors are also contributing $59 million of the $149 million election budget, including approximately $29 million from the United States. We continue to urge the Afghan government, the Independent Election Commission, and all political stakeholders to take all necessary steps to ensure the elections are credible.

In closing, allow me to note that, in line with the U.S. Strategy on Women, Peace, and Security, we will continue efforts to put women at the center of our diplomacy and development efforts in Afghanistan – protecting women in conflict and supporting women’s meaningful participation in the peace process. We will do this because it has been proven that women’s participation in peace processes result in more sustainable and long lasting agreements. This effort is supported by the historic legislation on women, peace, and security signed by President Trump in October 2017, making the United States the first country in the world with a comprehensive law on this issue.

Let me again express our appreciation to the UN and other international partners for their support in strengthening the legitimacy of Afghanistan’s electoral process, and in supporting Afghanistan’s peace process.

Thank you very much.