Ambassador Kelly Craft
U.S. Mission to the United Nations
New York, New York
December 17, 2020
Thank you, Mr. President. Special Representative Lyons, it’s always really such a treat to be able to see you; thank you for your briefing and for your leadership role in guiding UNAMA’s support of peace, human rights, and development in Afghanistan. And thank you, Ambassador Djani, for chairing the 1988 Committee these last two years and, of course, thank you for all your hard work on this Council. And thank you to Shkula, for bringing us here in this Council into the digital age as you use social media to engage with young Afghans so they are participating in building a future for themselves in Afghanistan.
Sadly, just like our last session, the people of Afghanistan continue to face terrible violence in their country. The rocket attack on November 21, that killed eight people and wounded over thirty near Kabul’s Green Zone, is one of the latest crimes committed by ISIS. The last few months have also seen barbaric attacks on educational institutions. It’s time for the Government of Afghanistan, the Taliban, and all Afghans to come together against this group.
We also strongly condemn targeted and unlawful attacks on media representatives, religious leaders, human rights defenders, students, and civilians. It is an outrage that women leaders, such as reporter and activist Malala Maiwand, who was gunned down last week, and Mayor Zarifa Ghafari, who survived multiple assassination attempts and then lost her father to assassins.
And of course, Afghan government officials continue to be prime targets, with the senseless assassination on Tuesday of the Deputy Governor of Kabul, and the deputy head of the Ghor Provincial Council.
This violence must stop. This concerning pattern of violence gives the utmost urgency to the need for a comprehensive ceasefire as a critical step toward peace for the Afghan people. An immediate reduction in violence will also help the peace process advance and is what the people of Afghanistan yearn for.
The recent finalization of rules and procedures was a significant step forward and demonstrates the two sides are capable of tackling difficult topics. The first meeting of the Leadership Committee of the High Council for National Reconciliation was a second significant and positive development in recent weeks.
We cannot afford to lose momentum, however, while parties consult on a proposed agenda. We urge the parties to resume talks on January 5 as agreed, to deny spoilers any opportunity to slow the process, and to accelerate their peace efforts and end the country’s long war.
Earlier this year, the Council adopted Resolution 2513 endorsing the U.S.-Taliban agreement, which outlines the prospective timeline for U.S. forces’ withdrawal from Afghanistan. U.S. reductions in posture remain conditions-based per the agreement and will continue to be implemented after consultation with the U.S. Congress and in coordination with our NATO Allies and partners.
Meanwhile, U.S. efforts to stabilize Afghanistan continue through our support to Afghan security forces and our delivery of critical aid to the Afghan people. As a sign of our commitment, the United States pledged $300 million in civilian assistance for 2021 during the 2020 Donors’ Conference, with another $300 million available depending on progress in the peace process. That pledge comes with continuing calls for progress on economic reforms, anti-corruption efforts, and human rights.
We welcome the discussion at the conference of the voluntary return and sustainable reintegration of refugees. We call on Afghanistan to follow through on its plans to support returning refugees, including by allocating land and providing identity documents. Over the last year, the Trump Administration has provided nearly $277 million in humanitarian assistance for internally displaced persons and returnees in Afghanistan, and for Afghan refugees in the region.
Meanwhile, Afghanistan’s humanitarian needs are still growing at an alarming pace, with a record 18.4 million people in the country likely to require humanitarian assistance in 2021 – nearly double the amount a year earlier. Nearly half of Afghanistan’s children under five face acute malnutrition.
This discussion is an important opportunity to keep the international community focused on what lies ahead, and on the need to increase funding for lifesaving humanitarian aid in Afghanistan as UNHCR continues to provide crucial assistance to displaced and returning Afghans.
The United States has also provided more than $33 million for COVID-19 response in Afghanistan. The pandemic has only exacerbated the challenges facing vulnerable groups.
We also remain deeply concerned by the continued exploitation of children in Afghanistan, including through the practice of sexual abuse, known as bacha bazi, and the recruitment and use of child soldiers. Impunity is a major challenge to ending those harmful practices. The U.S. is committed to supporting the Afghan government and civil society in their efforts to hold perpetrators accountable and protect and support victims.
All Afghans, including those negotiating peace, must recognize and respect the universal human rights of people belonging to disadvantaged and marginalized groups in their country, whether they are women, children, or members of ethnic and religious minority groups.
A sincere commitment to inclusion is the foundation for future peace and stability. In this regard, continuing efforts by the UN and other international partners to strengthen Afghan civil society to create a foundation for successful peace talks and democratic institutions so Afghanistan can move forward.
Thank you, Mr. President. Thank you again, Djani, for bringing this forward.