Special Representative Yamamoto, thank you for your briefing and for the courageous dedication of the entire UNAMA team to support governance, development, and reconciliation in Afghanistan.
I want to begin by offering our deepest condolences to victims of the recent violence in Kabul and to their families. These events are a sad reminder of the unacceptable toll that conflict continues to take on innocent Afghans.
The May 31st bombing sought to divide the Afghan government, people, and Afghanistan’s international partners. As armed groups inflict suffering on innocent civilians, our resolve to stand with the people and government of Afghanistan in pursuing a peaceful resolution to the conflict and stability in Afghanistan will not waver.
The United States is reviewing our engagement in Afghanistan and our security posture. It is appropriate to take the time to make sure that we are carrying forward our commitment to Afghanistan in the most effective way possible. While the review continues, there is no question that the United States remains wholly engaged in supporting the Afghan government diplomatically and militarily and supporting the development of the Afghan security forces, including through the NATO-led Resolute Support Mission; continuing the generous provision of civilian assistance; doing our part diplomatically to strengthen the international and regional consensus; and working to advance an Afghan peace process.
This leads me to a point I want to make about the political process in Afghanistan. The first meeting of the Kabul Process for Peace and Security Cooperation, convened by the Afghan government on June 6th, reaffirmed the commitment of Afghanistan, its neighbors in the region, and the international community to support an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned political process to achieve peace in Afghanistan. The United States joined with the 27 countries and organizations represented at this meeting to call on armed and extremist groups to announce an immediate end to their attacks and for their entry into peace talks with the Afghanistan government.
In this context, we commend the Afghan government for its continued commitment to an inclusive, Afghan-led peace process, despite continuing attacks. Progress in implementing the peace agreement with Hezb-i Islami gives us hope for similar progress toward a peaceful resolution of the conflict with the Taliban. Peace talks are essential; there is no military solution that will bring a durable peace. The path toward a negotiated settlement is available; the Taliban must choose to take that path.
In fact, a durable peace and genuine stability in Afghanistan can only come with Afghanistan’s neighbors and near-neighbors being committed to these goals. We welcome the commitments made during the Kabul Process meetings, and call upon Afghanistan’s neighbors to unconditionally cease their support for armed and violent extremist groups.
These commitments are important right now. The Taliban, including the Haqqani Network, ISIS affiliates, and other armed groups, are increasing attacks, killing and injuring thousands of Afghans and delaying the progress that Afghanistan so desperately needs. And while development assistance remains robust, a precipitous drop in domestic and foreign direct investment has stalled the private sector-led growth that Afghanistan needs to employ its youth, reduce poverty, and provide hope to communities.
In the context of these and other challenges Afghanistan continues to face, we strongly support the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan, UNAMA, as an essential partner of Afghanistan and the international community. UNAMA plays a critical role in supporting peace and reconciliation, empowering women, defending the human rights of all Afghans, and coordinating humanitarian assistance. We look forward to the completion next month of the Secretary-General’s strategic review and to discussing ways to strengthen the mission’s efficiency, cost effectiveness, and core competencies.