I thank Special Representative Yamamoto for his briefing. And I’m particularly grateful to Afghan Youth Representative Ramiz Bakhtiar for sharing the critical and important perspective of youth and civil society in Afghanistan and especially regarding their upcoming elections.
Last week, a man wearing a vest armed with explosives walked into a crowd protesting a corrupt local police commander in eastern Afghanistan. The man blew himself up and killed around 70 other people. Hundreds more were wounded.
Earlier that same day, a 14-year-old boy was killed and four others wounded when two bombs went off in front of a school in Jalalabad.
This is the dangerous and difficult situation UNAMA and the people of Afghanistan confront as Afghanistan approaches parliamentary elections in October.
Violent extremist groups are attempting to sow fear and distrust among the Afghan people. No doubt, their attacks will intensify. It seems they would like to return to the zero-sum, tribal violence of the civil war in the 1990s which paved the way for the tyrannical rule of the Taliban.
The United States fully supports and hopes for timely, credible, and transparent parliamentary elections in Afghanistan on October 20, as well as subsequent elections when the Afghan people will choose their president in April of 2019.
But timely and credible elections won’t come about easily. Building a democracy necessarily involves creating trust and confidence among the people in the integrity of the system, along with belief in the ability and willingness of those who are elected to improve the lives of the people.
As a first step in this process, there must be voter registration that is as accurate and transparent as possible – ensuring that women have the opportunity to participate and have their voices heard. And, most fundamentally, it depends on the safety of those who would campaign, register, and vote in the elections.
Today, preparations for the parliamentary and presidential elections in Afghanistan are at a critical stage. UNAMA plays an essential role in supporting Afghanistan’s electoral commissions as they prepare for the vote. We want to specifically recognize and thank Special Representative Yamamoto and his team for their hard work under very difficult conditions.
As part of the preparation for timely and credible elections, the United States welcomes the efforts by the Afghan government to advance a peace process with the Taliban.
The people of Afghanistan are calling for peace. President Ghani has responded to their call. The ball is now in the Taliban’s court. They must come to the table and enter into peace talks without pre-conditions.
The Taliban face a decision. They can grow obsolete in the old Afghanistan, or they can thrive in the new one.
Not just the Taliban, but all us of are at an inflection point in the Afghan conflict. A prosperous and secure future for Afghanistan can only be created by and through the will of its people.
This is the goal to which the Security Council, international donors, and the international community more broadly must devote themselves in the critical weeks and months ahead.