Remarks at a UN Security Council Briefing on the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA)

Ambassador Michele J. Sison
U.S. Deputy Permanent Representative to the United Nations
U.S. Mission to the United Nations
New York City
December 21, 2017


Thank you, Special Representative Yamamoto and briefers.

Earlier this week, President Trump unveiled a new U.S. national security strategy, which embodies the concept of principled realism. And nowhere is this approach more evident than with this administration’s regional strategy toward Afghanistan. The strategy demonstrates clearly this administration’s commitment to Afghanistan and a peaceful future for the region.

The American people are justifiably impatient with the conflict in Afghanistan, which has been ongoing for sixteen years now. The president’s policy makes it clear that the United States does not seek a permanent military presence in Afghanistan. We will continue to support the Afghan government and security forces in their fight against al-Qa’ida, ISIS, and the Taliban. We will continue to work to ensure that terrorists do not exploit Afghanistan’s territory as a safe haven. But, critically, our support will not come with an artificial time limit. We will instead base our support on a realistic assessment of conditions on the ground.

The additional military resources and authorities ordered by President Trump are having an impact on the battlefield. The United States, working closely with our Afghan partners, has made significant progress against ISIS in eastern Afghanistan. Together, we have maintained persistent pressure on ISIS, significantly reducing its territory and eliminating one-third of its fighters. Enhanced U.S. support has also bolstered the confidence and ability of our Afghan partners. For the first time since 2014, the fighting season has passed without the Taliban threatening to seize a provincial capital.

The United States does not intend to prolong the war through its military gains, but rather to accelerate the peace. We are committed to an Afghan-owned peace process. Our strategy recognizes that the path to peace is through negotiations. The Taliban and other spoilers cannot win on the battlefield. Our actions on the battlefield make that plain. Peace will only come through a political settlement that results in the Taliban abandoning violence, cutting ties with international terrorism, and accepting the Afghan constitution.

In other words, the United States, the Security Council, and the international community stand united in their pursuit of the same, overarching goal in Afghanistan: a durable political settlement that leads to a lasting peace.

The UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan will play an important role in this process. As the mission has done so much to document, it is the Afghan people who continue to pay the highest price for this war. UN support for civilians, including electoral reforms, strengthening Afghan institutions, human rights, and women’s issues, will continue to be critical in the years ahead.

Afghanistan’s neighbors need to help as well. Our South Asia strategy recognizes that there can be no enduring peace in Afghanistan without its neighbors being fully engaged and actively committed to that goal.

The United States has reinvigorated regional diplomacy to support our commitment to a negotiated settlement. We stand ready to work with any nation ready to play a constructive role in Afghanistan. We will partner with any Member State willing to contribute to Afghanistan’s security, stability, economic development, and fight against terrorism.

It is also clear there is much work to do combatting the opium production that fuels instability in Afghanistan.

We share the Secretary-General’s deep concern about the shocking 63 percent rise in poppy cultivation in Afghanistan between 2016 and 2017. Increased poppy growing means increased revenue for the Taliban and extremist groups to wage their insurgency. The United States supports the Afghan government’s efforts to curtail opium production, bolster law enforcement, and expand alternative economic opportunities for the Afghan people. We call on all nations to join in this effort.

As our president said, America will lead. We will not impose our way of life, but we will champion our values without apology. We will seek partnerships based on these values. We will seek alliances based on cooperation and reciprocity. We will hold our own partners in the Afghan government to account for implementing the reforms and taking the steps necessary to lay the ground for a comprehensive peace.

This is our contribution to finding a political solution in Afghanistan. We share the world’s impatience to end the conflict there. But that impatience can be an asset if it is directed toward renewed efforts to bring peace to the people of Afghanistan.

Thank you, Mr. President.