Ambassador Kelly Craft
U.S. Mission to the United Nations
New York, New York
March 31, 2020
Thank you, Mr. President.
Afghanistan has now suffered through 40 years of war. The United States remains committed to helping Afghanistan achieve a political settlement to end this constant state of conflict. That is why the Trump Administration efforts to create the conditions for Afghans to begin Intra-Afghan Negotiations, which we believe can result in a durable peace. Recent developments reflect the promise of peace, as well as the critical challenges that must be overcome to realize that promise and end a conflict that claims the lives of Afghans every single day.
The March 26th announcement of the formation of an inclusive negotiating team for the Islamic Republic – a team that includes the Afghan government, political leaders, and civil society – is an important milestone for talks with the Taliban. We also commend progress made toward an exchange of prisoners. During constructive technical meetings, representatives of the Taliban and the Afghan government agreed that the exchange of prisoners is as important confidence building measure as the sides prepare for the immediate launch of intra-Afghan negotiations.
However, obstacles to progress remain. To enter negotiations, the Afghan people will need an inclusive government that can both provide security and participate in the peace process. On March 23rd, Secretary Pompeo visited Kabul to urge Ghani and Dr. Abdullah to set aside their differences and form a government that could do just that – stabilize their country and advance the peace process, as well as tackle COVID-19. As Secretary Pompeo said, we are disappointed that Afghanistan’s leaders have failed to form such a government. Afghan leaders demonstrated commendable commitment to peace this week by establishing a negotiating team and adopting practical steps to releasing prisoners; they should extend this commitment to the challenge of government formation.
The U.S. government is preparing to adjust our spending in Afghanistan, including by immediately reducing assistance by one billion dollars this year. Should Afghan leaders choose to form an inclusive government that can provide security and participate in the peace process, the Trump administration is prepared to support these efforts and revisit the assistance review initiated this week. As we adjust our aid on the decisions of Afghanistan’s leaders, we are maintaining our support to the Afghan people, as demonstrated by our announcement of 15 million dollars in assistance to help combat the spread of COVID-19 in Afghanistan. We hope other donors will join us in helping to address the threat the virus poses in Afghanistan. Secretary Pompeo also traveled to Doha to meet with the Taliban on March 23rd to press the Taliban to comply with their commitments on reducing violence. The recent attacks waged by the Taliban are not in keeping with its stated commitments to achieving a negotiated peace process. We call on the Taliban to immediately reduce levels of violence. We remind them that the United States maintains its commitment to defend the Afghan National Defenses and Security Forces.
As we look toward this opportunity for peace, we are mindful of the progress that has been made in Afghanistan over the past 19 years in expanding the rights of women and girls. The Trump Administration will work to preserve these gains. No future Afghan government can expect the support of the international community, donors, or businesses if women’s rights and participation are revoked or ignored. As we pursue peace, the United States is in the process of drawing down 8,600 troops, and remains committed to ensure terrorist organizations are never again able to use Afghanistan as a safe haven. Any further reduction in troop levels will be strictly conditions-based and coordinated closely with NATO.
Finally, the United States recognizes the important work of UNAMA in supporting the Afghan people, and congratulates Ambassador Deborah Lyons on her appointment. We look forward to working with Ambassador Lyons to advance peace and stability in Afghanistan.