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

Ambassador Cherith Norman
Acting Deputy Permanent Representative
U.S. Mission to the United Nations
New York, New York
December 16, 2019


Special Representative Yamamoto, the work you have done over the last three and a half years has required commitment, resolve, and – I know – many long hours. So thank you for today’s briefing, and for UNAMA’s consistent support for good governance, human rights, and development in Afghanistan. But more than that, thank you for your leadership and your service as Special Representative. I want to also thank Ms. Aisha Khurram for her briefing today. Aisha, I was struck by the way your comments captured the important role youth play in Afghanistan. It is only through the meaningful participation of young leaders like you, and women across Afghanistan, that the country will reach its full potential.

As we convene to discuss the importance of the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan, we extend our deepest condolences to the family and colleagues of a selfless and dedicated American UNAMA employee, Mr. Anil Raj, who was killed in Kabul last month. We likewise extend our sympathies to the loved ones of Dr. Tetsu Nakamura and his five dedicated Afghan colleagues, who were mourned by Afghans of all walks of life. We strongly condemn [the] senseless killing of these individuals who were in Afghanistan to serve its people. The United States remains deeply committed to Afghanistan. As Afghanistan continues its process of auditing votes to ensure the credible outcome of the presidential election, we call for the continued support of the electoral bodies, and we continue to call on all Afghan candidates to engage with the audit process, file any complaints through legal channels, and refrain from any actions that would increase tensions.

As Afghanistan conducts its electoral process, we also remain committed to our Afghan partners in their efforts to combat security threats in the region, including ISIS-K. Over the past few months, successful Afghan and coalition counterterrorism operations against ISIS-K have led to hundreds of ISIS-K fighters surrendering to Afghan security forces, all but eradicating their presence in Nangarhar. A September operation in Helmand successfully targeted a number of senior AQIS leaders. Those who perpetuate senseless violence against innocent civilians have no place in Afghanistan’s future.

We are extremely concerned about the allegations of sexual abuse of boys in several schools in Logar province and the subsequent arbitrary detention of civil society activists who reported the alleged exploitation and violence. We call on all government authorities to take decisive action to hold perpetrators accountable, and to take immediate measures to ensure the protection of victims and their families. Protecting the lives and welfare of children must be a priority of all. We also continue to strongly support the role played by Afghan women in Afghanistan’s economic, political, and social advancement. As we have heard today, Afghanistan has a powerful female voice, here at the United Nations, and Ambassador Raj, which is a testament to the Afghan Government’s efforts to promote female leadership in their country. We commend Afghanistan’s National Action Plan on Women, Peace, and Security, and emphasize the importance of implementation as one of the many concrete steps necessary to enhance women’s meaningful participation in building an Afghanistan that works for everyone. The United States recently joined the Group of Friends to Afghan Women co-founded, as mentioned earlier, by the United Kingdom and Afghanistan, and we look forward to working with other Permanent Representatives in the United Nations to lift the voices of women in Afghanistan and ensure they are heard.

We have heard directly from the citizens of Afghanistan that they are ready for a peaceful and democratic future. For our part, the United States continues to support an inclusive Afghan peace process. The goal of our efforts has been, and remains, to enable direct intra-Afghan negotiations among Afghan stakeholders including the Afghan government, opposition political leaders, civil society – particularly women – and the Taliban. The purpose of those negotiations would be for Afghans to chart a political roadmap for the future of their country to end the conflict, ensure Afghanistan is never a platform for international terrorism, and preserve the gains of the last 18 years. To this end, we restarted talks with the Taliban last month. In order to create an environment conducive to negotiations, we urge all sides to immediately reduce the level of violence, culminating in a ceasefire. Additionally, we call on the Government of Afghanistan to swiftly appoint an inclusive national negotiating team that will negotiate a comprehensive and sustainable peace settlement with the Taliban. Peace in Afghanistan is possible, and we must all seize this opportunity.

In closing, let me again express my appreciation to Special Representative Yamamoto for his work over the years and his commitment to strengthening the legitimacy of Afghanistan’s electoral process, and in supporting Afghanistan’s peace process.

Thank you.