Remarks by Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield at a UN Security Council Briefing on Afghanistan

Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield
U.S. Representative to the United Nations
New York, New York
January 26, 2022


Thank you, Prime Minister Store. And thank you, Mr. Secretary-General for your sobering remarks and assessment of the situation in Afghanistan. Special Representative Lyons, thank you. We appreciate your briefing and your team’s unflagging commitment to their mission. Thank you, Ambassador Tirumurti, for your briefing in your capacity as Chair of the 1988 Sanctions Committee. Ms. Seraj, we are so grateful to hear your insights and your voice concerning the challenges facing the people of Afghanistan. I commend your courage. I know you won’t stop until Afghan women enjoy the universal rights in which they are entitled. And I thank you so much for your recommendations to us and I hope we heard you clearly that our delegations to meet with the Taliban must include women, and we must insist on the inclusion of Afghan women.

Today, I would like to address three aspects of UNAMA’s work and the situation in Afghanistan: the humanitarian crisis, the economic crisis, and our expectations for the Taliban.

First, as Afghanistan’s humanitarian crisis worsens, UNAMA’s work in support of the people of Afghanistan could not be more important. In coordination with UNAMA, we all have a role to play in helping the people of Afghanistan in desperate need. For our part, the United States remains committed to providing lifesaving support to the Afghan people. On January 11, the United States announced an initial contribution for the year of more than $308 million in humanitarian assistance for the people of Afghanistan. This funding will support aid that provides food and nutrition assistance; support for healthcare; winterization programs; and logistical support to ensure aid workers and critical relief supplies can make it to the parts of Afghanistan that are hardest to reach. It will save countless lives.

In tandem, the United States has moved rapidly to ensure any sanctions imposed by us and the international community to support security and stability in Afghanistan do not impede humanitarian activity. In December, our Treasury Department issued three new general licenses that expand upon existing authorizations to facilitate the continued flow of vital humanitarian assistance and basic needs for the Afghan people. The United States also introduced a resolution at the Security Council last month to establish a humanitarian exemption in the 1988 Taliban Sanctions Regime. The Council’s unanimous adoption of Resolution 2615, which establishes the carveout, sends a clear message of support to the Afghan people.

The United States remains the single largest provider of humanitarian assistance in Afghanistan, but – like all of the major challenges facing the international community today – the scale of this crisis demands a global response. Much more support from the international community will be required to meet the extraordinary level of need the Afghan people are experiencing.

Second, the United States is particularly sensitive to Afghanistan’s liquidity crisis and how it is worsening the humanitarian emergency. To that end, we continue to examine various options to ease the liquidity crunch. Ultimately, a functioning Afghan economy will require an independent and technically competent central bank that meets international banking standards. While Afghan central bank reserves held in the United States are subject to ongoing litigation, we recognize calls to examine making available reserves to help the people of Afghanistan.

Third and finally, the international community’s expectations for the Taliban have not wavered. We continue to expect the Taliban to allow unhindered humanitarian access to people in need and free movement for aid workers of all genders; ensure that humanitarian personnel can operate under safe conditions; and permit assistance to be provided independently to all vulnerable people, regardless of their identity. These are basic humanitarian principles, and we – as I know you do, too – expect the Taliban to abide by them.

We also expect the Taliban to take concrete steps to demonstrate fidelity to its counterterrorism commitments, allow for safe passage, and show respect for human rights and inclusivity. And let me be clear: we are unequivocal that women and girls must be able to fully participate in political, economic, and social life in Afghanistan. We could not agree more with Secretary-General Guterres’ assertion that no country can thrive while denying the rights to half of its population. We welcome the announcement by the Taliban that secondary schools throughout the country will be opened to girls in March. We will monitor the rollout of that process, but we must continue to press for post-secondary schools and all sectors of employment to be opened, as well.

We are deeply concerned about the reported abductions and detention of women protestors and other civil society activists and reports of reprisals, including harassment and intimidation, against former members of the Afghanistan security forces and former government officials and their families. Freedom of expression is a universal human right: if the Taliban want support from Afghans and the international community, this freedom needs to be respected.

Special Representative Lyons, we heartily welcome UNAMA’s work to reinforce these expectations in its engagements with the Taliban, as well as to keep the international community apprised of the Taliban’s progress, or lack thereof, against these expectations. Together, let us support the Afghan people in their time of need, and carefully watch the Taliban to ensure that their actions truly live up to their words.

Thank you, Mr. President.