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

Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield
U.S. Representative to the United Nations
New York, New York
June 22, 2021


Thank you, Madam President, and thank you to Estonia for hosting this very important meeting. Thank you also to Special Representative Lyons for your very sobering and frank assessment of the situation in Afghanistan. Mrs. Akrami, I also thank you for your briefing and your commitment to women and girls. I also would like to thank Executive Director Waly for your discussion on the important work of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, which is of critical importance to Afghanistan and its neighbors. And finally, welcome to Foreign Minister Atmar.

President Biden announced in April, after 20 long years, the United States will be withdrawing all troops from Afghanistan. Let me stress that this was not a decision that was taken lightly. It was made after close consultation with our allies and our partners. And I stress also that our commitment to Afghanistan’s safety and security endures. We will use our full diplomatic, economic, and assistance toolkit to support the peaceful, stable future the Afghan people want and deserve. And we will continue to support the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces in securing their country. To that end, today I’d like to talk about three aspects of Afghanistan’s security: providing humanitarian aid, stopping violence and drug trafficking, and supporting the peace process.

First, as part of our commitment to Afghanistan’s future, the United States is providing more than $266 million in new humanitarian assistance. That brings total U.S. humanitarian aid for Afghanistan to nearly $3.9 billion since 2002 – on top of the $36 billion in civilian development assistance we have also provided since that time. Eighteen million people in Afghanistan are in desperate need – and more than 4.8 million are internally displaced. Add on increased food security and a surge of COVID-19 cases, and it’s clear that Afghanistan needs humanitarian support. So, we strongly encourage other donors to support Afghanistan’s immediate humanitarian needs.

Second, we have now seen months of unacceptable violence, often directed toward ethnic and religious minorities and innocent women and young girls. In other words, the country’s most vulnerable people are being attacked. And I want to extend my deepest condolences to these victims and their families, and in particular, the Hazara community that has been so acutely impacted by these attacks. All Afghans – all Afghans – deserve the opportunity to go about their days – doing their jobs, attending schools, shopping in markets – without fearing for their lives. In particular, we need to preserve the progress Afghan women and girls have made by protecting their rights and freedoms, moving forward. So, we are encouraged to see the Secretary-General’s Personal Envoy for Afghanistan and Regional Issues, Jean Arnault, travel to the region. We look forward to hearing his assessment when he returns.

Everyone who can influence the parties involved – including Afghanistan’s neighbors – should step up now to secure the region and promote peace and stability. Like us, Afghanistan’s neighbors want to ensure terrorists can never use Afghanistan to threaten the security of any country. An Afghanistan at peace with itself and its neighbors can link the economies of South and Central Asia, and provide safety and security for all. So, it’s also in everyone’s interest to stop the flow of drugs into regional and international markets. The cultivation of opium poppy, and the drug trafficking it spawns, can be devastating to families and communities inside and outside of Afghanistan. The United States is therefore proud to support Afghan farmers, including women, to create sustainable livelihoods as alternatives to poppy cultivation.

Third and finally, the parties to this conflict must press forward on a peaceful resolution in Afghanistan which protects the gains of the last two decades. We’ve all heard SRSG Lyons appeal. We must push for meaningful and inclusive negotiations – with the full participation of women – that will lead to a permanent and comprehensive ceasefire, and a just and durable political settlement. To the Taliban, we reiterate that the military path will not lead to legitimacy. As many of us have stated, including my colleagues on this Council from Europe, Russia, and China, there is no military solution in Afghanistan. The world will not recognize the establishment in Afghanistan of any government imposed by force, nor the restoration of the Islamic Emirate. There is only one way forward: a negotiated and inclusive political settlement through an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned process.

To close, I’d like to thank our partners and allies working to maintain international civilian and diplomatic operations in Afghanistan. These efforts reflect an important consensus that we must sustain support for peace efforts and continue providing needed civilian and humanitarian assistance. And in the meantime, we urge Afghans themselves to remain resolute in their efforts to achieve a peaceful future for their country. The international community is behind you.

Thank you, Madam President.