Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield
U.S. Representative to the United Nations
New York, New York
August 30, 2021
Good afternoon. Let me start by thanking all of you for being here today. Today, the Security Council spoke clearly on the situation in Afghanistan. The resolution we adopted today, put forward by the U.S., UK, and France, outlines three clear expectations regarding the future of Afghanistan.
First: The Security Council expects the Taliban to live up to its commitment to facilitate safe passage for Afghans and foreign nationals who want to leave Afghanistan today, as well as going forward.
Second: The Taliban, and all parties, need to facilitate humanitarian assistance, and humanitarian actors must be given full, safe, and unhindered access to continue service delivery to those in need.
And third: The Security Council reiterates its enduring call on the importance of counterterrorism, respecting human rights, including those of women, girls, and minorities, working toward stability and peace in Afghanistan.
As you all know, the United States is grieving the loss of 13 young servicemembers who made the ultimate sacrifice, in service of America’s highest ideals, working to save the lives of others. And we are also mourning the hundreds of Afghans who were killed or injured during the attack. They went to the airport in search of a better life. And today, we honor their memories.
As of this morning, we have flown more than 122,000 people out of Afghanistan since the end of July, and so many that have made this possible, our courageous service members, our tireless diplomats, and dozens of countries, worked to make this happen. Today’s resolution furthers these lifesaving efforts, and it addresses the challenges we face in Afghanistan, both now and going forward.
This is incredibly important. After all, we cannot airlift an entire country to safety. This is the moment where diplomacy has to step up.
Last week, the Taliban committed to the safe passage and freedom to travel for Afghans and foreign nationals. And by adopting this resolution, the Security Council has shown that the world expects the Taliban to live up to these promises – today, tomorrow, and after August 31. This is of the utmost importance to us. And while we address the needs of those who leave Afghanistan, this resolution also affirms the Security Council’s enduring commitment to those who remain.
The Afghan people are suffering not just from conflict and massive internal displacement, but also from a nationwide drought and from the COVID-19 pandemic. UN agencies are warning that humanitarian needs in the coming months will be vast. The UN Refugee Agency estimates that nearly a half million Afghans have been internally displaced this year alone. The World Food Program estimates that 14 million people in Afghanistan are at risk of starving without food assistance. And UNICEF has reported that COVID-19 vaccinations have dropped by 80 percent in recent weeks. Vital humanitarian assistance must flow to people in desperate need.
As the single largest donor of humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan, the United States is absolutely committed to helping our partners on the ground provide food, protection, shelter, essential healthcare, water, sanitation, hygiene services, and so much more vital humanitarian aid to Afghans.
Finally, this resolution reiterates several serious concerns the Security Council has about Afghanistan’s future going forward, including the importance of counterterrorism and respecting human rights. Afghanistan can never again become a safe haven for terrorism. And we need to ensure Afghanistan respects the inalienable rights of its people – including women, girls, and minorities.
We will continue to work with our allies, with our partners, and with all the countries who share our interest in a safe, stable, Afghanistan that fulfills its obligations to its people and the international community.
Today, the Security Council took decisive action, and we must continue to do that going forward. The United States will keep pushing here at the United Nations and in other diplomatic contexts to protect the rights of the people of Afghanistan, and to do everything in our power to advance security and peace.
Thank you and I’ll take a couple of questions.
QUESTION: Thank you, Madam Ambassador, (inaudible). You just said that you can’t take all of the country. What happens if a million people, two million people, 2-3 million Afghans want to leave and maybe come to this country? And now we have the UN with this resolution tells them they can – so what is your response to the millions of people that would like to leave?
AMBASSADOR LINDA THOMAS-GREENFIELD: We took out 122,000 people in the past, barely a month and a half, and as I said, we simply can’t take out the entire country, but we are working to continue to provide opportunities for people to leave and that’s what this resolution did. It provided for safe passage for any Afghan who wishes to leave the country and we will work to assist them in that effort going forward. Our efforts don’t end on the 31st of August.
QUESTION: Thank you, Madam Ambassador, Valeria Robecco from ANSA newswire. Can I have a comment from you on the abstention of Russia and China. Do you think that undermines the hope of having a unified response from the international community on the situation in Afghanistan?
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: You know, we were disappointed with the abstentions of Russia and China. I will tell you that within the P5 we consulted very closely. We took into account some of the concerns that both the Chinese and the Russians raised in the draft resolution that was eventually approved. So, the fact that they abstained, I think they will have to explain themselves. But I think the Security Council spoke strongly, and what’s in the resolution, I think, are issues that are important to every single member of the Security Council including China and Russia.
QUESTION: Thank you, Ambassador. Ibtisam Azem from the Al-Araby al-Jadeed newspaper. My question is about the recognition of Taliban. When is it for you, a time, or period when you can say we are ready to try to think about recognizing the Taliban? And what do you know down there on the ground from your side?
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Look, we are not in a place yet where we are prepared to recognize the Taliban. They haven’t even formed a government yet. So, we need to see what kind of government they form. We insist that that government be inclusive, and that it allows for the participation of women, and that it takes into consideration, as it forms itself, the rights of all Afghans, including minorities. So, we will see what kinds of actions they take before any decisions are made about recognition.
Thank you, all.