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Statement on the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA)

Amb. Zalmay Khalilzad, U.S. Permanent Representative to the UN
Remarks to the Security Council
New York City
March 12, 2008


(As Delivered)

Thank you very much Mr. President,

I want to thank you for convening this debate. I would like to thank Mr. Guéhenno for his briefing. On behalf of my government I thank the staff of UNAMA, in particular former SRSG Tom Koenigs, and deputy SRSG Bo Asplund for their dedication to the cause of Afghanistan’s Success. We also thank them for their timely and sound input to the Secretary-General in providing a frank and comprehensive report.

My government concurs with the central judgment of this report which presents a balanced account of both progress that has been achieved and challenges confronting Afghanistan.

Mr. President,

The success of Afghanistan is a vital interest of the international community. Success in Afghanistan will contribute not only to the improvement of the lives of 30 million people who have suffered terribly as a result of 25 years of occupation and war. It will also be a keystone in the effort to defeat terrorism, weaken extremism, to create regional stability in Central and South Asia, to advance the needed political and economic transformation of the broader Middle East, and to reduce the threat of narcotics from Afghanistan.

Mr. President,

As we look ahead, Afghan leaders, regional powers, and the international community all have important responsibilities if Afghanistan is to fully succeed. However, I would like to focus on the needed actions on the part of the United Nations.

The UN should be proud of the role it has played in Afghanistan, starting with the Bonn Process. The US welcomes the appointment of Mr. Kai Eide as the Secretary-General’s Special Representative and head of the United Nations Assistance Mission to Afghanistan (UNAMA). We thank him for taking this important and challenging job. He can count on our support and promise to work closely with him. His appointment opens a new chapter in UN engagement in Afghanistan. His role will be vital in advancing the kind of productive partnership with President Karzai and the Afghan government that’s the foundation for all meaningful progress. Afghans have governed their country for millenia. Our task is not to do this work for them, but to enable their country to stand on its own feet again as soon as possible.

As we discuss the renewal of the UNAMA mandate, the focus should be on setting the right priorities. At the top of the agenda is empowering SRSG Eide to coordinate and integrate more effectively the support of the international community, which is composed of dozens of donors, agencies, and implementers. One of the greatest assets for Afghanistan is the sheer number of countries involved, both on the military and civilian side. The inevitable resulting challenge is ensuring that sufficient coordination exists to get the most out of the individual efforts.

First of all, SRSG Eide will need to ensure that civilian assistance is integrated in support of the Afghan people and government and efforts to stabilize the country. While integrating NATO-ISAF’s military efforts will be dealt with during the upcoming summit in Bucharest, success against the insurgency requires a comprehensive campaign plan that ensures that military actions to clear areas of the enemy is coordinated with civilian efforts to establish good governance and economic development.

Second, SRSG Eide should better coordinate the efforts of the international community to ensure a shared and focused commitment to the Afghan National Development Strategy and the Afghanistan Compact. The execution of the elements of the compact has been uneven, and SRSG Eide should catalyze improved results where needed. This will entail greater coordination both among the donors and between the Afghan government and donors. This is particularly needed to increase the capacity of Afghan ministries to provide basic services and to tackle the problem of corruption.

Third, SRSG Eide should work to bolster international support for Afghanistan. Among the leaders – as well as the publics – of key donor countries, there is an inadequate understanding of the achievements and challenges of Afghanistan. The upcoming conference of donors in Paris will be an important opportunity to rally such support. Explaining all aspects of the current situation, SRSG Eide can enable friends of Afghanistan to appreciate the returns on the investments to date and to focus future commitment on the most important challenges and opportunities.

Fourth, SRSG Eide should use his good offices to promote reconciliation and accountability, in close coordination with the Afghan government based on the acceptance of the Afghan constitution.

In addition, SRSG Eide should engage in active diplomacy to create a regional environment conducive to the stabilization of Afghanistan. In the aftermath of the attacks of September 11, regional powers came together despite their differences to support the Bonn Process, which enabled Afghans to freely choose their own government. Reclaiming the “spirit of Bonn” is in the interest of all these countries. It should be a key priority for the UN effort.

To carry out this mission, UNAMA must have the right people in Afghanistan, as well as sufficiently robust funding and security assets. We regret that, as noted in the recent Secretary-General’s report, UNAMA faces vacancy rates and staff retention issues. The UN must incentivize its best people to create an effective presence, particularly in parts of the country where NATO-ISAF is achieving stability but needs a partner to help to improve governance and development. It is not just a matter of filling the slots but rather one of getting highly motivated and capable people with the right skills.

The United States is also ready to do its part to help Afghanistan succeed. In addition to the 27,500 troops already deployed to support Afghanistan, the United States will send an additional 3,200 Marines, with 2,200 dedicated to the strengthening of security in the south and 1,000 to training Afghan National Security Forces. In 2008, the United States will provide over $2.9 billion in total assistance including $1 billion for education, health, agriculture, infrastructure, and local reconstruction. In addition, we have asked Congress for $2.6 billion in a 2008 supplemental funding request. We are also undertaking a number of new initiatives, including the establishment of a public-private partnership with American law firms and schools to help advance the rule of law and establish a strong core of legal professionals.

Mr. President,

The Council should fully support UNAMA and its team as it pursues all these avenues. We look forward in the coming days to working with the Government of Afghanistan, the Security Council, and other key countries to ensure that UNAMA can better address Afghanistan’s current needs and priorities.

Thank you, Mr. President.

Released on March 12, 2008

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