FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
On behalf of the United States, let me first thank Special Representative Kai Eide for his briefing today and for his excellent leadership of UNAMA during a critical time. I also wish to thank Foreign Minister Spanta of Afghanistan for his presence here today and extend, through him, our appreciation and respect for the people of Afghanistan.
The United States continues to strongly support the efforts of UNAMA’s efforts to achieve the goals of Resolution 1868, as it works in concert with the Government of Afghanistan and the international community. UNAMA’s work remains unfinished. But important strides have been made in the last three months.
The ongoing Afghan electoral process has not been easy, but we applaud the courage of Afghan voters and the dedication of officials who have been polling, tallying, and adjudicating results. The United States will continue to encourage all parties to respect the Afghan institution that conducted these elections.
While serious allegations of fraud have been made and are being investigated, Afghan citizens are seeking to resolve their concerns through the formal adjudication process, not through violence. The international community must support the Independent Election Commission and the Electoral Complaints Commission as they complete the difficult work of investigating and adjudicating incidents of fraud, in accordance with their responsibilities under Afghan law.
When the new Afghan government is inaugurated, we must all quickly begin to work with it to help build up its capacity to meet the needs of the Afghan people. Even as we approach the conclusion of this electoral season, however, we must also begin preparations for the 2010 parliamentary elections. As the Secretary-General's report rightly notes, that work must start immediately.
UNAMA not only plays a critical role in Afghan elections; it is also indispensable as the coordinator of international assistance to Afghanistan. We will work closely with the Afghan government and UNAMA to ensure that aid is properly aligned with Afghan priorities. We have already seen good progress with regard to agricultural programs, where the United States plans to double assistance next year, in keeping with Afghan priorities. We also renew our commitment to work with UNAMA to reduce inefficiencies and ensure the appropriate and effective delivery of aid, and we urge other donors to join us.
The United States is also pleased to see that UNAMA is making progress in expanding its presence throughout Afghanistan. As the Secretary-General notes, UNAMA is on track to reach a total of 17 provincial offices by the end of the year. This expanded provincial presence, called for in Resolution 1868, will allow UNAMA to better monitor and coordinate aid programs on the ground. My government urges the United Nations to approve the 2010 UNAMA budget increase that will allow for further expansion of provincial offices, and we urge all of our fellow member states to support UNAMA's outreach to the provinces by providing the necessary personnel and resources.
The United States commends UNAMA for its development of the benchmarks and indicators of progress outlined in the Secretary-General’s report. These benchmarks identify key areas where UNAMA, the international community, and the government of Afghanistan must focus their efforts. They helpfully identify metrics for concretely measuring success.
Let me turn to one final topic on which it is important to be clear. U.S. and ISAF troops continue to make great efforts to avoid civilian casualties, as exemplified by General McChrystal’s approach of having military operations prioritize the protection of the civilian population. This effort puts the Afghan people at the center of the mission. It also reflects the reality that the large majority of civilian deaths in Afghanistan are caused by ruthless acts of terrorism by insurgent groups that operate without regard for Afghan lives. The United States regrets all loss of innocent life during military operations and goes to great lengths to avoid civilian casualties. When they do occur, we provide humanitarian assistance to affected communities, and we conduct thorough, joint investigations with the Afghan government to determine the facts.
For all the progress Afghanistan has made, we must work together to do even more. The United States continues to believe that UNAMA is an essential element of our common efforts to support the Afghan people in their struggle to rebuild their country and defeat a determined foe. We will continue to support UNAMA's critical mission—for the benefit of Afghanistan and for the peace and security of the region.
For the record, I wish to register my objection to some of the comments made by the representative of Libya which I believe are unhelpful to today’s discussion.
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