Thank you, Mr. President. Let me begin by congratulating you on assuming the Presidency and assuring you of my delegation’s full cooperation. I’d like to also congratulate Ambassador Kafando and the delegation of Burkino Faso for their skillful leadership of the Council last month. My delegation would like to welcome the five new Council members and looks forward to working closely with them in the coming months. Let me also thank the Secretary General for his presence and his comments, and his Excellency Ambassador Tanin of Afghanistan for sharing his government’s perspective with us today. I d like to offer special thanks to Special Representative Kai Eide, not only for his comprehensive briefing today but also for his tireless work at the helm of UNAMA. The Special Representative’s leadership has been essential to the international community’s efforts in Afghanistan. My government is greatly appreciative of his efforts and his commitment and wishes him every success in his future endeavors.
Mr. President, this is a crucial moment in Afghanistan. The Government of Afghanistan, together with the Afghan people, is pressing forward on a bold agenda to halt the worrisome deterioration of the past several years. The international community must now act deliberately and urgently to help the Afghans themselves turn things around.
The U.S. commitment to Afghanistan is enduring. Our objective remains unchanged: to disrupt, dismantle, and eventually defeat al-Qaeda and to prevent its return to either Afghanistan or Pakistan. Our focus is on building up the capacity of Afghan institutions to withstand and diminish the threat posed by violent extremism.
To achieve this goal, President Obama has ordered an additional 30,000 U.S. troops to Afghanistan. These troops will target the insurgency, secure population centers, and train Afghan security forces. Many of the 43 other members of International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) have also announced troop increases. Together, we will partner with Afghan forces so that we can begin transferring security responsibility to the Government of Afghanistan by the summer of 2011.
Mr. President, for truly sustainable progress, our troop increase must be matched by a stronger civilian effort and by additional foreign assistance. Our civilian effort will emphasize the development of more responsive and accountable Afghan institutions at the provincial, district, and local levels. We will also encourage and support the Government of Afghanistan’s reinvigorated plans to fight corruption including through concrete measures of progress to a greater accountability.
The United States is substantially increasing the number of U.S. civilian experts in Afghanistan. In fact, we are on track to triple our civilian presence. At the end of January 2009, 320 U.S. civilians were on the ground. We are to have 920 Americans on the ground this month, and we expect to achieve our target of just under 1,000 civilians shortly thereafter. These civilian experts are partnering with Afghans to enhance the capacity of the country’s national and sub-national institutions to govern effectively.
U.S. experts are also working with their Afghan partners to help rehabilitate Afghanistan’s key economic sectors so that Afghans themselves can defeat the insurgents, who promise only more violence. Economic growth is critical to Afghanistan’s future, both to undermine extremists’ appeal in the short term and to provide sustainable economic development over the long term. To help reverse the Taliban’s momentum, we are focusing our reconstruction effort in areas where we can quickly create jobs, especially agricultural ones. Rebuilding Afghanistan’s once-vibrant agricultural sector will sap the insurgency not only of foot soldiers but also of income from narcotics.
And let me underscore one key element of our political strategy: to support Afghan-led efforts to reintegrate Taliban members who renounce al-Qaeda, lay down their arms, and engage in the constitutional political process.
Mr. President, the United Nations, and particularly UNAMA, continues to play a vital role in the international community’s civilian efforts in Afghanistan. Its work on institution building, governance, security sector reform, and donor coordination is central to our goal of empowering the Government of Afghanistan.
But we all must do a better job of coordinating the international community’s efforts to assist the Afghan people. As the Secretary-General notes in his report, coordinating such a large array of national assistance programs with the goals identified by the Government of Afghanistan is a substantial undertaking, for which UNAMA needs additional resources and support from member states. We strongly echo the Secretary-General’s call for strengthened coordination, and we support his proposal to bolster UNAMA with experienced staff from key donor countries. For our part, the United States stands ready to support such a request with appropriate U.S. personnel.
We also see the usefulness of appointing a senior civilian representative within ISAF, as recommended by the Special Representative, to improve coordination of ISAF’s political and development activities, in particular by those carried out by the Provincial Reconstruction Teams.
The success of UNAMA’s mission also depends on its presence throughout the country. In this regard, we note with satisfaction the continued progress in opening UNAMA’s regional and provincial offices. We are pleased that the Secretary-General’s report affirms that, despite the brutal October 28 attack on the Kabul guesthouse, the UN remains committed to opening additional offices throughout Afghanistan in 2010.
We reiterate our support for UNAMA’s efforts to strengthen the security of UN personnel in Afghanistan, and we are open to working creatively with UNAMA to support these efforts.
The United Nations has played a critical role in supporting the political process in Afghanistan, including support for elections. We agree with the Secretary-General’s observation that the 2009 Afghan presidential and provincial council elections exposed serious flaws in the Afghan electoral process. Along with our international partners, we are committed to working with the Government of Afghanistan to address these shortcomings before future elections are held.
Mr. President, the upcoming conference in London co-chaired by Afghanistan, the United Kingdom, and the United Nations will be an opportunity for the international community to demonstrate its support for the Government of Afghanistan’s agenda, as outlined in President Karzai’s inaugural address. We look forward to a conference in Kabul this spring at which the Government of Afghanistan will have the opportunity to present more detailed plans and programs for achieving its ambitious goals.
President Karzai’s inaugural speech sent the right message about moving in a new direction, including his commitment to reintegration and reconciliation, to improving relations with Afghanistan’s regional partners, and to steadily increasing the responsibilities of Afghan security services. We must now see action. And we must now see progress.
Thank you, Mr. President.
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