Special Representative de Mistura, welcome back to the Council. I’d like to begin by thanking the Special Representative and colleagues here today for their kind words about Ambassador Richard Holbrooke. As Vice President Biden said here in the Council last week, Ambassador Holbrooke was one of America’s greatest warriors for peace who served so ably here in this chamber and far beyond. We will all miss him very much.
Special Representative de Mistura, we continue to be impressed by your strong leadership of UNAMA. We also deeply appreciate the work of all UN staff in Afghanistan, who operate under difficult conditions on behalf of the international community and in support of the Afghan people.
At last month’s NATO summit in Lisbon, the Afghan government and its international partners committed themselves to a clear plan moving forward. Together, we agreed that early 2011 will mark the beginning of a transition to Afghan-led responsibility for security, and we established a goal of having Afghan forces take the lead for security across the country by the end of 2014. Our ultimate goal in Afghanistan is to help Afghans build a state that can stand on its own with support from the international community and never again be a sanctuary for terrorists. So this transition of security responsibility, coupled with an enduring commitment to Afghanistan beyond 2014, is key to the success of our long-term efforts. The transition will be a gradual, conditions-based process, not a single event. And just as the NATO-Afghanistan partnership agreed at the Lisbon Summit affirms the international community’s broader, enduring support to Afghanistan, so too will the United States continue to support Afghanistan's development and security, as a strategic partner.
Training is a critical ingredient to making transition possible. Our allies and partners demonstrated their sustained commitment to this mission in Lisbon by meeting ISAF requirements for Afghan National Security Forces trainers. Our actions prove that we are implementing a transition strategy, not an exit strategy. As transition progresses, we will look to UNAMA to play an important and growing role in supporting local governance, monitoring the human rights situation, and supporting Afghan-led efforts to reintegrate former combatants who seek to return to the fold of Afghan society.
The United States welcomed the Afghan Independent Election Commission's certification of final results of the September 18 Wolesi Jirga elections. These important elections, administered under challenging circumstances, were the first parliamentary elections run entirely by Afghan institutions since the fall of the Taliban in 2001. We look forward to the formation of the new parliament so that it can begin taking up its important constitutional role on behalf of the Afghan people. As we move beyond this year's election, it will be important for UNAMA to remain engaged with Afghan electoral institutions to press forward with long-term electoral reform. We commend UNAMA's plans in this regard.
As we are meeting in the height of the Fifth Committee's consideration of UN budget issues, let me briefly underscore the importance of meeting UNAMA's resource requirements. This Council has given UNAMA an extensive mandate, and its ability to fulfill it while ensuring its staff’s security requires adequate resources. The United States urges all member states to carefully consider the recent budget request for UNAMA and to offer their full support to fund this vital mission.
Despite many challenges, real progress has occurred in Afghanistan this year. Together with the Afghan National Security Forces, we have broadly arrested the Taliban’s momentum—and even reversed it in some important areas. In many places, the gains we've made are still fragile and reversible. But we are unquestionably clearing more areas from Taliban control, and more Afghans are reclaiming their own communities.
Civilian development assistance has been critical to these advances. We must press forward in 2011 with even greater energy and determination. This will be a critical year. To sustain these gains in security over time, political and economic progress in Afghanistan are urgently needed. Going forward, we must all continue to focus on the delivery of basic services, transparency, and accountability.
We should also not lose sight of the tremendous challenges facing Afghan women, and we must continue to support their efforts to further advance their security-related, political, economic, and social gains.
The United States will continue to stand with the Afghan people as they work to build a stronger Afghanistan for the benefit of all its citizens.
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