Thank you, Mr. President.
I welcome Afghan Deputy Foreign Minister Jawed Ludin to the Council today and thank him for sharing his views with us. I’d also like to thank Under-Secretary-General Ladsous for his briefing this morning.
Let me take a moment to express our deep gratitude to outgoing Special Representative Staffan de Mistura for his dedicated service and able leadership in Afghanistan. Mr. de Mistura, you will be missed. We are indebted to you and your staff for the important work done under considerable hardship for the benefit of the Afghan people on behalf of all member states.
Also, we’d like to welcome the Secretary General’s decision to appoint Jan Kubis as the next Special Representative for Afghanistan. Mr. Kubis has a distinguished record in international affairs, and we assure him of the full support of the United States.
Mr. President, today I’d like to discuss how the Government of Afghanistan is increasingly exercising its sovereign authority. I’d also like to say a few words about the U.S.-Afghan bilateral relationship and how the work of the international community has affected the lives of average Afghans.
In the past few months, we saw noteworthy Afghan leadership in the establishment of the Istanbul Process on regional security and cooperation, and in chairing the Bonn Conference. We support the Istanbul Process and note the important role of the United Nations in backing regional efforts to implement the commitments and confidence-building measures agreed to in Istanbul. In Bonn, 86 countries and 15 international organizations affirmed their commitments to help Afghanistan set out a blueprint for a Transformation Decade in post-transition Afghanistan.
We applaud the international community’s resolve to help Afghanistan secure the gains of the last ten years and make transition irreversible. It is especially important that, in both Istanbul and Bonn, the region and the broader international community pledged their support to Afghan-led reconciliation that is inclusive, representing the legitimate interests of all the people of Afghanistan, regardless of gender or social status. The international community also underscored that reconciliation must contain the reaffirmation of a sovereign, stable and united Afghanistan; the renunciation of violence; the breaking of ties to international terrorism; and respect for the Afghan Constitution.
Mr. President, as we look toward the NATO Summit in Chicago in May of next year, the international community will continue efforts to support the Afghan people as they begin the second tranche of the security transition. The NATO Summit and the foreign ministers’ meeting in Tokyo in July will be important opportunities to review progress and clarify plans for supporting Afghanistan into the Transformation Decade.
From a bilateral perspective, we look forward to further progress on the U.S.-Afghan Strategic Partnership Document. The post-2014 U.S. presence will be determined in close consultation with the Afghan government. But to make two points clear in advance: the United States is not seeking permanent military bases in Afghanistan, and our strategic partnership is not aimed at any of Afghanistan’s neighbors.
As we look forward, let us not forget that much has already been accomplished to help improve the lives of Afghan citizens. The recent release of the Afghanistan Mortality Survey shows very encouraging signs about the work of the World Health Organization, the U.S. Agency for International Development and other international partners.
More children are living past their fifth birthday than at any time in the past. The percentage of women seeking medical care and advice for their newborns increased from 16 to 60 percent between 2003 and 2010. Improved maternal health has led to a decline in female adult mortality of about one-third over the past decade. Household living standards have improved, with more Afghan families reporting access to clean water and electricity and to better sanitation facilities. Life expectancy at birth has increased to 62. The death rate among men ages 15 to 59 has approximately halved over the last 10 years. With donors’ support, most Afghans now live within two hours’ walking distance of a health facility.
Mr. President, we are looking forward to the comprehensive review of the work of the United Nations in UNAMA in Afghanistan. We want to continue improving and consolidating service delivery from all UN agencies in Afghanistan and to strengthen UNAMA’s support for the country through transition and beyond. UNAMA’s role will continue to evolve as Afghan ownership increases, but there can be no doubt of the continuing importance of the UN’s work. We welcome Special Representative Kubis’s input on his priorities and vision for the mission and look forward to discussions on how the international community can best support UNAMA.
Mr. President, in the last few months, Afghanistan has demonstrated its vision for the nation’s future as a stable country ready to move from transition to transformation and contribute to peace and stability in the region. The United States remains committed to supporting Afghanistan and continuing our partnership through 2014 and beyond.
Thank you, Mr. President.
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