Thank you, Madam President.
The United States is pleased to join other Member States in co-sponsoring this draft resolution on the situation in Afghanistan. The draft resolution reflects the international community's continuing commitment to supporting the Afghan people in building a stable, democratic and prosperous Afghanistan, through the 2014 transition and beyond.
Over the last twelve years, the livelihoods of the Afghan people have fundamentally improved. In 2001, there were only 900,000 Afghan children in school, and all of them were boys. Today, nearly 8 million students are in school, and more than a third of them are girls. Maternal mortality was 1,600 per 100,000 births; today, it is down by 80 percent. Life expectancy for the average Afghan was 42 years; today, it is 62 years and rising. Nine percent of Afghans had access to basic healthcare; today, 60 percent of Afghans live within an hour of basic health services. There was only one television station and it was owned by the government; today, there are 75 stations and all of those but two are privately owned. And in 2001, there were virtually no cellphones in the country; today, there are 18 million covering about 90 percent of residential areas. This progress was only possible as a result of the sacrifices of the Afghan people and their international supporters.
Madam President, we are now at a critical moment in Afghanistan’s history. Last summer, the Afghan National Security Forces for the first time took the lead in providing security across the entire country. Afghanistan’s military and law enforcement are growing stronger and more capable by the day. Even as security transition reaches its final stages, the United States and our international partners remain committed to helping the ANSF become an independent force able to secure its own people and the public trust. This is a commitment that will extend well beyond 2014.
Madam President, the single most important milestone in Afghanistan's political transition during the next year will be the peaceful transfer of power from President Karzai to a democratically elected successor.
It is imperative that the elections be held on time and result in an outcome that is perceived as legitimate by all segments of Afghan society. While legitimate elections by necessity entail competition and debate, we hope that the upcoming elections in Afghanistan will represent a unifying moment for the country. Afghans also recognize that continued international assistance is contingent on credible, inclusive, and transparent elections that reflect the will and aspirations of the Afghan people.
We are encouraged by the hundreds of Afghan women who are running for positions on provincial councils all over the country, and welcome the support of the United Nations and our international partners in supporting the rights and role of Afghan women.
Societies where women are safe, where women are empowered to exercise their rights and to move their communities forward are more prosperous and more stable – not occasionally, but always. Protecting the gains made for Afghan women is not up to women alone – it requires engaging civil society, including men, women, and minorities.
While the success of the political transition next year is essential to the future stability of Afghanistan, it is not sufficient on its own to end the conflict. The United States firmly believes that an Afghan-led peace and reconciliation effort is the surest way to end the violence and bring lasting stability to Afghanistan and the region.
Madam President, the security and political transitions that I have described will only succeed if they are matched by a broader commitment by the Government of Afghanistan to reform its economy and unlock the economic potential of the Afghan people. These reforms should include a comprehensive approach to combat the narcotics trade that is integrated into broader efforts to support governance, rule of law, and economic development.
Further, unlocking Afghanistan’s potential as a way point in regional trade between Central and South Asia will unlock new economic opportunities across the region. This is the crux of the New Silk Road vision, based on the premise that greater economic cooperation is critical to achieving stability and peace across the region.
Finally, Madam President, the United Nations has played and will continue to play a critical role in Afghanistan. In particular, we commend UN support for Afghanistan’s 2014 elections.
The UN’s support to regional diplomacy, the political process, and coordination between the Government of Afghanistan and donors in implementing the Tokyo Mutual Accountability Framework will also be essential as Afghanistan looks toward 2014 and beyond.
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