Thank you Mr. President and for your expression of condolences for U.S. citizens in Afghanistan.
I'd like to welcome Special Representative Kubis back to the Council and thank him for his briefing. On behalf of my government, I also extend our appreciation to UNAMA's staff and the entire UN Country Team for their efforts, which have been crucial contributions as Afghans have made significant advances for their country. Also welcome Ambassador Tanin, thank him once again for his comments, his valuable comments and valuable engagement.
Mr. President, we can see evidence of the transformational changes in Afghanistan in the United Nation's 2013 Human Development Index. Since 2000, Afghanistan's score in the index has improved by nearly 60 percent, more than any other country. Without losing sight of the remarkable transformation Afghanistan has made in the last twelve years, today I'd like to speak to ongoing security, political and economic transition.
On the security side, with the help from the U.S. military and our many allies, the Afghan National Security Forces have assumed lead responsibility for security countrywide. This milestone also signaled a shift in the International Security Assistance Force's primary mission from combat to training, advising, and assisting the ANSF.
In this connection, the outcome of recent deliberations by the Loya Jirga on the U.S.-Afghanistan Bilateral Security Agreement shows that the Afghan people overwhelmingly support the partnership that has brought us this far-and want very much to sustain it. Concluding the BSA promptly would be an important signal to Afghans that their interests will be protected and that their concerns about the future will be addressed. The United States is committed, in the spirit of the BSA, to remain a strong partner in the support of the Afghan's people's effort to achieve lasting peace, security, and development.
Turning to the political transition, my government is encouraged by the progress Afghans have made in preparing for the April 2014 elections. Two key electoral laws have been enacted. Election and complaints commissioners have been appointed. A list of candidates has been finalized. And each of the presidential tickets represents a broad-based coalition, which is critical to ensuring that all groups have a stake in both the process and its outcome.
Like the United Nations and other countries that have been supporting Afghanistan's development, the United States strongly supports this democratic process, but I emphasize that we neither endorse nor favor any individual party or candidate. The choice of president and provincial officials rests-as it should-entirely with the Afghan people. The United States will continue to assist the Afghan government and especially its electoral authorities, as well as the parliament and civil society, in their efforts to strengthen the electoral system and prevent fraud. It is our profound hope that the April presidential balloting will prove to be a truly unifying moment for the Afghan people-an event that will both consolidate recent gains and provide a sturdy platform in the future for improved governance.
Economically, the United States and our international partners have, in the past decade, made a substantial contribution to Afghanistan's progress. For example, we have built or rehabilitated more than 3,000 kilometers of road; laid fiber optic cables that connect Afghans to one another and other countries; and made it easier for Afghans to obtain access to basic health and educational services.
Looking ahead, we strongly support a vision for regional cooperation called the New Silk Road. Secretary Kerry announced our backing just last week for the CASA-1000 transmission line project, which will allow existing hydroelectric generation capacity in Central Asia to be used in Afghanistan and Pakistan. We appreciate the efforts of the World Bank and the Islamic Development Bank to advance CASA-1000, and hope other donors will join us in supporting this promising initiative. More generally, we are convinced that expanding connections to its Central Asian neighbors will greatly enhance Afghanistan's ability to diversify its economy, increase trade, and create more and better opportunities for its people. Accordingly, we fully endorse Afghanistan's goal of acceding to the World Trade Organization in 2014.
Mr. President, the progress Afghanistan has made has been built, in part, on the contributions of development professionals and humanitarian personnel, helping the local population on projects of every description. Their effort can entail severe risks. Already this year, there have been more than 230 incidents of violence directed at such personnel, imperiling both Afghans and the international staff and volunteers who work in partnership with them. Just three weeks ago, separate attacks in Uruzgan and Faryab provinces claimed the lives of nine aid workers. My government extends its sincere condolences to families of the victims of all such attacks. We call upon all parties in Afghanistan to respect the neutrality and basic human rights of humanitarian and development workers.
Finally, with an eye to continuity, my government hopes that this Council will approve in March 2014 a one-year renewal of UNAMA. This mission continues to play a vital role in Afghanistan and we see no need to alter the time frame or scope of its core mandate at this time. We must also ensure that UNAMA has adequate resources to carry out its many important priorities, which include the coordination of humanitarian and other assistance; support for regional diplomacy, the political process, human rights monitoring, institution building, and capacity development.
In closing, Mr. President, I'd like to cite the words of a leader whose legacy has been much on our minds. "In the history of nations," observed Nelson Mandela, "generations have made their mark through their acumen in appreciating critical turning points and, with determination and creativity, seizing the moment." Today, the leaders of Afghanistan, and their people, and the international community, all have choices to make. My government hopes that we will choose to seize the moment now so that, in 2014, we may continue working in partnership-lasting partnership-on behalf of a safer, more prosperous and more united Afghanistan.
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