FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thank you, Mr. President. Special Representative Yamamoto, thank you for your briefing, and for the work of the entire UNAMA team to support the restoration of peace, reconciliation, and development in Afghanistan. Thank you also to Ambassador Saikal and to Dr. Samar for being with us here today.
The United States joins in the strong condemnation of the deadly attack on an Afghan National Army hospital in Kabul on March 8. Deliberately targeting a medical facility that provides care for the brave Afghans working to protect their fellow citizens has no possible justification. We extend our deepest and most heartfelt condolences to the families, friends, and colleagues of the victims of this senseless and cowardly act.
Since we last met to discuss Afghanistan in December, we are encouraged by progress toward the goal that we all share of ensuring a secure, inclusive, and democratic Afghanistan for all Afghan people. President Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah continue to work together to strengthen the National Unity Government, establish mechanisms for determining government appointments and to combat corruption. Election reform is making steady progress, as demonstrated by the transparent and consultative process to select and install commissioners, as well as President Ghani’s appointment of Mohammad Warimach as Chief Electoral Officer on March 1.
We commend the Afghan government for its continued commitment to an inclusive, Afghan-led peace process, in spite of the continuing attacks. Progress made in implementing the peace agreement with Hezb-i Islami gives us hope for similar progress towards a peaceful resolution of the conflict with the Taliban. The United States calls upon the Taliban to enter into negotiations with the Afghan government. We also call on Afghanistan’s neighbors and the international community to increase pressure on the Taliban to come to the table for talks with the Afghan government.
A political settlement between the Taliban and the Afghan government remains the best way to end violence and to bring stability to the region. Despite these positive developments, Afghanistan continues, however, to face challenges that would test even the strongest government. These challenges are, regrettably, not new – we have discussed them repeatedly in this Council – but they are within the power of Afghanistan, its neighbors, and the international community to address.
The Taliban, including the Haqqani Network, ISIS affiliates, and other armed groups are increasing their attacks, resulting in the death and injury of thousands of Afghans, and delaying the progress that Afghanistan so badly needs.
The internal displacement of citizens fleeing insecurity presents a humanitarian challenge that is exacerbated by the return of more than 850,000 refugees and undocumented migrants from neighboring countries. And while development assistance remains robust, a precipitous drop in domestic and foreign direct investment has stalled the private sector-led growth that Afghanistan requires to employ its youth, reduce poverty, and provide hope to communities.
In this challenging environment, UNAMA is an essential partner of the people and Government of Afghanistan and for the international community. The United States thus strongly supports the renewal of UNAMA’s mandate for an additional year.
UNAMA plays a critical role in supporting peace and reconciliation, empowering women’s voices, defending the human rights of all Afghan citizens, and coordinating humanitarian assistance. I also want to highlight that UNAMA’s twelve provincial offices are in many places the only permanent international presence outside of Kabul. These UNAMA provincial offices are critical in engaging Afghan citizens outside of the capital as well.
In closing, Mr. President, we look forward to working with all of you on finding ways to maximize the UNAMA mission’s very important efforts. Thank you.