The Situation in Afghanistan
UNITED NATIONS GENERAL ASSEMBLY
Statement by HE Mr Gary Quinlan, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Australia to the United Nations
Afghanistan is at an historic juncture. And as we near the end of 2013, we can reflect on the very real and tangible progress Afghanistan has made with its security, political and economic transition.
It has now been five months since President Karzai announced Milestone 2013 with the start of the fifth and final tranche of transition to full Afghan responsibility for security.
This announcement marked a major turning point for Afghanistan with the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) taking the lead for security across the county.
The 2013 summer fighting season has been the first time in over a decade that the ANSF have fought the insurgency largely independently.
In the lead, the ANSF have taken the fight to the insurgents, demonstrating their ability to provide security for their own people.
In the southern province of Uruzgan, where Australia has focused its own efforts, the ANSF is on track to take on operational responsibility by the end of this year. In line with the transition process agreed by ISAF in partnership with the Afghan Government, Australia’s presence in Uruzgan will end next month.
Our drawdown in Uruzgan marks a change but does not end Australia’s engagement with Afghanistan.
In 2014, our military contribution will include around 400 personnel, in training and advisory roles in Kabul and Kandahar and more broadly, our diplomatic and aid engagement will continue as a nationally-oriented mission.
We know there are still challenges ahead. A diminished but persistent insurgency will continue to seek to undermine peace and security in Afghanistan. But a strong ANSF, with the continued support of the international community, will provide security and stability for the Afghan people during this transition period.
There is a comprehensive international framework to support not only Afghanistan’s security challenges – but equally development and economic challenges as well – through transition and beyond.
At the May 2012 Chicago Summit, partners pledged to help sustain the ANSF from 2015, against an estimated annual ANSF budget of $4.1 billion. At Tokyo in July 2012, partners pledged $16 billion in aid through to 2015.
Further progress by the Afghan Government against the reform priorities jointly identified and agreed at the Tokyo Conference is vital to the Afghan government’s goal of self-reliance as well as the international community’s ability to sustain significant support to Afghanistan.
The Tokyo commitments will assist Afghanistan to forge a stronger economy. With the drawdown of forces, Afghanistan’s economic growth and revenue generation will be crucial to supporting Afghanistan’s institutional capacities and fostering long-term stability.
We encourage the Afghan Government to continue to implement much needed economic reform, foster participation of women to maximise growth, assist capacity-building in Afghan ministries and support investment that will provide employment and sustainable livelihoods.
We look forward to the holding of peaceful, credible and inclusive presidential and provincial elections in April 2014, as an indication of the progress Afghanistan has achieved in the past decade.
While technical preparations for this election are more advanced than previous elections, significant challenges remain including maximising voter participation, especially the participation of women.
These issues will need to be proactively addressed to ensure a result accepted by the Afghan people.
We continue to back an Afghan-led peace and reconciliation process. As Chair of the Security Council’s 1988 Sanctions Committee on the Taliban, we are conscious of the role the Taliban sanctions regime can play to facilitate that process. Afghanistan’s neighbours also have a crucial role to play in helping create a peaceful and stable future for Afghanistan.
On human rights, Afghanistan needs to lock in and build on the gains of the last decade, particularly in relation to the rights of women and girls. Afghanistan’s Permanent Representative, Ambassador Tanin, has spokon of this this afternoon. We continue to urge full implementation of the Elimination of Violence Against Women Law and encourage the Afghan government to finalise and implement a National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security.
Gender inequality remains a significant barrier to Afghan women’s active participation in Afghanistan’s development.
Striving to keep women and girls free from discrimination and the threat of violence is integral to ensuring that lasting change and peace endure in Afghanistan.
Finally, Australia recognises the important role of the UN in supporting Afghanistan’s transition.
As Security Council coordinator on Afghanistan, we look forward to working to secure a strong mandate with backing of the Afghan Government, that ensures a properly resourced UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) is able to fulfil this role.
In conclusion Madam President, we, along with the international community, will continue to support Afghanistan at the national level, by providing funding for equitable development assistance and security force sustainment.
But national progress and reform, of course, is ultimately for the Afghan Government and people themselves to determine. We are confident the Afghan people will seize the opportunity before them to shape their future and create a secure and prosperous Afghanistan. It is with this sense that Australia again co-sponsers this resolution and looks forward to its adoption by consensus.