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7347th Meeting (AM)

Presidential Election in Afghanistan Hailed as Historic Step in Security Council Briefings, Debate, but Speakers Agree Violence, Drug Trade Imperilling Progress

Fresh from its first peaceful transfer of power from one elected leader to another, Afghanistan had made “significant” progress on its path towards a stable future, the United Nations top official in the Central Asian country told the Security Council today, encouraging the new unity Government to appoint a merit-based Cabinet, address budgetary pressures and launch its “ambitious” new programme of governance reforms.

“I have been greatly encouraged by the peaceful political transition,” said Nicholas Haysom, Special Representative of the Secretary‑General and Head of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), who briefed the Council, along with Yuri Fedotov, Executive Director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) ahead of an open debate.

Mr. Haysom recalled that at his last briefing, presidential election results had yet to be announced and the country was in a protracted political crisis.  Now, while the electoral process had been challenging, a “legitimate, freshly mandated and broadly supported” leadership had resulted.

Indeed, he said, the common sense of purpose between President Ashraf Ghani and Chief Executive Officer Abdullah Abdullah for combating corruption and fostering sustainable economic growth had given rise to renewed hope.  The political power-sharing agreement had been brokered following an unprecedented 100 per cent audit of a paper-based election, conducted in line with international best practices.  “There was no better way forward than a national unity Government,” he said.  The agreement had ended a political crisis that, if unresolved, would have, at best, left the country divided, and at worst, in conflict.

Political leaders must now conclude the appointment and approval of senior Government officials, he said.  A politically representative, merit-based Cabinet could boost confidence in the Government, whose “Realizing Self-Reliance paper had set forth “bold and needed” reforms for public accountability, transparency and human rights.  The Government also would need to overcome its budgetary difficulties, as the fiscal situation appeared to be more serious than portrayed at the 4 December London Conference on Afghanistan.  He urged the international community to help devise ways to implement the Government’s reform agenda.

The need to resolve the conflict in the country was underscored by the appalling human cost borne by ordinary Afghans, he said.  As of 30 November, UNAMA had recorded more civilian deaths and injuries this year than in any other since 2008.  While National Security Forces had assumed the lead in protecting civilians, international forces must remain engaged.  UNAMA was engaging with the Taliban on the issue of responsibility for — and avoidance of — civilian casualties.  Sustained and predictable international security assistance was vital.

He said that with the conclusion of the political and security transitions in Afghanistan, the means and form of support would evolve, notably as the Council reconsidered the UNAMA mandate next year.  What would not change was the shared goal of a peaceful, sovereign and increasingly prosperous Afghanistan.

Next, Mr. Fedotov said the transition period in Afghanistan had a clear impact on drug control efforts there.  Illicit drugs posed formidable challenges to the new leadership and the international community.  Nevertheless, the transition also presented an opportunity to assess counter-narcotics strategies and to ensure strong and effective responses.  The Office’s 2014 Afghan opium survey, released last month, found a 7 per cent growth in the total estimated area under cultivation over the record levels of last year.  With a marked decrease in eradication, production had climbed by 17 per cent to 6,400 tons.

He said the illicit opium economy and related criminality, money laundering and corruption continued to threaten security, social and economic development, governance and health in Afghanistan and beyond.  “The question before us remains: what can we do to stop illicit drugs from undermining fragile progress and imperilling the future of Afghanistan and causing global harm?”  The lessons of the past decade strongly suggested that counter-narcotics must be fully integrated in development and security strategies and delivered as part of unified assistance.  More must be done to ensure that action to weaken the stranglehold of drugs and crime went hand in hand with efforts to strengthen the licit economy.

During his meetings with the President and Chief Executive in November, he said, three priorities had been identified: alternative development as part of a comprehensive effort to boost the agricultural sector; improved prevention, treatment, care and rehabilitation services; and enhanced regional and interregional cooperation to counter organized crime and drug trafficking.  Through a national-regional-global approach, UNODC was helping to weave together cross-border law enforcement, cooperation in criminal matters and drug prevention responses.  The United Nations Development Assistance Framework for Afghanistan for 2015-2019 provided a solid platform for a joint response by the Organization.

Following the briefings, Zahir Tanin (Afghanistan) said the end of the international military combat mission in his country was “an historic step towards a new beginning in Afghanistan and a key marker of the country transition to a new chapter in its relations with the international community”.  The challenges were formidable.  In the past several months, terrorists and insurgent groups had intensified attacks.  As those acts of brutality continued, extremist armed groups should know that Afghan security forces stood ready to fight them. 

The international community’s sustained support, as pledged in recent agreements, would also be essential in the years ahead, he said, adding that an “extensive reconciliation process with the armed opposition is high on the Government’s agenda”.  The comprehensive reform agenda presented at the London Conference included fighting corruption; improving governance by strengthening democratic institutions and enhancing human rights, particularly those of women and girls; and promoting economic and fiscal stability with the ultimate aim of reducing Afghanistan’s donor dependency.  The new Government had already made significant efforts in many of those areas and would take “bold steps toward self-sufficiency, peace and prosperity for all Afghans”.

Other speakers welcomed the historic Presidential elections and outlined ways their Governments would support the country’s democratic future.  The representative of the European Union said the time was right for Afghanistan’s relationship with the international community to take a different shape.  The Union’s new strategy would support national institutions that were critical to ensuring that the country could “stand on its own feet”. 

The representative of the Russian Federation focused on combating drug production and trafficking, urging that guidelines be formulated to eradicate that problem.  His Government was tackling the issue through the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, Collective Security Treaty Organization and bilateral cooperation with Afghanistan.  He was disappointed that the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) countries had ignored Collective Security Treaty Organization proposals relating to joint efforts in that area.

Noting Afghanistan’s efforts to end the year on a positive note, the representative of the United States praised the Government’s reform agenda, which included the reopening of the Kabul Bank investigation, removing corrupt Government personnel and tackling illicit trade.  Her Government had provided $107 million this year to help returning refugees.  She urged more work on women’s rights.

Pakistan’s delegate welcomed recent agreements that had allowed what he called a “seamless transition” in Afghanistan’s security.  The new leadership and his country were pursuing initiatives to strengthen regional coordination. Terrorism was a common enemy, which must be fought by common endeavours without distinction.

Also speaking today were the representatives of Chad, Australia, Luxembourg, Republic of Korea, Jordan, Lithuania, France, China, Rwanda, United Kingdom, Chile, Nigeria, Argentina, India, Turkey, Sweden, Japan, Spain, Canada, Germany, Slovakia, Finland, Italy and Iran.

The meeting began at 10:09 a.m. and ended at 1:30 p.m.


ZAHIR TANIN (Afghanistan) said the end of the international military combat mission in his country was “an historic step towards a new beginning in Afghanistan and a key marker of the country transition to a new chapter in its relations with the international community”.  It came, he said, on the heels of the country’s first peaceful transfer of power from one elected leader to another, as the culmination of a “complex and challenging” process, which put a successful future ahead of political divisions.  That, he added, fostered hope, inclusivity and political consensus and cemented the foundation for lasting peace and prosperity.

The challenges, he acknowledged, were formidable.  In the past several months, terrorists and insurgent groups had intensified attacks.  As those acts of brutality continued, extremist armed groups should know that Afghan security forces stood ready to fight them, having shown their resilience throughout the year.  The international community’s sustained support, as pledged in recent agreements, would also remain essential to enhancing the security force’s capacity in the years ahead.  At the same time, the Government recognized that a political solution was essential to stopping the violence, and “an extensive reconciliation process with the armed opposition is high on the Government’s agenda”, he said.

Noting also immediate economic challenges, including a looming fiscal crisis, he called on international partners to fulfil their commitments in order to allow the Government to close the gaps and deliver reforms.  The comprehensive reform agenda presented at the London Conference earlier this month included fighting corruption; advancing good governance by strengthening democratic institutions and enhancing human rights, particularly those of women and girls; and promoting economic and fiscal stability with the ultimate aim of reducing Afghanistan’s dependence on donors.  The Government was also committed to a comprehensive response to the illicit drug economy, in collaboration with partners, by strengthening all regional cooperation and development partnerships.

He said that the National Unity Government had already taken significant steps in many of those areas and was dedicated to building on the optimism of the Afghan people and on the successes of the past 13 years, “to take bold steps toward self-sufficiency, peace and prosperity for all Afghans”.  As it did so, the enduring support of the international community was essential, he emphasized.

MOUSSA FAKI MAHAMAT, Minister for Foreign Affairs and African Integration of Chad, commended the Afghan leadership for moving past the deadlock and encouraged it to continue to move forward with inclusive and democratic reforms.  The challenges faced in the areas of security, humanitarian needs and illicit drug trade required continued international support, and in that context, he hailed recent partnership agreements.  He also supported political efforts to end the violence, at the domestic and international levels.  He condemned, at the same time, all terrorist acts, including those against humanitarian workers.   On fighting the cross-border drug trade, he encouraged strengthening cooperation among all actors.  He commended finally the staff and leadership of the United Nations presence in the country for their efforts towards progress in many areas

GARY QUINLAN (Australia) said 2014 had been a successful year for Afghanistan, despite its many challenges.  The country had taken the lead for security across its territory, held historic presidential elections and instituted important economic reforms.  The National Unity Government marked the first democratic transition of power in Afghanistan and the appointment of an inclusive Cabinet would be an important first step.  The region needed closer and serious cooperation on security, including the fight against terrorism and narcotics.  While the international community remained committed to the NATO Resolute Support Mission, the key to self-reliance would be economic growth.  Much progress had been made on that and other fronts, and an inclusive peace and reconciliation process that recognized the role of women would have a much greater chance of success.  Australia looked forward to UNAMA, with adequate resources, continuing its focus on good offices, human rights, donor coordination and humanitarian assistance.

SYLVIE LUCAS (Luxembourg), associating herself with the European Union, said that credit must be given to the Afghan people for the progress they had made, but the remaining challenges must not be forgotten.  Of great importance was continued progress in governance and other areas, along with continued assistance of the international community in security and development.  Respect for human rights, particularly of women, was a necessity and must not be sacrificed in favour of any reconciliation agreements.  In addition, major economic reforms were needed, which must address dependency on the illicit drug trade.  She expressed continued concern over recruitment of children as fighters.  On UNAMA, she said its support role would become even more important as the transitions of international assistance occurred.  It, thus, must be adequately resourced to ensure its presence throughout the Afghan territory.

PAIK JI-AH (Republic of Korea) recognized the newly formed Government’s efforts to tackle the challenges, and urged expedited efforts to fill all positions and move forward with the reforms.  Condemning continuing terrorism, she commended international partners on agreements made to continue their support for security.  Noting the strong connection between drug trafficking and terrorism, she called for strengthened partnerships to fight the scourge.  She highlighted her country’s contributions to reconstruction and various other Afghan needs and its pledge of further funds for socioeconomic development and security.  She looked forward to UNAMA’s continued key role in further progress in the country.

DINA KAWAR (Jordan) expressed hope that the positive developments in Afghanistan would result in a Government that was able to strengthen governance, rule of law, and women’s rights, among other progress, with international support.  Condemning all terrorist attacks against civilians, security forces and humanitarian workers, she reiterated the importance of lasting support to the Afghan Security Forces, hailing recent agreements to that effect.  She supported as well the growth of regional cooperation in security, economic growth and efforts to fight the illicit drug trade.  She praised effort by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime in the latter effort.

RAIMONDA MURMOKAITĖ (Lithuania) stressed the need to quickly capitalize on the gains made during the last 13 years and tackle Afghanistan’s manifold challenges.  The reform package presented by the National Unity Government at the London Conference laid a firm foundation for development, she said, underscoring the importance of immediate action to promote legal livelihood and strengthen the country’s social, economic and political fabric.  Continued international support and commitments were necessary to ensure that the Afghan National Security Forces were capable of responding to anti-government elements.  Lithuania supported and remained committed to the new non-combat Resolute Support Mission of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, she said, adding that a strong security sector alone, however, could not guarantee lasting peace and prosperity.  President Ashraf Ghani’s emphasis on and prioritization of Afghan-owned and -led reconciliation was a much-needed step.  To succeed, the process must fully include men, women, youth, civil society and minorities.

ALEXIS LAMEK (France), associating with the European Union, encouraged the expedited completion of the National Unity Government in order to achieve the objectives described by the Afghan representative.  Security remained the top challenge, as shown by the many horrendous attacks in recent weeks, including the one on the French cultural centre.  In that context, it was critical that progress in women’s rights be maintained and that regional cooperation be strengthened.  He welcomed the results of the London Conference, noting the importance of international partnership in many areas, particularly in training of security forces.  It was also critical to fight the illicit drug economy; UNAMA and other partners should make that effort an important part of their work plan.  He pledged continued full support to the role of the United Nations Mission.

LIU JIEYI (China) welcomed progress in governance in Afghanistan, which he said laid a solid foundation for the transitions currently occurring.  For lasting security, inclusive and broad-based governance was necessary, along with a participatory reconciliation process.  Continued capacity-building for security forces by international partners was also needed.  Sustainable development was key.  And he pledged China’s assistance in many areas in that context.  Regional cooperation was also vital, and he noted initiatives in which China was participating.  He supported UNAMA’s role in facilitating international aid and in other areas and looked forward to increased communication with Afghan authorities.  China saw Afghanistan as an important part of its region, he said, describing extensive bilateral cooperation between the two countries.

MABONEZA SANA (Rwanda) commended the Afghan leadership for overcoming the election impasse, as well as the efforts of UNAMA and other partners in that achievement.  He welcomed the new Government’s agenda for reform as well as its intentions in reconciliation and other areas, but was deeply concerned by the continued violent stance of the Taliban.  The Afghan Security Forces had shown progress in capacity in that light, but given the severe challenges, he welcomed agreements for continued international security support.  He strongly condemned the barbaric acts that had claimed the lives of so many Afghans, praising the efforts of the Afghan Security Forces in opposing them.  Regional cooperation would be critical in that area as well as in economic progress.  A serious commitment from all actors was needed for further progress, for which UNAMA’S work was an important element.

MARK LYALL GRANT (United Kingdom) said that as Afghanistan prepared to enter the “transformation decade”, his Government welcomed the new reform agenda presented at the London Conference, which offered a credible framework for tackling corruption, bolstering national security, delivering political reform and consolidating human rights gains.  He called for the swift confirmation of ministerial appointments.  Attacks against Afghan security personnel and civilians underlined the security challenge.  As national forces combated insurgents, international support was vital.  Welcoming the Resolute Support Mission, which would assist national forces from the start of 2015, he said political settlement was the best way to sustain peace.  He welcomed the dialogue between the leaders of Afghanistan and Pakistan, and said UNAMA would play a more important role in the coming year.  The assistance of its good offices with Government formation and human rights must be central to its mandate, and it must be adequately resourced in order to maintain its presence in the provinces.

CRISTIÁN BARROS MELET (Chile), hailing Afghanistan’s first peaceful and democratic transfer of power and end to protracted electoral process, said that tackling the political, economic and security challenges required naming and confirmation of other high-ranking officials.  That issue must be resolved without delay.  Chile supported the Afghan-led and -owned reconciliation process, expressing hope that Security Council resolution 1325 (2000) would be implemented at all levels.  He expressed concern at the high number of civilian victims of violence, condemning the use of force against them, whether by pro- or anti-Government forces.  He welcomed the NATO-Afghan agreement for a non-combat support mission to assist the Afghan Security Forces, however, he was concerned about the increased opium production, expressing support for UNODC’s proposals.

VITALY I. CHURKIN (Russian Federation) said his Government would support UNAMA’s role in coordinating international efforts, as underscored in resolution 2189 (2014).  Drug production and trafficking required attention, as that financed terrorism and threatened the region.  Guidelines should be formulated to eradicate the drug problem.  The Russian Federation was combating drug production and trafficking through the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, Collective Security Treaty Organization and bilateral cooperation with Afghanistan, notably training for the Afghan drug police.  Citing a lack of activity around anti-narcotics operations, he said the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) was “washing its hands” of the problem.  He was disappointed that NATO countries had ignored Collective Security Treaty Organization proposals relating to joint efforts in that area.

He said that major terrorist acts had shown that the Taliban had fierce capacity and Al‑Qaida was active — notably absent from the Secretary‑General’s report.  Also, the report on the outcomes of ISAF activities had not been received, as required under Council resolutions.  Only available was a document that lacked analysis of the security situation.  The NATO report said “nothing concrete” about ISAF’s contribution to the Afghan Security Forces in the area of counter-narcotics.  He urged compliance with Taliban and Al‑Qaida sanctions regimes.

SAMANTHA POWER (United States) said the National Unity Government had taken crucial steps to end the year on a positive note with its reform agenda, which included the reopening of the Kabul Bank investigation, removing of corrupt Government personnel and tackling illicit trade, among other efforts.  The United States looked forward to the naming of a new Cabinet soon, based on merit.  The new President had worked to improve Afghanistan’s relations with its neighbours, including Pakistan.  At the London Conference, more than 70 donor States had allocated $16 billion through 2016, which was crucial to building on the gains made since 2001.  Today, 40 per cent of students were girls and maternal mortality had fallen from 16 to 3 per cent.  The United States was committed to supporting such progress, having provided $107 million this year to help returning refugees.

She urged more work on women’s rights, as the Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women, its causes and consequences had found that the “ever-present climate of fear” disproportionately impacted the promotion and protection of women’s human rights.  On security, the ISAF mission would soon conclude, while Afghanistan faced serious threats to security, as had been seen in the 23 November suicide bombing at a volleyball tournament.  Increased targeting by anti-Government armed groups had resulted in the largest number of casualties in one year since 2008.  Such threats must be neutralized and the perpetrators brought to justice.

JOY OGWU (Nigeria) commended UNAMA and all other actors who helped facilitate the agreement on a Government of national unity in Afghanistan.  She urged the expedited formation of a Cabinet to advance the reform agenda, supporting the priority of reconciliation for lasting peace and stability.  She condemned the recent attacks, which showed the challenges in security and underlined the need for international security assistance.  Regional cooperation was also critical in that light, she said, welcoming recent initiatives in that context.  She also welcomed the engagement of UNODC in fighting the illicit drug traffic.  An integrated counter-narcotics approach was necessary, along with concerted, sustained international action.

MARIO OYARZÁBAL (Argentina) commended the Government and people of Afghanistan on their first peaceful transition of power.  Remaining challenges, however, were overwhelming.  He hailed the announcement of the launch of a national peace process to overcome the violence plaguing the country, hoping that the declining trend would continue.  Stressing that there could not be a purely military solution to the conflict and underlying the need to address the causes, he said that regional cooperation was essential.  Casualties from international air action must not be ignored.   On drug traffic, he said that a comprehensive strategy was needed, and in closing, he strongly supported UNAMA’s continued role.

BHAGWANT SINGH BISHNOI (India) welcomed political progress in Afghanistan and looked forward to the early formation of the Government consistent with the national unity agreement and the tasks of electoral reforms, and organization of a constitutional loya jirga.  Expressing appreciation for UNAMA’s role in overcoming recent challenges, he said that the Mission must continue to play a leading role in shaping and coordinating the international community’s assistance.  Terrorist groups’ alarming activity underscored the fact that they benefited from support beyond Afghanistan’s borders.  Afghanistan’s economic progress must be led by the private sector.  Indian experts had noted a lack of port connectivity and transit agreements, which underpinned a key gap in that light.  He described discussions on that matter between his Government and authorities in Iran and Afghanistan.

SAHEBZADA AHMED KHAN (Pakistan), thanking all those who extended condolences for the terrorist attack in Peshawar, welcomed recent agreements that allowed what he called a “seamless transition” in Afghanistan’s security.  The new leadership and his country were pursuing initiatives to strengthen regional coordination.  He fully supported the work of UNAMA in good offices, capacity-building and assistance coordination.  International assistance supported Afghan initiatives in governance and other areas and allowed for refugee returns.  That also allowed the country to function as a land bridge in the region through the development of necessary infrastructure.  Terrorism, he stressed in closing, was a common enemy, which must be fought by common endeavours without distinction.

LEVENT ELER (Turkey) said Afghanistan had emerged stronger after “milestone” presidential elections and the decision to establish a National Unity Government.  He supported the Government’s robust agenda vis-à-vis governance, rule of law, fight against corruption and efforts towards an Afghan-led reconciliation process.  Support for the Afghan National Security Forces and wider international cooperation with the country was important.  Turkey was committed to standing by Afghanistan, he said, citing its funding pledges for the National Security Forces and decision to take responsibility for the Kabul International Airport.  He welcomed bilateral and multilateral efforts to promote regional collaboration, including the Fourth Ministerial Conference of the Istanbul Process on Regional Security and Cooperation for a Secure and Stable Afghanistan, held in Beijing on 31 October.

PER THÖRESSON (Sweden), associating with the European Union, said Afghanistan had “come a long way” over the past 13 years, with Afghans earlier this year turning up in great numbers to vote in what had become the first democratic transfer of power in their history.  Improvements were needed to consolidate democracy and governance, and the human rights situation also had a long way to go, due in part to an ineffective justice system.  “Afghanistan is still one of the worst places in the world to be born a woman,” he said.  Meanwhile, the production and smuggling of narcotics continued to drive conflict.  Corruption was another obstacle as was the culture of impunity.  Ending the violence was required for achieving sustainable development and should be done through an inclusive peace and reconciliation process.  Afghanistan was among the largest recipients of Swedish development aid and his country stood ready to contribute up to $1.2 billion over the next decade.  For the period to 2019, Sweden would focus on strengthening the country’s ability to improve the economy, enhance democratic governance and promote human rights.

IOANNIS VRAILAS, representative of the European Union, said the United Nations role would become more important, especially in building Afghan capacity and supporting an accountable administration.  The time was right for the relationship between the international community and Afghanistan to take a different shape.  The Union’s new strategy emphasized support for the development of national institutions, which was critical to ensuring that Afghanistan was able to “stand on its own feet”.  The “Realizing Self-Reliance” reform paper could be the basis for renewed progress in Afghanistan, while efforts also must be made to ensure progress in peace and reconciliation.  A new Cabinet should be appointed as soon as possible, with one of its first tasks to allow for consultation between Afghans and the international community ahead of the Senior Officials Meeting in Kabul in 2015.  He cited justice and the rule of law, Government accountability, and maintenance of security as priorities for his delegation.

YOSHIFUMI OKAMURA (Japan) said the new Afghan Government must focus on completing the ministerial nominations.  It was regrettable that key Government posts had yet to be appointed, and he called on the new leadership to form an inclusive National Unity Government without delay.  Japan expected the new Government to follow through on its reform agendas presented at the London Conference.  Fighting corruption was critical, as were economic and fiscal sustainability, an improved situation for women and children, and reconciliation with anti-Government insurgents.  The drawdown of ISAF forces at year-end would be a watershed moment in Afghanistan’s path towards self-reliance.  The National Defence and Security Forces should now assume full responsibility for security.  Japan would support Afghans “as long as they earnestly worked for a better future”.  Japan had been engaged in Afghanistan’s reconstruction from a human security perspective, he said, citing projects in the areas of public order, rice production and infrastructure development.

ROMÁN OYARZUN MARCHESI (Spain), associating with the European Union, described bilateral support initiatives between his country and Afghanistan.  He said that the new Government, having overcome the impasse of the election, must now quickly establish the new Cabinet.  Progress in the rule of law and greater progress in the rights of women and girls should also be immediate priorities.  He closed by strongly condemning terrorist attacks in Afghanistan, elsewhere in the region and the world.  “This is the most bitter and sad face of humanity,” he said.

GUILLERMO RISHCHYNSKI (Canada) said the formation of the Government of National Unity was momentous for the Afghan people and the international community alike.  Canada was encouraged by the new Government’s first few months in which President Ghani and Chief Executive Officer Abdullah Abdullah had embraced cooperation and secured important progress towards Afghanistan’s future stability.  Continuing cooperation that delivered practical outcomes would be the key to managing the challenges ahead, and the two leaders must together ensure effective implementation of vital reforms to reduce poverty, strengthen the economy, improve governance, eradicate corruption, protect human rights — especially women’s rights — and improve the participation of women and minority groups in politics and society.  Pledging Canada’s continued financial assistance to sustaining security forces, investing in women and children, and furthering the reform agenda, he urged regional partners to help manage the challenges.  Terrorist forces might have defaced Afghanistan’s history, but they would not decide its future, as the Afghan population had made plain its desire for a peaceful and democratic country.

HEIKO THOMS (Germany), associating with the European Union, said the National Unity Government’s aims of building a stable, prosperous and inclusive country served the interests of all Afghans.  Despite the remarkable achievements of the Afghan National Forces, those gains were still fragile.  NATO and its partners would therefore continue to train and assist Afghan forces under the non-combat Resolute Support Mission, in which Germany would be the second largest troop contributor.  Securing a stable future for Afghanistan required continued international civilian assistance and Germany would maintain its annual aid level up to 430 million euros.  That pledge was built on the sound and ambitious agenda Afghan leaders had presented in London and in Berlin.  Germany considered it important that UNAMA remained present throughout the country.  Afghanistan had made real progress in the economic and social spheres since the fall of the Taliban and its strong civil society would not allow a rollback of hard-earned freedoms.

FRANTIŠEK RUŽIČKA (Slovakia), associating with the European Union, expressed full, continuing support for UNAMA.  He said the performance of the Mission was remarkable and affirmed that its role in coming years would be no less important, in assisting the Government in its reform and governance efforts.  Welcoming commitments made in London, he invited the Government to continue its outreach towards all legitimate political stakeholders in Afghanistan.  On reforms, he highlighted the need for work in justice, institution-building and legislation.   Welcoming the new security assistance agreements, he announced that his Government last week had authorized troops to serve in the new Resolute Support Mission.  It had also pledged financial support for Afghan National Security Forces, complementing its long-term commitment to Afghanistan in development assistance.

KAI JÜRGEN MIKAEL SAUER (Finland), associating with the European Union, said the goal of the international community was a self-reliant Afghanistan, which was able to shape its own future based on a successful transition.  That required renewed efforts, cooperation and hard work.  Stressing the importance and responsibilities of Afghanistan’s neighbours and regional partners, he said UNAMA would need adequate resources to deliver on its mandate.  While Afghanistan had made real progress in nation-building, fostering job growth, improving health and education and rebuilding infrastructure, formidable challenges remained in security, poverty reduction, job creation and service delivery.  Post-transition development would depend on reforms in key sections, and Finland welcomed the National Unity Government’s vision of the way forward.  Full and equal participation of women at all levels was not only a prerequisite for democracy and human rights, but also the key to sustainable development, economic success and social stability.

INIGO LAMBERTINI (Italy) said the new Afghan Government had already taken “encouraging” steps at the domestic, regional and international levels.  Condemning terrorist attacks in the country, he welcomed the Administration’s signature of the bilateral security agreement and the NATO Status of Forces Agreement, which were the legal bases for the Resolute Support Mission.  Italy’s support in the security field was part of its long-term commitment to Afghanistan, a point reiterated most recently at the London Conference, where the international community reaffirmed its support of the new Government on the basis of the Mutual Accountability Framework.

GHOLAMHOSSEIN DEHGHANI (Iran), emphasizing the deep cultural and historical ties between his country and Afghanistan, affirmed support for the people and new Government of Afghanistan in their pursuit of peace and prosperity.  He strongly condemned all terrorist attacks in the country, adding that the presence of foreign troops had provided an excuse for such attacks and hoping that, as those troops were decreased, the violence would die down too.  Future security support should be strictly at the request of the Afghan Government.  Regional coordination was an effective way to further peace and security, and Iran was ready to strengthen its cooperation with Afghanistan in a range of areas.  In addition to cooperation on border issues and facilitating refugee returns, trade and transit relations should be enhanced, and the tripartite agreement with India was an important part of that effort.  Adding that the illicit trade in drugs must be ended through further international cooperation, he supported UNAMA’s continued role in assisting Afghanistan to reach its stated goals.

For information media. Not an official record.