By J Nastranis
NEW YORK (IDN) – While Afghanistan is accusing Pakistan of launching an “undeclared war” through proxy forces and more than 20 terrorist networks, with Pakistan rejecting this as a "baseless" claim, Security Council delegates are concerned about the recent surge in “abhorrent” terrorist attacks across Afghanistan – including one that killed 30 people at a Kabul military hospital on March 8, 2017.
As the Security Council, United Nations' most powerful body, held its quarterly debate on the long-troubled nation on March 10, many speakers urged that country’s international partners to deepen their cooperation, target terrorist sanctuaries and help to build up the capacity of the National Unity Government.
Several delegates praised Afghanistan’s new anti-corruption measures, its efforts in planning for the 2018 parliamentary elections and other recent progress. But some warned against the temptation to gloss over the deteriorating security situation. Indeed, many observed that 2016 had seen the highest number of Afghanistan security incidents ever recorded in a single year.
The Secretary-General’s Special Representative and Head of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), Tadamichi Yamamoto, briefed 15 members of he Council on recent developments there, emphasizing “now is the time for action” to improve Afghan lives.
Presenting the Secretary-General’s latest report on the situation (document S/2017/189), he said that despite some notable progress, Afghanistan’s deteriorating security situation was making service delivery and economic growth more difficult.
Access to health clinics and education was trending downwards, and some 9 million people – about one third of the population – still lived below the poverty line. “Developing a nation while fighting an insurgency is an uphill struggle,” he said.
The National Unity Government – which was nearly halfway through its five-year term – must pursue both economic growth and an inclusive peace process, against the backdrop of deteriorating security, he added, noting that strong international political as well as financial support would be needed.
The Chairperson of the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission, Dr Sima Samar, said that, with its strong and modern Constitution, the country had been able to realize a real and meaningful review of its laws, approve new legislation in support of human rights and develop policies promoting human rights.
She also welcomed meaningful steps towards peace, but cautioned against negotiating with terrorist groups, including the Taliban, while stressing that the recent terrorist attacks demonstrated that such groups lacked any regard for basic human rights.
However, a number of speakers disagreed strongly with that view, calling instead upon the Taliban to join peace talks without delay. Many delegates voiced support for the proposed extension of UNAMA’s mandate, planned for next week, while others focused on the need for stronger neighbourly relations among States in the region.
Several speakers expressed deep concern over heightened tensions between Afghanistan and Pakistan, whose representatives flung accusations at each other.
Ambassador Mahmoud Saikal, Afghanistan's Permanent Representative to the UN, recalled the dozens of terrorist attacks that had occurred across his country in recent months, claiming scores of innocent lives. These, he said, had generally been plotted beyond the Durand Line.
“This, Mr. President, is the fundamental factor which needs to be addressed,” he emphasized, noting that Council condemnations of those attacks urged States to cooperate actively with the Afghan authorities to bring the perpetrators to justice.
Nevertheless, impunity continued. “Let me be very clear,” he stressed. “The conflict in our country is not home-grown, as some desperately and deceptively try to portray.” On the contrary, Afghanistan was the nexus of illicit narcotics, violent extremism and State-sponsored terrorism with regional and global consequences.
Tragically, he continued, those factors had morphed into an “undeclared war” by a neighbouring State that for many years had facilitated – and continued to facilitate and orchestrate – violence through proxy forces and more than 20 terrorist networks.
“These groups benefit from a full-fledged external infrastructure to keep Afghanistan off-balance,” he said. Against that backdrop, a series of unfortunate terrorist attacks in Pakistan had killed dozens and wounded many more innocent men, women and children in February, yet that country’s Government had immediately, and without regard for investigative process or clear facts, blamed Afghanistan.
It had resorted to increased breaches of Afghan territorial integrity, closing its main border crossings, blocking trade and transit, and harassing Afghan nationals in Pakistan. Since January to date, at least 59 violations of Afghan territory by Pakistani military forces had been recorded. That country’s Government had also issued a list of 76 suspected terrorists inside Afghanistan, which, after inspection, had been found to be in “desperate need of verification”.
Afghanistan called upon Pakistan to desist from using radical terrorists as a “foreign policy accessory”, and to genuinely join the international fight against all forms and shades of terrorism. Underlining that talks leading to a peace process would only succeed when that country revised its policies, prohibited the use of sanctuaries, curbed terrorist financing and renounced violence, he went on to call for “healthy interactions” between the two countries.
The Quadrilateral Cooperation Group (which comprises the United States, China, Pakistan, and Afghanistan, and met officially for the first time in January 2016) and the recent six-party Moscow Conference on Afghanistan could prove useful in that regard.
But any prospect for success in peace efforts rested on a number of important principles: the existence of political will and an impartial, agreed international arbiter; agreement among all sides on the scope of dialogue and negotiations, eventually to be guaranteed by the international community; willingness on the part of all sides to address the root causes of conflict; agreement by all actors to take the complex and evolving regional and global security architecture into account; and observing the principles of sovereignty and non-interference in relation to Afghanistan.
Pakistan's Deputy Permanent Representative to the UN, Nabeel Munir rejected “baseless allegations” against his country by the representative of Afghanistan, emphasizing that the latter should deal with its many challenges instead of casting blame on others.
Afghanistan had consumed millions of dollars in international assistance with little to show for it, he pointed out, adding that shifting the blame to Pakistan would not help to resolve its challenges. “This forum should not be misused for gratuitous sermons,” he stressed.
Despite having paid a staggering human and financial cost as a result of Afghanistan’s crises, Pakistan had nevertheless successfully broken the back of terrorist groups operating within its borders. Some complained that its strong actions had pushed terrorists into Afghanistan, but the truth was that the latter’s weak border management was actually at fault, he said.
Munir went on to stress that Pakistan had exercised maximum restraint against that backdrop, adding that, although his country had been forced to close its borders temporarily, it had reopened them on purely humanitarian grounds.
“Singling out Pakistan and pinning the blame on it for everything that goes wrong in Afghanistan is neither fair nor accurate,” he said, underlining his country’s sincere engagement in the work of the Quadrilateral Coordination Group.
Pakistan also remained open to the repatriation of refugees, and deserved praise for having hosted more than 3 million Afghan refugees for some 40 years. Furthermore, Pakistan was committed to regional efforts to combat terrorism and drug trafficking, he said, expressing hope that other partners would share its zeal on those issues.
Ambassador Matthew Rycroft, United Kingdom's Permanent Representative to the UN and Council President for March, spoke in his national capacity, saying the recent abhorrent attacks in Kabul underscored the need for all actors to work together to bring peace to Afghanistan.
Noting that the violence would only increase as the winter weather receded in the coming weeks, he called for targeted efforts to eliminate terrorist sanctuaries and cut off their financing. Sustained efforts were also needed to improve the human rights situation, he said, adding that, whereas the current situation was unrecognizable compared to that of 2001, “being better than 2001 is not the benchmark to aspire to”.
Further efforts were needed to ensure that human rights were a “given” and not a question, he said. He went on to outline his country’s assistance in such areas as women’s empowerment and human rights monitoring and training.
Ambassador Kairat Umarov, Kazakhstan's Permanent Represenative to the UN in New York, commended the Afghan leadership’s continuing efforts in proactive engagement with opposition political parties, and said that the newly established Independent Election Commission must introduce reforms to ensure impartial and successful parliamentary and regional elections.
The exclusion of Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, leader of the Islamic Party of Afghanistan, from the Security Council Sanctions List could encourage opposition parties and the Taliban to engage actively in the peace process, he noted.
Afghanistan remained fragile and unstable, posing security threats to the wider region, including Central Asian States, he said, commending the efforts of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and the Afghan army and police.
Ambassador Umarov emphasized the critical need to combat poppy cultivation and opium production through closer regional cooperation and cooperation among origin, transit and destination countries involved in drug trafficking. Cooperation was also critical for Afghanistan’s economic revival in terms of regional trade, as well as economic and transit-transport matters, he said, emphasizing that counter-terrorism efforts would not be effective without properly addressing development issues.
Ambassador Koro Bessho, Japan's Permanent Representative to the UN, said 2017 would continue to present grave challenges for Afghanistan’s security and urged concrete results to counter negative trends. There must be progress on the anti-corruption and reform agenda, and it was also of key importance to strengthen socioeconomic development and provide employment, he added, emphasizing the need to strengthen society’s resilience.
That would entail supporting core industries like agriculture through market rehabilitation, as well as the Government’s National Comprehensive Agriculture Development Priority Programme.
As for the need to address imminent security threats, he said UNAMA must continue to coordinate various regional cooperation efforts on that front. Afghanistan required a combination of short-term efforts and mid- to long‑term engagement, he said, while emphasizing that only actual implementation and outcomes would bring hope to the Afghan people. That meant fewer casualties, higher employment, better training and more land for improved agricultural production. . [IDN-InDepthNews – 13 March 2017]
Photo: The United Nations Security Council and the UN mission in Afghanistan condemned March 8 terrorist attack on a military hospital in Kabul for which the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da'esh) claimed responsibility. Credit: Photo: UNAMA/Fardin Waezi
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