Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
Thank you for this opportunity to address the Security Council and to present a few remarks on the situation in Afghanistan and prospects for the future from the perspective of NATO. The text of my remarks is available.
The first point I wish to make is that the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force is operating under UN Security Council authorisation and to fulfill UN purposes. NATO’s decisions in relation to ISAF are based on that fundamental principal.
In NATO’s quarterly reports to the UN Security Council, the latest of which was submitted by the NATO Secretary General on 31 May, we set out in detail the issues of interest to the UN Security Council. Our conclusions on the security situation are consistent with those of the UN. There has been a marked reduction in the number of security incidents in the first half of this year and the Afghan National Security Forces have made substantial progress in terms of numbers and quality. ISAF has integrated into its structures and operations the implementation of UNSCR 1325 on women, peace and security, as well as taking measures on the protection of children from the damaging effects of armed conflict.
Last month, 21 May, the NATO summit in Chicago, dedicated a full session to Afghanistan. It was attended by all 50 contributors to the ISAF mission, President Karzai, representatives of Russia, Central Asian states and Japan, and President Zardari of Pakistan. The United Nations Secretary General participated. So did the European Union. The presence of important states involved in regional processes was a sign of their significance to the ISAF operation, but also to the broader international effort to stabilise Afghanistan. Let me sum up the key points of the Chicago summit:
- We assessed progress on the transition of security to Afghan responsibility. With the third tranche of transition starting now in Afghanistan, Afghan soldiers and police will be taking the lead for the security of 75 percent of the population over the next few months. The Afghan National Security Forces are on schedule to take full responsibility for security by the end of 2014, and that’s when we will complete our ISAF mission.
- The Summit also looked beyond the end of the ISAF mission. At the International Conference on Afghanistan in Bonn in December 2011, the international community recognised that Afghanistan would continue to need strong support and help after 2014. Against that background, at Chicago, NATO with our ISAF partners confirmed that we will see our ISAF mission through and then begin a new mission after 2014, to train, advise and assist the Afghan security forces. The Afghan Government reaffirmed NATO’s crucial role beyond 2014 and invited NATO to continue its support.
- Finally, Chicago provided the opportunity for NATO allies and partners to confirm their broader support to Afghanistan and assistance to the Afghan National Security Forces after 2014. Chicago was not a pledging conference. But a number of Allies and partners came forward with significant commitments of financial support both before and at the summit. Financing the Afghan National Security Forces is not a responsibility for NATO members and ISAF contributors alone. Nevertheless, Chicago added significant momentum to international efforts to secure the necessary financial support for the Afghan National Security Forces after the ISAF mission has ended.
The Afghan Government was closely consulted in the preparation of the Summit. President Karzai restated in Chicago the commitment of the Afghan authorities to face up to the challenges of good governance and to promote human rights. As noted in the Chicago Joint Declaration with the Government of Afghanistan, continued progress on governance and human rights will encourage ISAF contributors to further provide their support up to 2014 and beyond.
We have studied the UN Secretary General’s latest report. We note his concerns on civilian casualties. Nevertheless, it is important to remember that 85% of civilian casualties this year have been caused by anti-government elements. The reductions in the number attributable to ISAF and Afghan National Security Forces are well documented. We have seen a reduction in 70% from 1 February 2012 to 30 April 2012 over the same period in 2011. However, as the NATO Secretary General has emphasised publicly, any civilian casualty is one too many. ISAF efforts to reduce civilian casualties are continuous and rigorous and we are also working very closely with the Afghan National Security Forces to strengthen the ability of Afghan forces to prevent and mitigate civilian casualties.
To conclude, we have a clear strategy for completing by 31 December 2014 the transition of full security responsibility to the Afghan National Security Forces; and we are starting the process of planning our new mission to train, advise and assist those Afghan forces after 2014. More generally, NATO recognises that its contribution to the stability of Afghanistan is just part of a much wider effort by the Afghans themselves, and by the International Community, to tackle the broad spectrum of security, governance and development challenges faced by Afghanistan. In that context, much depends on the continued close co-operation between the UN and NATO, and specifically between UNAMA and ISAF. It is only by working together, in the spirit of the comprehensive approach, that we can achieve in Afghanistan the aims which are set out clearly in UN Security Council Resolutions and which will meet the aspirations of the Afghan people.
I thank you Mr. President.