Top UN envoy says security transition is on track
WASHINGTON (PAN):Noting that the two-year security transition process is on track to begin later this month, the United Nation’s top envoy to Afghanistan, Staffan de Mistura, told the UN Security Council on Wednesday that to be successful, it must be underpinned by socio-economic development that the Afghan people so desperately need and deserve.
“Afghanistan is at a crossroads — between national sovereignty and responsibility, between continuing conflict and politically inclusive dialogue,” said Mistura, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan.
Addressing a special meeting of the Security Council, Mistura said that as US troops begin their withdrawal from Afghanistan this month, the phased security transition will begin in seven Afghan provinces, culminating in a complete transfer of responsibility for security to Afghan forces in mid-2014.
Mistura said while there is a perception of improvement in the security situation, he could not fail to note last week’s “shocking” attack on the Intercontinental Hotel in Kabul. “Many of [us] have been there and know the iconic value of that hotel,” he said, also citing troubling anti-Government attacks in Kandahar, Herat and other cities.
But he urged the Council to see such events in context, pointing out that, while they were of grave concern, they had all been effectively addressed by Afghan military and police forces.
The US Ambassador to the UN, Susan Rice, said as Afghan security forces move into the lead, the United States will continue to reduce its military footprint, and its mission will change from combat to support.
“President Obama made this decision from a position of strength. We have made significant progress towards our goals. The U.S. military surge, together with additional troops committed by our allies and partners, has helped stabilize more of the country and shifted the momentum away from the insurgency,” she said.
Rice said Afghan security forces have improved in quality and grown by more than 100,000 troops. In some areas, these improvements have already allowed for the transition of responsibility for security to the Afghan National Security Forces.
Sir Mark Lyall Grant, Permanent Representative of the UK Mission to the UN, said an Afghan-led political process is needed to underpin the military progress.
“To be durable, any political settlement must be inclusive and must respect the interests and rights of all Afghan citizens. The death of Osama bin Laden gives the Taliban an opportunity to make a decisive break with Al Qaeda,” he said.
“The British Foreign Secretary has called for the Taliban to make that break and participate in a political process. We urge the international community to call for the same outcome,” he noted.
Chinese Ambassador Wang Min said Afghanistan still needs help in areas including security and reconciliation. China stands by all efforts to push the Kabul process through, and stressed that all initiatives should lead to the creation of “an Afghanistan owned by Afghans”.
The country’s sovereignty must be respected, and support must be provided for initiatives identified as priorities by the Afghan authorities, he stressed.
Alexander Pankin, the Russian representative, condemned the attacks on United Nations staff in Mazar-i-sharif, the Intercontinental Hotel Kabul and other terrorist actions, saying they showed how Taliban insurgents continued to undermine national reconciliation efforts, as well as international post-conflict reconstruction efforts.
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