Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield
United States Representative to the United Nations
New York, New York
August 29, 2022
Thank you, Mr President. Thank you, Under-Secretary-General Griffiths and Deputy Special Representative Potzel, for your briefings.
Mr President, colleagues, I am pleased that this meeting has been convened today. Not for the reasons the Russians asked for it, but because the humanitarian situation in Afghanistan is dire, as we hear from UN briefers, and requires our attention.
Flash floods, earthquakes, avalanches, droughts and terrorism have made a desperate situation even more dire. The global food insecurity crisis, exacerbated by covid, climate and conflict, has been felt acutely by the Afghan people.
He listened to the statistics that Deputy Secretary Griffiths described, describing what he calls an “unrelenting layer of crisis.” The Taliban have failed to provide for the Afghan people. In fact, they have done just the opposite. The Taliban’s policies repress and starve the Afghan people instead of protecting them. The Taliban’s exclusion of outside voices means that people who would help ease the suffering of these crises cannot help. Among the most heinous actions of the Taliban are the repression and abuse of women and girls. The Taliban have denied women the opportunity to work, a decision that is unfair and economically dangerous.
In Chicago last week, I met with a refugee from Afghanistan who has found a new life in the United States. But he stays up at night knowing his wife is still there. He was educated, involved in the private sector, and contributed to his country. She is now confined to his house.
Equally appalling is that girls have not been allowed to return to school. This is both a moral problem and an economic problem. UNICEF estimates that the Afghan economy would gain $5.4 billion if the Taliban allowed girls to go to high school and join the workforce.
On top of that, the Taliban’s proclamation that it would be better for women to simply stay at home if a male chaperone can’t accompany them means that almost all female-headed households in the country don’t get enough food to eat.
Instead of seeking help from the international community for these crises, the Taliban harbored the Al Qaeda leader in central Kabul. How can they hope to build a relationship with the world when the Taliban provide a safe haven for those who seek to harm us all, and I mean all of us?
And in recent months the Taliban have even made it difficult to deliver humanitarian aid. They continue to interfere with the delivery of critical assistance that the Afghan people desperately need.
The Taliban have raised taxes on critical care. And it doesn’t protect aid workers.
All of which is to say: the Taliban are not providing for the Afghan people in their time of need.
But the United States will not give up or look the other way. We are determined to help the Afghan people. We have worked to help the Afghan people multilaterally, through the UN and this Council. Last year, we led this Council’s effort to unanimously pass a resolution establishing an exception for the delivery of humanitarian aid to the Afghan people. And we have strongly supported the work of the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan. We support the extension of his critical work last March. Your good offices, outreach and information on human rights continue to be invaluable. And we have also worked bilaterally to directly help the Afghan people.
The United States is the world’s leading donor in Afghanistan. In the past year alone, we have provided more than $775 million in humanitarian assistance directly to the Afghan people and to Afghans in the region. And we are proud to be the largest funder of UN operations in Afghanistan. We have also issued seven general licenses to allow the economic activity of the Afghan people. And we’re supporting efforts to protect, preserve and provide access to approximately $3.5 billion in Afghan central bank assets for the benefit of the Afghan people.
Let me be clear: no country that is serious about containing terrorism in Afghanistan would advocate giving the Taliban instant and unconditional access to billions in assets belonging to the Afghan people. Countries that have rolled up their sleeves and tried to tackle this problem, like ours, have seen the Afghan Central Bank emptied long ago. It does not have a credible system against money laundering. It does not have a credible system to combat the financing of terrorism. And it doesn’t have an independent monitor to verify capacity improvements through technical support. Therefore, the Afghan central bank, on its own, cannot currently carry out a responsible monetary policy.
Fortunately, there is a reason the Afghani, the Afghan currency, has been stable: because major donors, including the United States, have generously contributed more than $2 billion in humanitarian assistance and basic needs programs to the country since. last august.
Today we have heard Russia say that this is not enough. Russia argued, as others have in the past, that Afghanistan’s problems are the fault of the “West,” not the Taliban. Really? Here’s my question: What are you doing to help besides refreshing the past and criticizing others? If you are concerned that Afghan women and children are dying, how are you helping them?
Russia has contributed just $2 million to the UN Afghanistan Humanitarian Response Plan to date. And Russia has not contributed anything, not a penny, nothing this year.
China’s contributions have been equally disappointing.
If you want to talk about how Afghanistan needs help, that’s fine. But we humbly suggest that you put your money where your mouth is.
In the meantime, the United States, along with other partners and allies, including many in this Council, will continue to diligently do all we can to support the Afghan people. We will continue to provide humanitarian assistance. We will continue to support UNAMA. We will continue to be advocates for the women and girls of Afghanistan. We will continue to do everything possible to help mothers and daughters, fathers and sons, the people of Afghanistan who deserve it so much.
Thank you, Mr President.