Translation from the Norwegian
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This autumn it will be ten years since Al-Qaeda attacked the World Trade Center in New York. It is ten years since the Taliban regime was ousted and the international community undertook to support the development of a stable, unified and democratic Afghanistan.
These have been ten dramatic years, which have seen both progress and setbacks. The situation in Afghanistan is not resolved. The Afghan people are still living with conflict and uncertainty, and the region is unstable.
The brutal attack on the UN compound in Mazar-e-Sharif on 1 April in which seven UN workers were tragically killed, among them Norwegian Lieutenant Colonel Siri Skare, shows that unpredictability and violence are an integral part of daily life in Afghanistan, even in areas thought to be relatively stable. The attack made a strong impression on all of us. We expect those responsible to be brought to justice and proper steps to be taken to ensure the safety of international aid workers.
The UN will continue its broad-based engagement in Afghanistan despite this brutal attack. There is still a need for a strong UN presence to coordinate the international civilian effort and serve as the primary contact point for the Afghan Government.
In my address here today I will reiterate some of the reasons why we are engaged in Afghanistan and give an assessment of where we – the international community and the Afghan authorities – stand ten years after the Taliban’s fall and how the Norwegian Government envisages our engagement in the country in the time ahead.
To begin with, as underscored in successive Security Council resolutions, the purpose of our engagement in Afghanistan is to help to prevent the country once more becoming a safe haven from which terrorists can plan and conduct large-scale operations.
Although statebuilding is not an isolated objective, the fact that we are engaged in a broad-based civil effort to promote economic growth, political rights, respect for human rights and sustainable institutions reflects the importance we attach to preventing Afghanistan from once more becoming a safe haven for terrorists.
Like our participation in the Libyan operation, our participation in Afghanistan is based on a mandate from the UN Security Council. The International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), in which Norway is participating, was established in December 2001 on the basis of Security Council resolution 1386. As indicated by its name, ISAF is a force that is intended to assist the Afghans in their own efforts to stabilise their country. The resolution confirmed that the situation in Afghanistan constituted a threat to international peace and security as a breeding ground for international terrorism. The fact that this is still the case is reaffirmed in Security Council resolution 1943 of October 2010, which is ISAF’s current UN mandate. The Security Council has also explicitly stated that all parties in Afghanistan must respect human rights, including the rights of women.
Today 48 countries are participating in ISAF, i.e. about a fourth of UN member states. This is more than ever before and clearly demonstrates the international legitimacy of the engagement in Afghanistan. It is also worth noting that a third of the countries in the International Contact Group for Afghanistan and Pakistan have large Muslim populations.
Norway’s contribution to ISAF, which numbers some 500 women and men, is significant, and we are still among the countries that are contributing the most personnel per capita. In addition to our military contribution, several dozen Norwegian civilians are working in Afghanistan, 23 of whom are police advisers.
There is broad consensus in the Storting on our engagement in Afghanistan. This is an advantage and makes it easier for us to clearly express our views when the situation in Afghanistan is discussed in the UN, NATO, Kabul and elsewhere.
The Government attaches great importance to maintaining this broad consensus, both with a view to presenting Norwegian views externally and to showing support for Norwegian women and men who are engaged in civil and military service in Afghanistan. We are impressed by their efforts and proud of the commitment they show.
Last month the Security Council extended the mandate of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA). The new mandate is very similar to the previous one, but the principles of Afghan ownership and the gradual transfer of responsibility to the Afghan authorities are confirmed and more clearly defined.
The Afghan authorities have been more closely engaged in the drafting of the mandate than previously, which demonstrates their desire to take more responsibility for their own situation. Norway has been calling for greater Afghan ownership for a long time, and we are pleased to see that this principle has now gained acceptance in the international community.
As I said by way of introduction, the past ten years have seen both progress and setbacks, and it is often the setbacks that have attracted most attention. But we should also highlight some of the achievements the Afghan authorities and the Afghan people have made during the past decade with the support of the international community.
First of all the feared Taliban regime has been ousted. Afghanistan is no longer a safe haven for Al-Qaeda. One of the aims of our efforts in Afghanistan is to safeguard the country against international terrorists in the future as well.
Today Afghanistan is a country that has elected leaders. As the last parliamentary and presidential elections have shown, the elections are far from perfect. But – and this is important – elections are being held, and they are of a standard that is unprecedented in Afghanistan. For example, women have full voting rights.
The infrastructure has been greatly improved, particularly as regards roads and electricity supply. More than 10 000 kilometres of roads have been upgraded. The first power line through Afghanistan from Central Asia has been completed and others are in the planning stages. This has contributed to a more stable supply of electricity to an increasing number of places and people.
A new railway line is being built that will link Afghanistan to the Central Asian countries, Russia, China and Pakistan. All these improvements are helping to stimulate further economic development by exploiting one of Afghanistan’s natural advantages, i.e. its location as a geographical hub in a large region.
Economic growth is stable and high. Per capita GDP has more than doubled during the past decade, but it was originally very low. At the same time tax revenues have increased from virtually nothing in 2001 to more than NOK 6 billion last year.
During the visits I have made to Afghanistan, I have seen at first hand clear examples of economic development and optimism for the future. The economy is flourishing. This applies to everything from small private firms to large-scale national infrastructure projects. This bodes well for the future.
Several thousand new schools have been built, both primary and secondary schools. In Faryab province, where the Norwegian forces are responsible for security, more than 100 schools have been built with Norwegian aid funds. I was present at the opening of one of these schools. There were hundreds of girls in fully equipped classrooms in what had previously been stables for the horses of Taliban soldiers. This is symbolic in more ways than one.
Children and young people must be given opportunities. In 2001 less than one million Afghan children attended school. Today this figure is seven million. One third of them are girls. They have a broad curriculum. This is in sharp contrast to the situation under the Taliban, when girls were forbidden to attend school and boys studied religious texts and were encouraged to hate and oppose those who held different beliefs.
Ten years ago, only around 10% of the Afghan people had access to basic health services. Today the figure is close to 85%. Infant mortality has been reduced by 25%.
There is also much greater access to information today than there was ten years ago. In 2001 there were no television stations in Afghanistan, and only one radio station. Now there are several dozen television stations and more than 100 radio stations that broadcast in a number of languages.
Large areas have been cleared of landmines and unexploded ordnance during the past decade, and the number of landmine victims has been substantially reduced.
Afghanistan is finally well on the way in its efforts to develop and train the military and the police, which is necessary if the authorities are to be able to take responsibility for the country’s security. Today the Afghan army numbers 152 000, while the police force numbers 119 000. Despite the fact that there are problems and challenges related to everything from the lack of formal qualifications to personnel deserting, it is important that the Afghan state gradually develops its own security structure.
As I mentioned at the beginning of my address, statebuilding in itself is not the reason for our presence and engagement in Afghanistan. But my impression is that more and more people recognise that progress in this area is crucial if we are to succeed in achieving one of the main objectives set out in the UN mandate, i.e. enabling the Afghans to govern their country.
As you can see, the results are promising in many areas.
At the same time we must recognise that many have had too high expectations as to what could be achieved. Moreover, certain aspirations have been based more on wishful thinking than on realistic analyses and assessments of how quickly changes can be implemented, not least given the dire situation in Afghanistan ten years ago.
The country is beginning to emerge from this situation, but there is still a long way to go and there are many obstacles ahead. This is why we need to constantly assess the progress being made in attaining Afghanistan’s development goals and social objectives with a view to eventually withdrawing our military forces.
If Afghanistan is to have a future as one nation, the government in Kabul must be able to exert an influence in the provinces. This will only happen if the elected government is perceived as being representative and legitimate. And this requires as a minimum that it is perceived as promoting security and economic growth in the districts, which in turn calls for close cooperation between central and local government authorities.
This is not the case today. There is still no statutory basis in Afghanistan for this cooperation. Therefore there is a constant danger that power will be fragmented, which would undermine the chances of finding national solutions. There is also a danger that the international community could support parallel Afghan structures because of the need for functioning authorities in the provinces and districts. This gives cause for concern.
What is called for is closer cooperation where the Government’s decisions are supported at the provincial level. Furthermore, the leadership in Kabul must support and be supported by elected local and regional representatives. An effort must be made to prevent further polarisation between the Pashtun-dominated areas in the south and the non-Pashtun areas in the north.
At the same time the authorities in Kabul must take responsibility for governing their own country and for their own development, as set out in the mandate from the Security Council. This means that the principles of Afghan ownership and transition – i.e. the transfer of responsibility from the international community to the Afghan authorities – must be given substance and a direction and time-frame that are realistic for both parties. The Afghan authorities and the international community have a collective responsibility to ensure that these efforts succeed.
We have seen that the deep tensions in Afghan society are impeding the progress sought by both the Afghans and the international community. It is too easy to say that the Taliban are the sole obstacle here.
What we perceive as the insurgency is very complex. The use of general terms such as “the Taliban” is an oversimplification of the reality unfolding on the ground in Afghanistan.
Several different groups have taken up arms against the authorities and the international presence in the country. This includes everything from the Taliban to criminal networks and not least armed groups involved in local conflicts and disputes. The forces behind the insurgency are complex and difficult to identify, particularly when we see different constellations of groups, for instance the local cooperation between the Taliban and criminal drug cartels.
The Taliban and other insurgent groups are still forces to be reckoned with and have widespread influence in large parts of the country. The Afghan authorities have, in cooperation with ISAF, made progress in their efforts to weaken these groups in parts of Helmand and Kandahar provinces in the south. It is however too early to tell whether this progress is permanent. Whether or not the tactical gains that have been made will have a more long-term effect will not be clear for a few months.
In our efforts to stand firm against the Taliban and other insurgent groups, it is not realistic for us to aim to eliminate all military resistance. Instead we must seek to prevent the insurgents from gaining a foothold and help make negotiated solutions seem more attractive. Long-term stabilisation can only be achieved by means of a political process that leads to an outcome endorsed by all the major ethnic groups.
The international coalition went into Afghanistan to support the Afghan authorities in their efforts to deal with Al-Qaeda and the Taliban. The Afghan authorities are responsible for combating crime and dealing with internal conflicts. The purpose of ISAF’s training programme for the Afghan security forces is to enable them to do precisely that.
Despite the fact that most of the unrest has been confined to specific parts of the country, it is spreading to new areas, including some that were previously thought to be safe. The situation in the north, where there has been a sharp increase in insurgent activity, as demonstrated by the attack in Mazar-e-Sharif on 1 April, gives cause for concern. We also see this in Faryab province, where Norway has a special responsibility as leader of the Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT).
There are also a number of examples of insurgents attacking civilians and executing doctors, teachers, tribal leaders and officials perceived as being supporters of the Afghan authorities and the international mission. Fear and insecurity are the insurgents’ main weapons.
The average Afghan citizen also experiences insecurity in the form of misuse of power, corruption, grave human rights violations, the whims of warlords and other abuse and assaults.
We cannot expect to see a modern society emerge in the course of a few years. Particularly not in Afghanistan, which has been one of the world’s poorest, most undeveloped countries and is scarred by decades of civil war.
The fact that the Afghan nation-building project as it was defined almost ten years ago involves having a strong central government in a country that has no homogeneous culture and tradition does not make it any easier.
Our military effort will continue to be designed to promote security and the necessary stability for the political authorities. We know, however, that lasting peace and stability are dependent on both economic growth and participation in the political process.
One of the most difficult challenges facing Afghanistan is how its authorities can gain the real legitimacy and control required to govern the country. We, the international community, can point out what we think is necessary, what we can offer and how we can improve our assistance. But we must acknowledge to a far greater extent than previously that it is the Afghans themselves who must build their country. Our role is to assist and support them.
During the past few years we have repeatedly asked whether international actors are doing enough to enable the Afghans to take this responsibility. The country is on the right track, in accordance with Norway’s long-held views. The international community is now more receptive to the Afghan authorities’ wishes. During the election last year, the UN primarily provided technical support, precisely so that that the Afghans themselves could steer the democratic process. The same applies to the work of the UN support group for the High Peace Council.
As external actors, we may regard President Karzai as a difficult partner. We can point out that he and his government make choices we may feel are wrong, and even irresponsible. But Mr Karzai is the elected president of Afghanistan, and we must accept that both he and other Afghan politicians are living in a reality that is different from ours. A reality where short-term survival and fragile alliances have always been, and still are, the order of the day.
As I have stressed here in the Storting on previous occasions, a logical consequence of transferring more responsibility to the Afghan authorities is that we will have to accept that they will choose solutions that we in the West view as suboptimal – solutions based on other traditions, values and models of government than those we regard as ideal.
This will not be easy for us, but I think it is absolutely essential.
At the NATO summit in Lisbon last November, it was agreed to begin a gradual transition involving the handover of security responsibility from the international forces to the Afghan forces in 2011. At the same time ISAF’s military forces would be gradually withdrawn with a view to pulling out completely in 2014. This is the aim. It is conditional on the ability of the Afghan authorities to take over responsibility for the country’s security in parallel with the withdrawal of ISAF forces.
At the summit, the NATO Secretary General and President Karzai signed a declaration reaffirming that NATO and Afghanistan will have a long-term political partnership – not an operational one – beyond 2014. This means that NATO’s commitment to promoting security in Afghanistan will also continue beyond 2014, but in another form. The US is currently negotiating a new strategic partnership agreement with Afghanistan.
It is too early to say with any certainty what NATO’s mission in Afghanistan will look like in two, four or six years’ time. It is important for Norway that NATO stands united, that the withdrawal is carried out as part of an overall plan and that the Allies continue to coordinate their efforts in accordance with the decisions taken at the NATO summit in Lisbon last November.
We now see that the Afghan security forces are capable of dealing with security challenges in some parts of the country. It has been important for the ISAF countries to get started on the first stages of handing over security responsibility to the Afghan Government. On 22 March President Karzai announced that the Afghan security forces would take over responsibility for selected districts and provinces this summer, as a first step towards taking over responsibility for the security of the entire country by 2014.
This does not mean an end to all insurgency in Afghanistan by that time. The aim is that the Afghan security forces will be able to deal with the situation themselves and take responsibility for stability and governance.
Thus, we must also be realistic in our expectations as to the security situation in the Afghanistan we hand over to the Afghan authorities at the end of 2014. It is imperative, Mr President, that we focus our attention on what the Afghans need in order to do the job themselves, not on what we have to deliver before we can leave.
At the same time it is clear that it will be difficult for Afghanistan to finance a security force numbering over 300 000 army and police personnel for any period of time. But supporting these forces would cost less than a large-scale international security presence, and should be viewed as a wise investment by those who are currently providing an expensive military presence. At any rate it is vital that the international community continues to provide security assistance up to 2015, and that it also assists in the retraining of security forces for other occupations as soon as this is possible and defensible from the point of view of security.
Faryab province, where the Norwegian-led PRT is located, and where we have concentrated most of our military contribution, is not considered to be ready for the transfer of security responsibility this year, but we are working systematically to lay the groundwork for such a transfer. This means that ISAF will continue to have a presence in Faryab in the time ahead. This is why the Government will propose that Norway continues to provide troops to this PRT in 2012.
Today there is considerable insurgent activity in several areas of Faryab province, and a large number of operations designed to enhance stability and lay the foundation for transferring security responsibility to the Afghan authorities are being carried out there. These operations are being led by the Afghan army, with the support of Norwegian and US forces.
The situation in Ghowrmach district, located in the western part of Faryab province and a centre of insurgency, is particularly demanding. In this district, where US forces are operating together with the Afghans, about 37 kilometres of the critically important Ring Road, which runs through Afghanistan, are still under construction. The completion of the highway will be an important contribution to development and security in this area.
In the time ahead, ISAF will focus on guarding the construction work. More ISAF forces will be provided to the western parts of northern Afghanistan, including Faryab province and the Ghowrmach district. The completion of the Ring Road throughout Faryab province is an important precondition for transition.
The Norwegian contribution in Faryab will be streamlined in order to further intensify efforts to train and mentor Afghan security forces, which is the key to a rapid transfer of security responsibility to them.
Both the US and Afghanistan have reaffirmed that they will cooperate beyond the target date for the final transfer of security responsibility to the Afghan authorities. The details of the transfer are not yet clear, as the two countries have just begun negotiations on a new strategic partnership agreement.
It is important that the US engages in dialogue with Afghanistan’s neighbours in connection with the new agreement, which is expected to be in place by the Bonn Conference in December this year – ten years after the conference in that same city that charted the course for Afghanistan after the fall of the Taliban regime. We will seek to ensure that the conference clearly identifies what is needed to ensure that the Afghans have the best possible basis for succeeding in their further statebuilding and development efforts.
The US is planning to reduce its military presence in summer 2011. The scale of the reductions is currently unclear. The US stresses that the withdrawal must be “responsible” and that it must be based on the situation on the ground. The US has announced that a more comprehensive review of its engagement will be carried out in the course of the spring/summer. It is vital that the US takes due account of the wishes and needs of the Afghan authorities and the other countries and organisations that are helping to build Afghanistan’s future, including Norway.
There has been a great deal of focus on civilian losses as a result of the fighting in Afghanistan. Just under 2800 civilians were killed in Afghanistan in 2010, which is an estimated increase of 15% from 2009. According to the UN, the vast majority of those killed, over 80%, lost their lives due to the activities of insurgents.
It is estimated that the Afghan security forces and ISAF were responsible for around 16% of all civilian deaths. This is a significant reduction compared with the previous year, but still far too many. Norway has worked actively to promote measures that can limit the number of civilians killed by ISAF. It is encouraging to see that these measures have had an effect.
Having said this, we have to be realistic and recognise that civilian losses are an inevitable consequence of the fighting. But we must do everything in our power to keep these losses to an absolute minimum.
If there is to be peace and stability in Afghanistan, there must be a broad-based political process and some form of reconciliation. At the Kabul Conference last summer, Norway was one of a number of countries to advocate a process of this kind, which must be Afghan-led and Afghan-owned. Today there is widespread agreement on this. In recent years, attitudes have changed fundamentally in key capital cities in the West.
Today there is widespread international agreement that the various ethnic and social groups in Afghanistan need to feel that they have a stake in the process, including groups that are currently responsible for the armed insurgency.
The peace jirga – or peace assembly – that was held in Kabul in the summer of 2010 gave the Afghan authorities a clear mandate to pursue a path of peace and reconciliation. For example, it approved the establishment of a High Peace Council.
Despite its multiethnic composition, the High Peace Council has been criticised because a number of its members are former political leaders and warlords who are suspected of being responsible for, or involved in, extensive human rights violations under previous regimes. What is more, less than 20% of the members of the council are women.
Nevertheless, in President Karzai’s view it has been essential to involve “yesterday’s leaders”, given the situation in Afghanistan today. If they are excluded, the chances are still too great that they will attempt to impede or undermine a future reconciliation process. We have to be receptive to such an assessment.
Let me reiterate: Afghan reconciliation must be Afghan-owned. So far, the activities of the High Peace Council seem to be moving in the right direction, although we are yet to see concrete results.
One crucial question is how the Afghan authorities are dealing with the Taliban. There have been a number of low-level meetings between representatives of the Afghan authorities and representatives of the Taliban. An equally important question as regards any possible peace process is, of course, what the Taliban’s intentions are, and how they are being influenced by recent developments, particularly the persistent military pressure they have been subject to.
Real negotiations are probably still some way into the future, and the outcome of any such negotiations is shrouded in uncertainty. However, the aim must be to enter into dialogue with a view to achieving a more consensual vision of Afghanistan’s future.
The Afghan reconciliation process is dependent on the support of Afghanistan’s neighbouring countries. It is therefore encouraging that the High Peace Council has already held consultations with several of these countries, with a view to fostering understanding for the need to have a broad-based, Afghan-led and Afghan-owned process.
The Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC) has now become involved and hopes to contribute to a solution. Various initiatives have been taken by individual countries to facilitate a reconciliation process. The question of a reconciliation process is also discussed regularly in the International Contact Group for Afghanistan and Pakistan, in which the Afghan Government, the UN and the international community participate.
Norwegian envoys have regular meetings with senior officials, politicians, parliamentarians and civil society representatives in Afghanistan. The aim of this dialogue is to help create new forums for discussion between the various segments of Afghan society. As far as I can judge, these efforts have been favourably received both by the Afghans and by our other allies.
The stance taken by the US is, naturally, very important. In a major policy speech on Afghanistan in February, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton charted the course for the US engagement in Afghanistan in the time ahead. She called for “a diplomatic surge” in order to find a political solution to the conflict, without stipulating detailed conditions for entering into negotiations with the insurgents.
This is in keeping with Norway’s approach: we must set clear requirements as regards the outcome of any negotiations, but not create any obstacles to negotiations before they have even begun.
South Asia is the least integrated region in the world. There is a lack of good mechanisms that could encourage Afghanistan’s neighbouring countries to become engaged and take responsibility. The instability in Afghanistan cannot be overcome by the people of Afghanistan, the UN or NATO alone. The test will be whether Afghanistan’s neighbouring countries have the ability and will to engage in cross-border political cooperation, put aside their interregional rivalries and take a wider perspective that enables them to see their common interest in securing a peaceful and stable Afghanistan.
The situation in Afghanistan and developments in the time ahead will affect the neighbouring countries and their interests to varying degrees. Pakistan plays a key role with regard to stability in Afghanistan. At the same time, Pakistan itself has a strong interest in a stable Afghanistan. The two countries are both dependent on finding a political solution, and on reconciliation with the Taliban in order to reduce the threat posed by the group. For the rest of the region, and beyond, the stability of Pakistan is of great importance because of the country’s nuclear capability.
When President Barack Obama, in his statement in December on the Afghanistan-Pakistan Annual Review, placed so much emphasis on Pakistan needing to do more to deal with terrorist safe havens in tribal regions along the Afghan-Pakistan border, this was due just as much to concern over the situation in Pakistan as to concern over the situation in Afghanistan. This is a concern we share.
We are also witnessing a far more visible and engaged Iran in the efforts to provide practical support for Afghanistan. The Iranians are playing an important role in efforts to combat drug trafficking. This is in Iran’s own interests, as the country has a large number of drug users and is suffering social and economic losses on account of this.
There are deep divisions between Iran and the Taliban movement. Nevertheless, we see that there are actors in Iran who are supplying anti-government groups in Afghanistan with weapons and equipment. The motivation for this is clearly to thwart what they see as US ambitions in the region, in particular the prospect of a permanent military presence. If there is to be a lasting and sustainable political solution in Afghanistan, Iran’s cooperation is also needed. And it will of course also be necessary to involve India, China, Saudi Arabia and the Central Asian republics more actively.
However, the region lacks credible political processes, channels and procedures for cooperation. Norway has launched an initiative to strengthen the participation of the neighbouring countries in the efforts to stabilise Afghanistan. Over a period of several months, Norwegian envoys have facilitated dialogue with Afghanistan’s neighbouring countries. The US and UNAMA have also participated in this dialogue. These roundtable discussions are a supplement to other regional initiatives, which are being led by Turkey among others, and which I was able to discuss with my Turkish colleagues during my visit to Ankara last week.
The aim of these initiatives is that economic and political interaction between the countries in the region can help to maintain the stability the Afghan people need if they are to experience peace and economic development, while at the same time promoting stability for Afghanistan’s neighbouring countries.
The Government has earlier announced that it will propose the allocation of NOK 750 million annually for Norway’s civilian efforts in Afghanistan for the period 2008–2012.
One of the main purposes of this assistance is to build Afghan institutional capacity, since the country will increasingly take over responsibility for and lead its development efforts.
At the Kabul Conference in July 2010, agreement was reached between the donor countries and the Afghan Government that within two years, at least 50% of development aid will be channelled through the Afghan Government’s core budget and at least 80% will be aligned with Afghan national priorities. Norway has actively advocated these principles, and has set an example by implementing them in relation to Norwegian development assistance.
There is a long way to go before this objective is achieved. Much assistance to Afghanistan is short-term and not in accordance with well-established principles for successful development assistance. Norway has sought to focus its efforts on key development areas, such as education, rural development, good governance and women’s rights.
The Afghan Government must be held accountable for its actions. Increased self-government in Afghanistan does not mean that no demands will be made. We will call attention to any Afghan breaches of international standards and obligations. This applies not least to the area of human rights, where we have witnessed a number of worrying trends, especially relating to the situation of women.
It will take time to strengthen the power and influence of women in Afghan society. We are sharing our experience and supporting the UN, the Afghan authorities and civil society in their efforts to strengthen the rights of women and girls in Afghanistan. It is important that our efforts in this area are not just targeted at Afghan women; Afghan men must also be involved.
Norway is the largest donor to the UN organisation for women in Afghanistan, UN Women. By supporting UN Women, we have helped to set up the Afghan Resource Centre for Women in Politics, and supported the National Action Plan for the Women of Afghanistan.
Through the UN Trust Fund to End Violence against Women, we have helped to set up at least five women’s crisis centres and to further develop the Ministry of Women’s Affairs’ national database on violence against women. This is an important tool in assessing the scale of violence against women in Afghanistan, which remains a serious challenge. Let me add that Norwegians posted to Afghanistan, together with representatives of the other Nordic countries, often meet Afghan women and give them advice and support in their efforts to achieve more rights.
We also provide considerable support for the police force in Afghanistan, and we have 23 police advisers in the country; seven in Kabul and 16 in Meymaneh, Faryab. The main focus of our efforts is on the EU Police Mission in Afghanistan (EUPOL), in Faryab province. Here we are making an important contribution to efforts to build up the Afghan police force and train it to protect the civilian population and safeguard the rights of Afghan citizens. The task is challenging for the Norwegian police advisers who, in cooperation with the Afghan authorities and EUPOL, have been helping the police in Faryab province to improve their professional expertise. These efforts focus on how police services can be carried out in such a way as to benefit the population as a whole and to safeguard the principles of the rule of law, including gender equality.
A large share of Norwegian assistance to Afghan budgets and programmes is channelled through the World Bank Multi-donor Trust Fund and the UN.
Our aim is to enable the Afghan authorities themselves to manage the funds, but we have to accept that it will take time before the Afghan institutions can take full responsibility for running all the development projects and providing all the necessary public services.
In the civil sphere, the transition to Afghan leadership therefore means that we must facilitate the Afghan takeover and running of projects and services that have been built up over the last few years by the international community. We give priority to projects that can generate employment, economic growth and revenues for the Afghan Treasury. Otherwise, the Afghan people may risk being left with a whole range of valuable projects that they do not have the capacity or opportunity to maintain and continue.
In the long term, Afghanistan has significant potential due to its rich natural resources. It is important to lay the groundwork for sound management and distribution policies so that the revenues from the natural resources benefit the population as a whole. Norway is helping the Afghan authorities to develop a national energy policy through the Oil for Development programme. In the long term, the opportunities for economic and social reconstruction in Afghanistan lie in the exploitation of the country’s natural resources and the development of its human resources.
Corruption is perhaps the greatest obstacle to projects of this kind being realised for the benefit of Afghanistan. At the beginning of my address, I mentioned the strong economic growth and the fact that the wheels of business that generate Afghan growth and employment are now turning faster. But increased turnover and business activities also increase the risk of corruption. We must set clear requirements and support effective measures for combating corruption.
We will continue to channel some of our assistance through Norwegian, international and Afghan NGOs, insofar as this is effective. Some of our assistance will still go to humanitarian relief in the time ahead.
Based on experience from a large number of other complex civil-military operations, and on our own experience and that of others in Afghanistan, we will maintain a clear distinction between humanitarian, development and military efforts. This is also in line with key principles for humanitarian assistance. If these areas are combined, this will eventually undermine both military and civilian efforts. The idea that aid can be used in a military context as a tool for winning “hearts and minds” is short-sighted, especially in a country where loyalties and alliances shift as frequently as they do in Afghanistan. Norway’s view in this area is beginning to resonate with a number of our allies and in a range of international forums, and is supported by key international research findings in this field.
Making a clear distinction between the roles of civilian and military actors does not mean that we are opposed to close coordination between the areas. On the contrary, as I have said in this chamber before, we aim to have close cooperation – but to avoid confusion. In Norway’s view, it is still essential to protect the humanitarian space, while at the same time ensuring that military and civilian efforts are mutually reinforcing and do not undermine each other.
Afghanistan has received considerable international civilian assistance. Figures from the Afghan Ministry of Finance show that the international community provided just over NOK 310 billion during the 2002¬–2010 period. The US provided over NOK 202 billion of this. Norway has provided over NOK 5.3 billion. Despite these international development assistance efforts, the country still faces huge challenges. These challenges cannot be solved by development assistance alone. Both the transition to Afghan leadership and political developments are constantly altering the conditions for aid.
Norwegian assistance must therefore be both flexible and adaptable. Our efforts are evaluated continuously, and a comprehensive review of Norway’s assistance to Afghanistan over the last 10 years is scheduled for this autumn. This will give us valuable insight into the effects of the Norwegian efforts so far and how they should be organised in the time ahead.
We note that there is great uncertainty and concern in Afghanistan as to what the international community’s intentions are on the civilian side once the military forces have been withdrawn. The Afghans fear being abandoned once again, as they experienced when the Soviet Union pulled out of the country.
It is too early today to say whether Norway will maintain the same high level of assistance beyond 2012. But the Government presumes that we will continue to be engaged in the areas of development and humanitarian assistance for many years to come, beyond the transfer of military responsibility in 2014.
We have been involved in Afghanistan for ten years – and they have been ten demanding years. Norwegians serving in both military and civil operations have made enormous efforts, at a personal cost for each individual and their families and loved ones. All of us who regularly visit Afghanistan have been impressed by the engagement and resolve shown by those serving in the country. They are motivated by the opportunity to make a difference for their fellow human beings. They deserve our respect and consideration, and when the situation calls for it, our sympathy and support.
We have suffered too many painful losses. We remember and honour our fallen in Afghanistan – our soldiers and officers who have paid the ultimate price for Norway’s engagement. Five more Norwegians have been killed since my last address on this subject. There are now 10 names on the list of those who have given their lives in Afghanistan: Siri Skare, Trond André Bolle, Christian Lian, Simen Tokle, Andreas Eldjarn, Claes Joachim Olsson, Trond Petter Kolset, Kristoffer Sørli Jørgensen, Tor Arne Lau-Henriksen, and Tommy Rødningsby.
Norway will always remember their efforts and sacrifice with gratitude and respect.
There are also many Norwegians who have been wounded as a result of the military activity. The Norwegian Armed Forces Medical Services are now examining all 7300 service records in order to register injuries and illness among personnel who have served in Afghanistan.
In the midst of all the challenges we face, we must believe in the possibilities; we must believe that a brighter future is within reach for a proud people with a rich culture that has suffered too much and for too long.
The Afghan people themselves and we in the international community have achieved many good results. We have sought to fulfil the UN’s mandate for our mission: to make sure that Afghanistan is no longer a safe haven for international terrorists. We have achieved this goal.
Our task in the time ahead will be to consolidate and build on what we have achieved. We must be realistic and pragmatic when deciding what the international community can achieve in Afghanistan, and what the country’s government and people should take responsibility for themselves. We must continue to work to bring about crucial progress, while at the same time maintaining what has been achieved and not giving up on the home stretch.