Speech/statement | Date: 05/02/2008
The purpose of our military presence in Afghanistan through ISAF is to safeguard security in the country. We must ensure that Afghanistan does not once again become a hotbed of international terrorism, Minister of Foreign Affairs Støre said in his address to the Storting.
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Translation from the Norwegian
The direct occasion for my address and the ensuing debate today is a decision made by this body on 5 December last year requesting the Government to present to the Storting, in a appropriate manner, a coordinated plan for the development of Norway’s contribution to Afghanistan, including civilian development assistance for civil society and support for political state- and nation-building efforts.
Moreover, the brutal terrorist attack on the Serena Hotel in Kabul on 14 January has sparked an even broader debate on Afghanistan and our own policy in the country. Several people were killed in the attack, including one Norwegian. I believe that this was the first time an official Norwegian delegation on a visit to another country was directly affected by a terrorist attack.
The Government is taking this incident very seriously. Since 15 January, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Defence and the Ministry of Justice have been conducting a thorough review of the events surrounding the attack and the preparations for my visit to Afghanistan and will propose measures for improving security in connection with travel to high-risk areas.
Last week I was in touch with the parliamentary leaders and informed them that the Minister of Defence, the Minister of Justice and I will consult the Enlarged Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs on the results of the review and how we plan to deal further with this issue at the meeting of the Committee scheduled for tomorrow, 6 February.
The ministries’ reports will be made public later the same day. They will provide an overall account of the events and proposals for measures that can be taken immediately. The Government will inform the Storting about the process that will now be initiated in connection with routines for travel to high-risk areas.
In the light of this, I have chosen to devote my address here today to its original purpose, namely to respond to the Storting’s request of 5 December 2007 to present a coordinated plan for the development of Norway’s contribution to Afghanistan.
The timing of this address is also apt considering the political-level meetings that will be held in NATO in the run-up to the summit in Bucharest on 2-4 April. A meeting of defence ministers will be held in Vilnius later this week and a meeting of foreign ministers will be held in early March. Thus, in the light of the ongoing debate, I believe it is appropriate to take a broader perspective in my address today, in addition to my focus on Norway’s efforts.
My intention today is to describe the situation in Afghanistan as the Government perceives it. This background will hopefully serve to explain the approach we have taken in our efforts and put them into perspective in relation to the total contributions made by the international community.
When considering the situation in Afghanistan today, the state of affairs in the country at the beginning of this decade is a good place to start. The engagement in which so many countries are now participating is rooted in the events in the period around 2001.
Afghanistan was a country that – with the exception of a small area in the north – was ruled by the Taliban, a regime that shocked us all. We were shocked by its daily, brutal violations of basic human rights. People were stoned to death in public, there were assaults on women, girls and women were excluded from education, depictions of human beings and television were banned, historical and religious monuments – our common cultural heritage – were destroyed.
And not least, the country gradually became a sanctuary for foreign terrorist organisations – such as Al-Qaida – and thereby a centre for the planning of terrorist attacks in other countries. The most devastating of these – though by far not the only ones – were the attacks in New York and Washington DC on 11 September 2001.
In accordance with the right to self-defence, the US attacked Afghanistan in October 2001, and the Taliban regime fell.
At the UN conference on Afghanistan in Bonn in December 2001, an agreement was concluded on provisional arrangements in the country pending the re-establishment of permanent government institutions. The agreement led to elections to Afghan government institutions. It recognised that some time would be required for the new Afghan security and military forces to become fully constituted and functional, and it therefore requested the UN Security Council to authorise the deployment of a UN-mandated force.
According to the Security Council, the situation in Afghanistan constituted a threat to international peace and security. On the basis of the Bonn Agreement and the express wish of the Afghan authorities, the Security Council adopted resolution 1386, in which, acting under Chapter VII of the UN Charter, it authorised the establishment of the International Security Assistance Force, ISAF, so that the Afghan Interim Authority and UN personnel could operate in a secure environment.
The provisional Bonn Agreement was followed up by the London Conference two years ago, co-chaired by the UN, Afghanistan and the UK, which adopted a comprehensive programme (the Afghanistan Compact) to bring lasting stability and progress to the country by means of a broad-based international effort.
Today we can ascertain that the effort to build a stable Afghanistan has been more difficult than many envisaged. Afghanistan is the world’s fifth poorest country. The country’s infrastructure was in ruins after almost three decades of war and conflict. Government institutions were either non-existent or not functioning. The health and education sectors were devastated. The humanitarian situation of millions of people was precarious. Many of Afghanistan’s best educated people had left the country.
At the same time, both the new Afghan Government and the international community had underestimated the ability of the Taliban – and of other insurgent groups – to regain a foothold.
Although the Taliban was dramatically weakened, the movement gradually managed to build strength in parts of Afghanistan and in Pakistan. As a result, two years ago it was again in a position to challenge the international community and the newly elected Government. In addition there are a number of other armed groups that would be difficult to include in one central government for the whole of Afghanistan.
It is not difficult to enumerate the problems and challenges in Afghanistan. They are many, and they are complex.
The humanitarian challenges are still formidable. Government institutions are weak. Corruption is widespread. The country is the world’s largest opium producer.
The insurgent groups have become stronger. They are challenging the authority of the Afghan Government and the international community in substantial parts of the country.
The judicial system is weak. Reported human rights violations include extrajudicial executions, rape, kidnapping, human trafficking and prisoner abuse.
The security challenges in Afghanistan have not diminished. We see this on a daily basis. But the large-scale spring offensive many people expected in 2007 did not materialise. Instead the Taliban and other insurgent groups turned to more widespread use of roadside bombs, suicide operations and other forms of asymmetric warfare.
It is, however, also important to emphasise positive trends, as they are often overlooked in the debate on the problems we are facing. Let me mention some of these trends, as described by the UN Mission in Afghanistan.
First, the main political developments: In 2004 and 2005, there were democratic elections for the presidency and to the National Assembly and the provincial councils. One quarter of the members of the National Assembly are women.
A new constitution has been adopted. Legislation is being developed. Government institutions are being built.
Approximately 80% of the population now have access to health services, and however modest and inadequate, this must be compared with 9% in 2004. More than 4000 clinics and health centres have been opened during the last four years. Child mortality has been reduced by 25%.
A total of 6 million children and young people are attending school – including several million girls. Four hundred thousand girls will start attending school next year. Ten universities have been established around the country – whereas there was only one – which barely functioned – during the Taliban regime.
Close to 4000 kilometres of road have been completed in the past few years. The most well-known project is a ring road that will link the whole country together.
A total of 17 000 local communities are involved in development projects in the areas of education, health, road construction and water supply though the Government’s National Solidarity Programme.
More than five million refugees have returned.
Government revenues have increased by 25% during the past year alone. Per capita income has risen substantially.
There are seven national television stations, a number of radio stations and an increasingly well-developed press in Afghanistan.
Approximately 150 towns now have mobile telephone networks and internet services.
Some 60 000 former combatants have been disarmed and reintegrated into society.
A total of almost 27 billion dollars has been made available by the international community. This includes funding for both civilian and military efforts.
I am aware that such figures do not give the full picture. Public institutions are still weak. The quality of the services provided is modest. Many of those whose living conditions have improved are still living in poverty and difficult circumstances. The humanitarian needs are still great. Freedom of expression and freedom of the press are still under pressure, and in parts of the country journalists are risking their lives to do their job.
There is still a clash between the average Afghan’s expectations for progress and peace and the reality they experience. But these examples illustrate that the situation we are facing is not without its bright points. The picture is complex. Progress is gradually becoming visible to Afghans in many parts of the country. They are beginning to see that the international and Afghan efforts are producing results – including for them in their daily lives.
We must also consider this part of the picture. We often ask ourselves whether the glass is half full or half empty. Where Afghanistan is concerned, I think it is right to say that the glass is constantly being filled – but it is also constantly leaking. The challenge is to plug the leaks. And for the most part we know where they are.
The picture painted of Afghanistan tends to highlight a poorly coordinated, inadequate international community, a weak and in part corrupt Afghan leadership and a well organised insurgency – with the Taliban as the main actor. It is important that we nuance our picture of the situation.
True, the international community is still too poorly coordinated, which results in loss of time and resources. True, the Afghan Government lacks competence and capacity, and there is considerable corruption.
Norway has been – and is – concerned about improving coordination and strengthening Afghan ownership. I will return to this later. But it is important to have a detailed and realistic picture of the Taliban and other insurgent groups.
There can be no doubt that the security situation in the country is difficult and tense.
Nor that there have been an increasing number of security-related incidents in the past year. While there were more than 6600 such incidents in 2006, the number increased to 8700 last year. These figures speak for themselves. They reflect attacks that not only cause loss of life and destruction of property, but that also generate fear and anxiety about the future.
At the same time, the fact is that 70% of these serious incidents took place in 10% of the districts, in the most vulnerable provinces in the south and east of the country. There has also been an increase in the number of such incidents in other parts of the country, including in the Kabul area. But in large parts of the country, the security situation remains unchanged.
In order to finance its activities, the Taliban is now helping to increase drug production, as are a number of the warlords. The link between organised crime, in the form of drug production and smuggling, and funding for insurgent groups is becoming increasingly clear. This is affecting millions of people in the region and in Europe, including here in our own country.
But this picture, too, is complex. The insurgency has suffered serious setbacks and considerable losses during the past year. A number of the most experienced field commanders have been killed. In several of the provinces, insurgent leaders have been forced to put foreign extremists in command positions. This is undermining local bases of support.
This is the assessment of the UN Mission in Afghanistan in its most recent report to the Security Council.
A dialogue has also begun between Afghanistan and Pakistan. The presence of the presidents of the two countries at the peace jirga last August was an important step. Both men described their meeting in Islamabad on 27 December 2007 as constructive.
During my visit to Islamabad and Kabul, it was clear that the leaders of both countries recognise that they have a common interest in combating the Taliban and other insurgent groups. This is one of the reasons why the forthcoming elections in Pakistan are so important, and why it is essential that the new Pakistani leadership has the ability and strength to address the challenge.
The Taliban and other insurgent groups, such as Al-Qaida and Hezb-e-Islami, also see that the international military presence has not been weakened by their activities. On the contrary, the number of international forces increased during the past year. And the Afghan army is becoming increasingly capable of participating in and leading operations. This is of crucial importance.
It is also important that we nuance our concept of the Taliban. What is generally termed Taliban probably also includes a growing number of criminal elements involved in drug production. These groups do not necessarily fully share the Taliban’s political and religious aims, but they share the Taliban’s interest in impeding the establishment of functioning government institutions and infrastructure in the country.
In other words, despite the fact that the number of attacks has continued to increase, the picture is complex. We know that increasing numbers of people with a Taliban background are giving their support to the established political processes in the country. We know that President Karzai has opened up for political dialogue. These are trends we must be aware of and do our best to support.
I would now like to talk about some of the factors that, in my view, are critical if we are to succeed. Let me add that we must have a dialogue in the international community and with the Afghan Government about what success really means. It is through such dialogue that a future exit strategy can be devised that is designed to meet specific success criteria.
In my view it is a matter of preventing Afghanistan from again becoming a hotbed of international terrorism. That would be unacceptable.
On the other hand, it is a matter of enabling Afghans to govern Afghanistan. This is a long-term task. And in addressing this task, we must accept that the Afghans may govern in accordance with traditions and norms that may differ from our own. At the same time we must insist on the universality of human rights and human dignity.
The efforts to improve security will be decisive. If we are to succeed, the military effort must be continued.
If we were to scale down the international military engagement now, we would undermine some of the important progress being made. We must stand by our commitment – and the Afghans themselves must be enabled to take more responsibility for their own security – through their own army and their own police force.
Second, the international development efforts must be intensified and coordinated more closely, and together we must seek to promote Afghan ownership and responsibility.
It is not important whether a project flies a Norwegian or an American flag. What is important is that it flies an Afghan flag. This will help to enhance the people’s confidence in the country’s elected leaders.
Third – and perhaps most importantly – the political dimension of our overall effort must be strengthened.
This has been said before, but it needs to be repeated: Afghanistan’s problems cannot be solved by military means alone. A political solution must be found.
It is a matter of building up Afghan institutions at the central, provincial, district and local level.
It is a matter of increasing the Afghan Government’s capacity to deliver services to its people. It is a matter of strengthening the legitimacy of the Afghan state.
The people must perceive that their own Government’s “footprint” is clear and lasting. That the Government has a presence that is permanent. And that the people can trust it to provide security and basic services.
In the Government’s view, it is essential to give more priority to efforts to promote Afghan governance and build Afghan institutions, based on the Afghans’ own needs and with their active participation and, I might add, more closely in accordance with Afghan traditions. Only then will the people dare to rely on the Government to safeguard their interests and turn their backs on the insurgent groups. The Afghan President has now taken decisions in this area that could help to reverse the current trend.
The Government’s reconciliation efforts must also be intensified.
My clear impression from my talks with President Karzai on 15 January was that he too is concerned about this. But he stresses that this political reconciliation process – reaching out a hand to those who wish to return to Afghan society – must be under Afghan leadership and in accordance with Afghan premises. It is crucial that this is respected.
The Afghans know their country best. And it is their country. A thorough knowledge of ethnic, religious and social divides – and their causes and background – is required to understand the political landscape. This is why the Afghanisation of the entire effort – political and military – is so important.
We will give these political processes our full support. We will provide participate where this is requested and feasible. The political solutions must be designed in such a way as to move the country forward – politically, economically and socially. They must be solutions that move us forward in terms of respect for human rights and established democratic institutions. And they must be solutions that can contribute to regional stability and integrate Afghanistan more closely into the international community.
There are plenty of elements that could disrupt these processes, both within and outside the insurgent groups, and within and outside the country’s borders.
Therefore, this situation must be handled with caution. It will require an approach that is different from the one we are familiar with from other conflict areas. And while strengthening the political dimension of this process is of key importance to us, I have seen that the Afghans have placed this even higher on their own agenda.
In his most recent report on Afghanistan to the UN General Assembly and the Security Council, presented in September 2007, the UN Secretary-General emphasised that a coordinated military response is still needed to defeat insurgent and terrorist groups. It is important to take note of this emphasis.
However, the Secretary-General added that if we are to succeed, local communities will have to be engaged. This is also the core of Norway’s policy: progress hinges on applying an integrated civil-military strategy, one that serves to strengthen the political processes.
On the military side, it is only NATO, through ISAF, that is able to provide the military component of such an integrated strategy. As I have already mentioned, the ISAF operation and NATO’s command of the operation have firm support in the UN Security Council.
But NATO must also adapt its strategy to changing conditions and priorities on the ground. The Alliance is therefore undertaking extensive efforts to develop an integrated political-military plan that takes account of developments during the past year. This plan is to be completed ahead of the summit in Bucharest in April this year.
These efforts need to be merged with the broader ongoing efforts to design a more effective integrated strategy for the whole international community – under Afghan leadership. Today representatives from a number of donor countries are meeting in Tokyo to continue work on an integrated strategy adapted to the current situation in Afghanistan. Norway – together with the other Nordic countries – is participating actively in the development of the strategy.
NATO’s gradual assumption of greater responsibility for ISAF was in line with the Security Council’s wishes. In 2003 NATO assumed responsibility for the command and coordination of ISAF, in agreement with the UN and Afghanistan. The UN Security Council has each year requested Member States to provide forces for this operation. As recently as at its meeting on 19 September 2007, in resolution 1776 (2007), the Security Council stated that “the situation in Afghanistan still constitutes a threat to international peace and security”.
There were several reasons why NATO was requested to assume this task:
First, unlike other organisations, NATO has an established command and control structure that enables it to ensure predictability, effectiveness and security for forces engaged in complex operations.
Second, NATO has established a mechanism for generating forces. The decision that was taken has therefore played a significant role in securing resources for ISAF.
The military aspect of our overall engagement in Afghanistan will continue to be highly demanding in the years to come. It will still have to be a Chapter VII operation, in line with the Security Council’s assessment that the situation in the country constitutes a threat to international peace and security.
We must therefore ensure that key contributors’ willingness to participate is not weakened. But this willingness will depend on whether the operation continues to have the support of the command and control structure that is so important for the security and operational capacity of the forces. This is also our approach.
Moreover, we must not forget that today ISAF is far more than NATO and NATO countries. ISAF is made up of troops from 40 countries from different continents and with different religions. Twenty-six of them are members of NATO. ISAF consists of forces from countries that make up a fifth of the world’s states.
I do not think there is any other operation today that involves such a large number of contributing countries, although we would have liked to see more forces from Muslim countries. And ideally, it would have been preferable to have more participants from among the countries in the region. But then these countries are in a situation that has made that impossible. And we must not forget that forces from the immediate region might also have increased the potential for conflict rather than reducing it.
Then there is another thing I would like to underline: ISAF – with about 40 000 personnel – is about the size of the force NATO had in Kosovo, despite the fact that Afghanistan is 65 times bigger and the terrain is a lot more inaccessible. And NATO still has 16 000 women and men serving in Kosovo – nine years after the war ended. Security operations in such complex settings require time. Afghanistan will not be an exception to this rule.
ISAF’s mandate is to assist the Afghan authorities in establishing security in order to make reconstruction and development possible.
ISAF’s military capacity is necessary because groups such as the Taliban and Al-Qaida do not want stability and reconstruction. Their aim is to undermine the country’s authorities and force developments onto a different track.
ISAF’s mandate is to help to establish security and stability in the country, support the Afghan Government and increase its influence outside Kabul, and create conditions that are conducive to good governance and economic and social development. The operation’s mandate opens for the use of necessary and proportionate means to achieve these objectives.
When ISAF’s area of operation was extended to include the southern and eastern provinces in 2006, the result was that ISAF moved into areas where the Taliban and other insurgent groups had actually been able to operate relatively freely until then. This led to increased fighting as the expansion was met with resistance. This made it necessary to employ force to an extent that had not been required in other parts of the country. It is the Afghan people who suffer most during combat operations. But the countries that have provided forces to these areas and have experienced major losses are also under strain.
In some cases the international forces have caused civilian losses. Concern over this matter has been voiced vehemently within NATO by President Karzai and by Allies, including the Norwegian authorities. ISAF has therefore established new guidelines with the aim of preventing such losses. This has led to improvements, both in terms of rules and in terms of results on the ground in the form of fewer incidents of this kind. President Karzai stressed this point when I met him in Kabul.
It is therefore the Government’s view that NATO must continue to have command of the international military engagement. I cannot see anything that could affect this analysis today.
But I would like to reiterate that Norway would like to see the UN more heavily engaged in Afghanistan.
This is a position this Government has maintained for over two years. We would have liked to see a stronger UN presence centrally placed in Kabul. We would have liked to see a stronger UN presence in other parts of the country. And we would have liked to see the UN take a more prominent role in coordinating civilian and political efforts.
The UN has now of its own accord taken the initiative to launch an internal debate on how to better coordinate international efforts by strengthening the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA). Norway will follow this discussion in the Security Council and efforts to improve coordination in Afghanistan.
Wherever possible, we will help the UN to fulfil the Afghans’ expectations. This is why we are financing 16 positions in UNAMA with a view to supporting the work that is being done to identify humanitarian needs and improve coordination of the humanitarian efforts.
There is still a lot the UN needs to do. NATO’s mandate is about security. But NATO cannot and should not build political institutions. That is an area where the UN has special expertise. At present, only about 220 positions in UNAMA are filled by foreign personnel. The Mission has eight regional offices and nine provincial offices – in a country that has 34 provinces. This is a result of the UN’s original philosophy for Afghanistan. Today many people have other ideas. A stronger UN presence from the start could have enhanced the prospects of meeting people’s expectations – and of doing so in a more coordinated manner.
I have given you this account of the situation as a backdrop to the Government’s thoughts on Norway’s future engagement.
I would now like to discuss the Norwegian contributions in more detail. They are part of a continuity that stretches over a number of years. Norway’s policy is based on repeated deliberations in the Storting and consultations with the bodies of the Storting.
The plans for Norway’s military contributions for 2008 and 2009 have been made public, and remain firm. Let me briefly reiterate the main points:
The Government will concentrate its military contribution in Faryab province in the north and in the Kabul area.
We will strengthen the Norwegian-led Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) in Meymaneh. This will increase the team’s ability to patrol larger areas in the province. And it will ensure the team’s security when we eventually withdraw the Quick Reaction Force stationed in Mazar-e-Sharif.
In the Government’s view, we now know this part of the country well. It is important to make use of this knowledge and the contact we have established with the local population in the area. At the same time we must build on the confidence we have gained with other actors, especially those engaged in civilian reconstruction efforts.
When we send our special forces back to the Kabul area in March for an 18-month tour of duty, they will be able to drawn on the experience and insight they gained during their previous assignment in 2007. The security situation in the capital is vital if the Afghan Government and the international community are to succeed in their efforts – both in Kabul and in the rest of the country.
Therefore, this is an important contribution, especially during a period where the security situation in Kabul is particularly difficult. During my meeting with ISAF Commander NcNeill on 15 January, he commended our special forces for the work they had done in the region during their previous tour of duty, and the Government for deciding to send them back for a longer period of time.
The Norwegian military contribution has a long-term perspective. This is as it should be. Continuity is important for gaining insight into local conditions and building confidence between the various actors, and thus enhancing the forces’ effectiveness in carrying out their task. And it is a demanding task, as we saw during the special forces’ previous tour of duty. And during the stabilisation mission on the border between Faryab and Baghdis provinces last autumn.
We are also increasing our support for the training of the Afghan army. By providing 50 instructors, we will help to enable the Afghans to assume an increasingly greater share of this task. This is in accordance with the Afghans’ own wishes and with our own aims. And it is in keeping with our overall strategy.
The military effort must continue to support the civilian effort without becoming involved directly in it. This is important. Military and civilian actors have different roles and tasks. It has to be that way because of the protection needs of Afghan civilians and aid workers, and in order to ensure an approach that is coherent as possible, based on the mandates and expertise of the various actors. Their tasks must be coordinated, but kept separate.
I would now like to turn to the civilian efforts.
Norway is one of the largest contributors to civilian reconstruction in Afghanistan. In 2006, our civilian contribution amounted to NOK 415 million, and in 2007, this increased to around NOK 500 million. Norwegian NGOs are playing an important part in these humanitarian and development efforts. There is growing expertise on Afghanistan in Norwegian organisations and expert groups, as I discovered at a meeting with many of them prior to my visit to Kabul in January.
The Government has now decided to increase the funding for Norway’s civilian efforts in 2008 to NOK 750 million. This is an increase of around 50% compared with 2007.
It is also an important political signal. It underlines our willingness to increase development cooperation and political efforts, in addition to our military efforts.
Last year, some 20% of Norway’s civilian efforts were channelled to the Faryab province, were Norway is leading a PRT, and where we have built up considerable local knowledge. It is therefore natural to focus our efforts here.
A large part of our efforts are dedicated to building up the school system in the province.
During his visit to Norway in November last year, Afghan Minister of Education Hanif Atmar said the following: “Your soldiers are making it possible for our children to go to school.” He thus, in simple terms, pointed out the connection between civilian and military efforts: Without security, no development. And I would add: without development, no lasting security.
Foreign Minister Atmar and I signed a memorandum of understanding on further cooperation in the education sector. Together we are building schools in several provinces. In Faryab, we have committed ourselves to building 82 schools by the end of the year, and I was to have laid the foundation stone for school number 41 during my visit in January. We are carrying out this work in close cooperation with the Afghan Ministry of Education.
But now we want to do more. The province needs a total of 220 schools. This means that when the first construction phase is completed, there will still be a need for 140 more. We intend to continue to cooperate with the Afghan authorities until this target is reached.
These efforts are not being carried out by or through our PRT. But they depend on the efforts of the PRT.
Another area we have given high priority to is rural development.
This is important in its own right in order to reduce poverty. Our efforts in this field fall under the Interim Afghanistan National Development Strategy. The projects are based on input from local leaders in a dialogue with the central authorities. We are thus not only helping to provide water, sanitation, market access, micro-finance, roads and other services, we are also helping bring local governance structures together and develop a form of local democracy. We are creating local ownership and helping to strengthen ties between local communities and the central authorities. This is not only helping to develop local communities, but also helping the country to become more unified.
And here I would like to add that it is precisely in areas where local governance is improved and ties with the central authorities strengthened that the international efforts to combat drug production and trafficking have prospects of success.
The third priority area in our civilian efforts is humanitarian assistance.
Returning refugees and internally displaced persons need protection, help and support. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees is carrying out important work in this respect, which we support. Mine clearance and support for the victims of landmines is an area of humanitarian assistance that has long-term positive effects.
Health efforts will also be increased, including through the Red Cross/Red Crescent and their local organisations. We require our humanitarian partners to cooperate with the national and local authorities.
And we have spearheaded efforts to strengthen UNAMA’s coordinating role in the humanitarian sphere.
The rights, role and needs of women will be at the core of all our efforts. The international community is bound in this respect by Security Council resolution 1325 on women, peace and security. Norway’s engagement in Afghanistan will include intensified efforts to strengthen women’s political and economic rights and participation.
The links between security and development are obvious. But in my view, the links between security and governance are just as, if not more, important.
Security Council resolution 1776, which I mentioned earlier, recognises “the multifaceted and interconnected nature of the challenges in Afghanistan, reaffirming that sustainable progress on security, governance and development, as well as the cross-cutting issue of counter-narcotics is mutually reinforcing.”
The international community has been slow to address this area. And it is a huge challenge. But I consider Norway to be playing a prominent role here in close cooperation with the Afghan authorities. We were among the first countries to focus on this area, and we are prepared to intensify these efforts further.
Together with Minister of Education Atmar and other members of the Afghan Government, Norway is now focusing more strongly on building up Afghan ministries and institutions, in Kabul, in the provinces and in the districts. Here we are leading the way. Our aim is to enable the Afghan authorities to provide services to the population, foster loyalty to the central government, and thus help to make the country more unified.
Afghan capacity must be strengthened. Too much civil capacity-building and administration has been carried out by foreign experts, who will soon leave the country. The purchase of expertise has been an expensive and short-term solution, and little expertise has been transferred to the country.
This use of foreign companies and expertise, which is often channelled via the military PRTs, has another negative aspect: It does not forge closer ties between the local communities and the central government in Kabul.
However, building up Afghan expertise and capacity puts the Afghan Government in a position to extend its authority and deliver services and results that are visible throughout the country. Only in this way will the Government gain the trust, loyalty and support of the average Afghan citizen.
Our capacity-building efforts include several elements. Through support for the new Civil Service Institute, Norway is seeking to increase the competence of those who are already employed in ministries and provincial administrations.
Through support for the establishment of the National Institute for Management and Administration, we will help to educate students who can later be employed in public and private administration in the capital, the provinces and the districts. The institute is scheduled to open its doors to students next month.
The objective of this project, which Norway has played an active role in developing, is to gather 3000 students, half of whom are young women, from all the 34 provinces. We are seeking to strengthen the Government’s presence and ability to deliver results throughout the country and to build competence in the new administration. We are seeking to foster stronger ties between different parts of the country by creating networks of young people from different provinces. And we are seeking, through the public administration, to provide an example of the role women can play in the new Afghan society.
Norway has also taken part in the development of another key governance project that is currently underway. During my previous visit to Kabul, I discussed the possibilities of setting up a programme to forge closer ties between the President and his Government, the provincial authorities and local leadership structures.
In November, the President established a new directorate for local government. The directorate is to strengthen leadership of the provinces and develop a closer network between the Government, provinces and local communities.
This is an ambitious project. The underlying concept is to establish structures at local level that can take greater responsibility for the governance, security and development of local communities, in cooperation with the central authorities. If this is successful, it will be an important tool for demonstrating that the Government is able to provide basic services in accordance with local needs and priorities.
Norway has funded the establishment of this directorate, and during my visit in January, we agreed on how we will support projects in the provinces.
Our strong focus on good governance will only produce the desired results if we are also prepared to make it clear to the Afghan authorities that they must show greater ability and willingness to fight corruption in their own institutions. They have to realise that if they do not show such willingness, this will undermine our ability and willingness to help them and to succeed.
It is encouraging that the new directorate for local governance seems to be addressing the problem of corruption. But these efforts will only be successful if the authorities at the highest level demonstrate their full support. President Karzai assured me that this would be the case when I met him during my visit to Kabul. We will follow this situation closely.
The police and the judiciary have a key role to play in this respect. And it is perhaps here that most remains to be done by both the Afghans and the international community. Since 2003/2004, Norway has provided personnel from the police and the judiciary in connection with competence-building and efforts to strengthen the rule of law in the country. These efforts will be continued.
The Crisis Response Pool assists the Central Narcotics Tribunal in Kabul and has also provided prison advisers, who are helping to improve prison conditions in Meymaneh.
The police project NORAF, which was established in 2003, is an important element in this area of the Norwegian civilian efforts in Afghanistan. A total of 18 police officers are now posted in Kabul and Meymaneh, with the main objective of building up a civilian Afghan police force. We are also aiming to phase Norwegian police officers into the EU’s police mission in Afghanistan, which is currently being established.
Good governance includes ensuring economic growth and social cohesion. Afghanistan has oil and gas resources, but experience from too many countries has shown that poor management of natural resources leads to conflict and prevents the population from benefiting.
Therefore, Norway has entered into cooperation with the Afghan authorities on the establishment of a sound framework for the management of the oil and gas sector. This will involve drawing up legislation and transferring expertise to the authorities and the private sector. President Karzai and other Afghan authorities give high priority to the sound national management of the country’s resources, and our efforts are therefore highly appreciated.
Competence-building is not just a question of strengthening the authorities’ ability to provide services and security. It is also a question of developing civil society. Critical voices and campaigners for human rights and gender equality are needed. The Afghan people also need channels for civic participation. Norway is therefore providing support for the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC), which is doing important work in reporting on the human rights situation in the country and protecting these rights.
Afghanisation is a key word in Norwegian policy, and it is gradually becoming a key word in discussions in both NATO and the UN, including in discussions on security, good governance and development.
We must do our utmost to understand the Afghan people’s own perspectives. We must try to see the challenges from the point of view of Kabul, not Oslo.
The Afghans have two main perspectives: inwards towards the provinces, the districts and the local communities within Afghanistan, and outwards to the broader region Afghanistan is part of. We intend to play a role in both these connections.
But our main emphasis will be on strengthening the internal political processes within the country, forging bonds of loyalty between the central authorities and the local communities, encouraging pluralism and strengthening the political reconciliation process.
The regional perspective is vital for stability and growth. Relations with Pakistan are a crucial factor. We must help to foster recognition of the close links between stability in Afghanistan and Pakistan. These two countries have a strong common interest in combating extremist groups in the border areas. I have the distinct impression that there is growing understanding of this fact.
The dialogue with Iran and other central Asian countries also needs to be strengthened. Instability in Afghanistan should not be in Iran’s interests, and a stronger Taliban should be even less so. Today, most of the drugs exports pass across Afghanistan’s relatively open southern borders into Iran and Pakistan. A clear Iranian policy is therefore important. We must all – both Iran and the West – seek to ensure that the dialogue on and with Afghanistan is not undermined by the dispute about the Iranian nuclear programme.
In the longer term, closer regional cooperation will also be important for economic growth in the region. A stable Afghanistan will make it possible to develop roads and energy pipelines that benefit the whole region.
The international community’s efforts have for a long time been too fragmented. Resources have not been used effectively enough, and time has been wasted.
Therefore Norway has taken on a leading role in the efforts to improve the coordination of international efforts under Afghan leadership.
Therefore we have requested that the UN’s coordinating role is strengthened.
Therefore we have taken the initiative to establish a UN special envoy position with a broad mandate to coordinate the efforts of the international community and liaise with the President on behalf of the international community.
Today there is growing agreement on the need for a more coordinated and better integrated approach. However, those who advocate coordination must also be willing to be coordinated themselves. We must coordinate our efforts within the broader international community from a national, Afghan perspective.
But we must also coordinate efforts among smaller groups of countries where appropriate.
Since my most recent visit to Afghanistan, I have advocated closer cooperation between the Nordic countries, both in the north of the country, where four Nordic countries are represented, and in other parts of the country.
In my view, it is particularly important that the people in neighbouring provinces see that efforts in one province are not markedly different from the assistance provided in another. We should therefore consider whether it is possible to achieve a distribution of tasks that would ensure parallel development in the provinces where we are focusing most of our effort.
But there should also be opportunity for closer Nordic cooperation, for example on good governance projects, which is an area were we have a like-minded approach. We pushed this issue forward at the meeting of Nordic political directors in Oslo last Wednesday with a view to presenting concrete proposals at political level within a short period of time.
Allow me to summarise.
The purpose of our military presence in Afghanistan through ISAF is to safeguard security in the country. We must ensure that Afghanistan does not once again become a hotbed of international terrorism.
Afghanisation is a key word in our efforts. Afghans must be enabled to safeguard their own security and govern their country. We must accept that they will do so according to traditions that may differ from our own.
With the security we are providing through our participation in ISAF as a starting point, we are intensifying our development cooperation efforts and providing humanitarian assistance with a view to building up basic services such as education and health.
In order to enable the Afghan authorities to provide these services themselves, we are building Afghan institutions that can give the Government a stronger foothold.
To create a more unified nation, we are supporting a policy of reconciliation that offers those who renounce violence an opportunity to take part in rebuilding the country.
And to help to ensure that the whole international community takes an integrated approach that ensures Afghan ownership, we are seeking to strengthen international coordination under Afghan leadership.
Together, these various elements form an integrated strategy and a coordinated plan.
This is not a question of choosing the political, humanitarian or civilian dimension instead of the military dimension. It is a question of finding the right balance between the various components. Our task today is to focus on the political challenges. And the Government intends to do its part in this respect.
Finally, I would like to take this opportunity to express our deep appreciation to all the Norwegian women and men who are engaged in Afghanistan, through our military contribution, through our foreign service, in the justice and police sector, in connection with development efforts and through humanitarian organisations. The work they are doing is demanding and entails a high level of risk.
They therefore deserve our undivided support.