UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Monday called on the international community to unite and use “all available instruments” to ensure Afghanistan is never again used as a platform or safe haven for terrorist organisations, telling the UN Security Council that “we cannot and must not” abandon the people of the war-torn country. The Taliban swept into Kabul on Sunday after President Ashraf Ghani fled the country, bringing an end to a two-decade campaign in which the US and its allies had tried to transform Afghanistan. The country’s Western-trained security forces collapsed or fled in the face of an insurgent offensive that tore through the country in just over a week, ahead of the planned withdrawal of the last American troops at the end of the month.
“The world is following events in Afghanistan with a heavy heart and deep disquiet about what lies ahead. All of us have seen the images in real time. Chaos. Unrest. Uncertainty. And fear. Much lies in the balance. The progress. The hope. The dreams of a generation of young Afghan women and girls, boys and men,” Guterres told an emergency meeting of the Security Council.
The Council, under India’s current Presidency, met for the second time in over a week to discuss the situation in Afghanistan, where the Taliban seized Kabul in a matter of days after taking over provincial capitals across the country as US forces withdrew from the country and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani fled.
Guterres told the Council that at this grave hour, he urges all parties, especially the Taliban, to exercise utmost restraint to protect lives and to ensure that humanitarian needs can be met.
Emphasising that “now is the time to stand as one”, he said the international community must be united and utilise all available instruments to ensure that human rights are upheld in Afghanistan and the country is “never again” used as a safe haven for terrorist organisations.
“The international community must unite to make sure that Afghanistan is never again used as a platform or safe haven for terrorist organisations. I appeal to the Security Council — and the international community as a whole — to stand together, work together and act together — and use all tools at its disposal to suppress the global terrorist threat in Afghanistan and guarantee that basic human rights will be respected,” Guterres said.
He said “regardless of who holds power, these two fundamental principles — in which our world has such a deep and abiding interest — must be upheld.” Guterres called for an immediate end to violence, for the rights of all Afghans to be respected and for Afghanistan to comply with all international agreements to which it is a party.
Voicing deep concern that the conflict in the country has forced hundreds of thousands from their homes, Guterres said Kabul has seen a huge influx of internally displaced persons from provinces around the country where they felt insecure or fled during fighting.
“Afghans are a proud people with a rich cultural heritage. They have known generations of war and hardship. They deserve our full support,” he said.
Underlining that the following days will be pivotal, he said the world is watching and “we cannot and must not abandon the people of Afghanistan,” and urged all countries to be willing to receive Afghan refugees and refrain from any deportations.
Referring to a statement issued yesterday in which the Taliban said they would work with existing institutions, Guterres said it is crucial that civil servant salaries continue to be paid, infrastructure is maintained, airports are reopened, and health and education services continue.
As the Taliban took over the country, Guterres said he is “particularly concerned” by accounts of mounting human rights violations against the women and girls of Afghanistan who “fear a return to the darkest days.
“It is essential that the hard-won rights of Afghan women and girls are protected. They are looking to the international community for support — the same international community that assured them that opportunities would be expanded, education would be guaranteed, freedoms would spread and rights would be secured,” he said.
Reminding all parties of their obligation to protect civilians, Guterres called on all parties to provide humanitarians with unimpeded access to deliver timely and life-saving services and aid.
He called upon the Taliban and all parties to respect and protect international humanitarian law and the rights and freedoms of all persons, saying there are “chilling reports” of severe restrictions on human rights throughout the country.
Underscoring that the United Nations is committed to supporting Afghans, Guterres said the UN continues to have staff and offices in areas that have come under Taliban control.
“I am relieved to report that in large measure, our personnel and premises have been respected. We continue to urge the Taliban to honour the integrity of these facilities and the inviolability of diplomatic envoys and premises,” he said.
While stressing that the United Nations “presence will adapt” to the security situation, Guterres said “above all, we will stay and deliver in support of the Afghan people in their hour of need.”
Noting that the humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan affects 18 million people —fully half of the country’s population, he said it is vital that basic services continue to be provided.