Media stakeout following SRSG Tadamichi Yamamoto's briefing to the Security Council

27 Jun 2018

Media stakeout following SRSG Tadamichi Yamamoto's briefing to the Security Council

NEW YORK - Media stakeout following the briefing to the Security Council by the UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Afghanistan, Tadamichi Yamamoto.



New York – 26 June 2018

(near verbatim)



  • UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Afghanistan, Tadamichi Yamamoto

Tadamichi Yamamoto: Today’s meeting was very comprehensive. They were three key issues that were taken up: peace; the elections and the Geneva ministerial plan for November. And women’s situation was also discussed.

Peace was the highest issue on the agenda. There was, as you know, a ceasefire, which had been observed both by the Afghan government and the Taliban. People looked at it as an opportunity as well as, perhaps, an indicator of hope for peace. And there were all those unanimous calls by member states for the Taliban to come and accept the peace offer of the Afghan government.

On the elections, people have expectations but also some concerns. Expectation that with more than 7 million voters having registered that they were looking to implement the election on time. But there was some concern that there should be more preparations, more efforts, more awareness on the part of the Afghan institutions like IEC (Independent Electoral Commission) and also others, including political parties, to be more aware of their own responsibilities to deliver on the election, included its transparency and inclusiveness.

The Geneva meeting planned for November had been looked upon as a good opportunity to review the progress made in Afghanistan for the first half of the transformation decade by both, the international community and the Afghan government.

There were also a few countries, quite a large number, who expressed concerns about the situation of women, particularly violence against women and that women should be protected from the violence. I think I’ll stop here. Are there any questions?

Question:Some people are saying that things have become even more violent, even in the view of the 17th year of the conflict, so I wanted to ask you, it’s reported that up to ten thousand Afghan national security forces were killed in the 12 months period, and I wanted to know as the UN, some people say ten thousand Taliban, three thousand civilians, I just wonder, does the UN has numbers? Some people say there is an interest in downplaying the number of Afghan security forces killed in order for recruitment but in terms of credibility does UN have a number. And also what’s your response to what is reported that some people marched from Helmand province all the way to Kabul to protest the lack of peace, maybe the UN’s performance maybe not. Did you engage with them? What do you make, Is there a hopeful sign? Is there a sort of a peace movement of that kind? How do you respond to them?

Tadamichi Yamamoto: Thanks for the two questions. The first question on the number of the casualties, we don’t have the exact number for the soldiers and the Taliban fighters. But we do have numbers for the civilians. And you know that we take very rigorous approach to getting the numbers out and for the 2017 we had about four thousand civilians killed. Given the number of soldiers and also Afghan Taliban fighters who sacrificed their lives. which are known to be much greater than those of civilians, the kind of numbers that you have described, are probably the right numbers. It’s a huge number and it could be up to 30,000 people lost their lives in 2017 and that’s one of the reasons we think we cannot have this this conflict go on. We really have to save the lives of Afghan people and stop the suffering.

Now, on the second issue, about the peace march, also the peace tent; it is really a spontaneous move from the grassroots. They are aware that if they want to be genuine and to genuinely reflect the voice of the grassroots; they should not really be sponsored or coopted by anybody, neither by the government, or the insurgents, or the international forces or the United Nations, anybody. So they want to stay really, really independent. But they are also in touch with the civil society in Afghanistan and we really appreciate their movement because I think it is really the sort of voice of the heart of the Afghan people. We try to talk to them but obviously not to make issues of any kind but really to listen to them, to understand their true voice of the heart. So that’s what it is.

Question: The Afghan war, I think somebody mentioned that was going on for 17 years but it’s my understanding it’s been going on since 1992, since the collapse of Najibullah. And then, as far as women’s rights are concerned, during the Najibullah government, both girls and boys, were required by law to go to school and women had high positions in the government ministries. Since the collapse of that government, the position of women is horrific and the entire country has been destabilized for like 22 years or so.

Tadamichi Yamamoto: Sorry, when we say 17 years, this is after the collapse of the Taliban government. That’s when the current state of the conflict started, that’s why we referred to that period. But you are right. I think we have to look with the longer time perspective but because under the rule of Taliban things were really difficult. Since then, there have been efforts to try to empower women and to try to help women from in terms how they are treated in the society that’s why people focus on the recent efforts of 17 years.  But you are right; the issue goes back to much, much longer period. But it is one of the most important issues that we are addressing and, obviously, not only the United Nations but people in the international community are really concerned. The good thing about it is that since the current efforts have started, after we went in, 17-16 years ago, we took a survey of the Afghan people, and we asked what do they think has changed with the international efforts and the new efforts of the Afghan government and they quoted women’s issue, the awareness that women has to be treated equally, as the top thing which has changed. And I really noticed that when you talk to the leadership in the government, even if you go to the provinces, when you talk to those people who are leading there, who are active there, the awareness of people about women’s position, that they have to be treated equally and that they have to be empowered, that the girls education is the most critical thing for the society. It will take time and Afghanistan is still one of the most difficult places to be a women. But there is awareness and we will do everything possible to address this issue.

Question: On this peace movement, do you think that, for example, the offer of the ceasefire by the government and the Taliban taking it - are they responding in some way? Do you think that this is a big enough movement that the two forces respond to it? And will they have any presence in the upcoming election, to your knowledge. How widespread or mainstream their position it is?

Tadamichi Yamamoto: They are really a grassroots movement, really concerned about the peace and the violence. And because they are so genuine, I think everybody is taking them seriously. It is having impact upon the way I think the government is responding, the way in which international forces are going to be thinking about the process, everybody in the political circle is very much aware that it is a genuine movement. And I think the Taliban is also very much aware, that’s why they are reacting so strongly against this movement. Because the voice of people really craving for peace is very strong, it’s a very powerful voice.

Thank you.