Secretary-General’s press encounter on Afghanistan

13 Aug 2021

Secretary-General’s press encounter on Afghanistan

NEW YORK - I have just returned to New York and would like to speak to you about the grave situation in Afghanistan.

Even [for] a country that has tragically known generations of conflict, Afghanistan is in the throes of yet another chaotic and desperate chapter – an incredible tragedy for its long-suffering people.

Afghanistan is spinning out of control.

In the last month alone, more than 1,000 people have been killed or injured from indiscriminate attacks against civilians, notably in Helmand, Kandahar and Herat provinces.

The fighting between the Taliban and Afghan security forces in urban environments is causing tremendous harm.

At least 241,000 people have been forced to flee from their homes.

Humanitarian needs are growing by the hour.

Hospitals are overflowing.  Food and medical supplies are dwindling.  Roads, bridges, schools, clinics and other critical infrastructure are being destroyed.

Every day, the conflict is taking an even bigger toll on women and children.

Continued urban conflict will mean continued carnage — with civilians paying the highest price.

I call on all parties to take heed of the conflict's heavy toll and its devastating impact on civilians.

They all must do more to protect civilians.

I remind all parties of their legal and moral obligation to take all measures to protect civilians.

Directing attacks against civilians is a serious violation of international humanitarian law and amounts to a war crime. 

Perpetrators must be held accountable. 

I am also deeply disturbed by early indications that the Taliban are imposing severe restrictions on human rights in the areas under their control, particularly targeting women and journalists.

It is particularly horrifying and heartbreaking to see reports of the hard-won rights of Afghan girls and women being ripped away from them.

The message from the international community to those on the warpath must be clear:  seizing power through military force is a losing proposition. That can only lead to prolonged civil war or to the complete isolation of Afghanistan.

I call on the Taliban to immediately halt the offensive and to negotiate in good faith in the interest of Afghanistan and its people.

I hope that discussions in Doha, Qatar between representatives of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan and the Taliban — supported by the region and the wider international community — will restore the pathway to a negotiated settlement to the conflict.

Only an Afghan-led negotiated political settlement can ensure peace.

The United Nations is determined to contribute to such a settlement, promote the rights of all Afghans and provide life-saving humanitarian help to the ever increasing numbers of civilians in need.