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Afghanistan: ‘Now is the time to stand as one’, UN chief tells Security Council

Mr. Guterres appealed for the Council to stand as one, and ensure that human rights are upheld, humanitarian aid continues, and that the country does not again become a platform for terrorism. 

“The following days will be pivotal”, said the UN chief. “The world is watching. We cannot and must not abandon the people of Afghanistan”. 

‘This grave hour’ 

The Secretary-General noted that the international community is following the developments in Afghanistan “with a heavy heart and deep disquiet about what lies ahead.” 

After seizing large swaths of territory in recent months, the Taliban on Sunday took control of the capital, Kabul, home to some six million people.   

President Ashraf Ghani has fled the country, according to media reports, and desperate residents have been scrambling to the airport to get flights out. 

“At this grave hour, I urge all parties, especially the Taliban, to exercise utmost restraint to protect lives and to ensure that humanitarian needs can be met,” said Mr. Guterres. 

Afghanistan’s UN ambassador, Ghulam M. Isaczai, spoke of the fear that has gripped Kabul; people displaced from other provinces have flocked to the capital, viewed as the last refuge in the country.   

“Kabul residents are reporting that Taliban have already started house to house searches in some neighborhoods in Kabul, registering names and looking for people in their target list”, said Mr. Isaczai. “There are already reports of target killings and looting in the city”. 

Concern for women and girls 

The Secretary-General highlighted the need to protect civilians and allow humanitarian access.  He urged nations to show willingness to receive Afghan refugees, and to halt any deportations. “Now is the time to stand as one,” he said. 

The UN chief called for the international community to “speak with one voice” to uphold human rights, and voiced particular concern over mounting violations against women and girls. “It is essential that the hard-won rights of Afghan women and girls are protected,” he stressed. 

“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.” 

Suppress terrorist threat 

International unity will also be critical to ensuring Afghanistan is never again used as a platform or safe haven for terrorist organizations, he continued. 

“I appeal to the Security Council — and the international community as a whole — to stand together, to work together and act together, and use all tools at its disposal to suppress the global terrorist threat in Afghanistan and to guarantee that basic human rights will be respected,” said Mr. Guterres.  

“Regardless of who holds power, these two fundamental principles — in which our world has such a deep and abiding interest — must be upheld.” 

The Secretary-General underlined the UN’s commitment to supporting Afghanistan. Staff and offices remain in areas that have come under Taliban control, and most personnel and premises have been respected, he reported. 

Staying the course 

As roughly half of all Afghans, or some 18 million people, depend on humanitarian aid, it is essential that basic services continue to be provided, he added. 

“In a statement issued yesterday, the Taliban said that they would work with existing institutions,” Mr. Guterres told ambassadors.  “It is crucial that civil servant salaries continue to be paid, infrastructure is maintained, airports are reopened, and health and education services continue.”    

While the UN will adapt to the security situation in Afghanistan, the Secretary-General stated that “we will stay and deliver in support of the Afghan people in their hour of need.” 


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