The international engagement in Afghanistan is a long-term effort to support security and economic development. Our common goal is to stabilise the country and prevent it from being a haven for terrorism. Afghanistan has made progress, but this progress remains uncertain.
The National Unity Government is the best hope for securing the long-term stability of Afghanistan. Governance, service delivery and the fight against corruption are major challenges. Poppy cultivation and the smuggling of opium from Taliban-controlled and other areas are other challenges. UNODC has made an important contribution in the fight against narcotics.
The security situation in Afghanistan is precarious and international military and civilian assistance remain essential. Taliban has gained control over large parts of Afghanistan’s territory and is attempting to make more inroads. Afghan security forces are under heavy pressure and not able to assume complete control over the whole of Afghanistan.
There is broad agreement in that continued international military and civilian support for Afghanistan is necessary, but not sufficient, to achieve our common goal. Stability also requires a political process with the Taliban. The National Unity Government and the international community share this assessment. One challenge is to find the right format and timing for engaging in such a process.
Norway has contributed and will continue to contribute to efforts aimed at bringing the different parties together with a view to a political solution.
Norway welcomes the new US strategy on Afghanistan, which signals continued US presence in Afghanistan on the diplomatic, military and diplomatic front. We welcome the regional approach and the opening towards a political settlement to the conflict. Norway is prepared to play its part.
Afghanistan will remain one of the largest recipients of Norwegian aid. Our annual aid to Afghanistan is around NOK 700 mill (around USD 80 mill.) Through NATO’s Resolute Support Mission, Norwegian special forces train and support the Afghan special police Crisis Response Unit in Kabul.
Elections are important for the legitimacy of Afghanistan’s democracy. Plans for parliamentary, provincial and district elections in 2018 and presidential elections in 2019 are welcome. Much work remains to be done to register voters and make practical preparations. The Independent Election Commission must be in a position to prepare for and oversee legitimate elections. The UN has a crucial role to play. There is no time to lose. Norway encourages the Afghan government to continue its efforts to hold timely, free and fair elections with international support.