|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
5570th Meeting (AM)
AFGHAN PARTNERSHIP REMAINS LARGELY ON TRACK, PERMANENT REPRESENTATIVE
OF JAPAN SAYS WHILE BRIEFING SECURITY COUNCIL ON MISSION
But Country Could Relapse into Conflict Without
International Support for Sustained, Long-term Progress, He Warns
The Security Council’s first mission to Afghanistan in three years had confirmed that the Afghan partnership begun in Bonn five years ago was largely on track, Kenzo Oshima, head of the recent Security Council mission to that country, said in a briefing to members this morning.
Mr. Oshima, Japan’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations, cautioned, however, that, without international support for quick gains and sustained progress over the long term, there was no guarantee that Afghanistan -- with the international community’s vast investment -- would not slide back into conflict and once again become a failed State.
Providing an overall assessment of the mission, which had taken place from 11 to 16 November, he said the consolidation of gains over the period spent establishing democratic institutions and improving the population’s welfare was moving forward despite the inevitable fragilities and challenges. Worrying developments over the course of 2006 included the rising Taliban-led insurgency and the upsurge in illegal drug production and trafficking. Those and other social ills, all against the backdrop of weak and fragile State and provincial institutions, had given rise to widespread despondency and disillusionment. “In other words, the confidence of the Afghan public in the institutions and processes appears to have been shaken, giving rise to some sense of sliding back,” he said.
The increasing insecurity in parts of the country, particularly the south and south-east, was affecting rehabilitation and reconstruction work by the Afghans and the United Nations to a worrying extent, he continued. Under those circumstances, it was important to stress two cardinal points: that the international community’s support of Afghanistan remained firm; and that the nationally owned and led Afghan Compact would remain the best strategic framework for cooperation between the Government of Afghanistan and the international community. In that context, the Afghanistan Compact’s implementation mechanism, the Joint Coordination and Monitoring Board, would play a key part.
From its base in the capital, Kabul, the 10-member Security Council mission had travelled to the provincial cities of Qalat, near Kandahar in the south, and Mazar-I-Sharif in the north, he noted. However, its planned visit to the major city of Kandahar had been cancelled, owing to the prevailing security situation. The mission had held extensive discussions with President Hamid Karzai, as well as with his Foreign Minister, the newly appointed Attorney-General, elected parliamentarians, provincial governors and local leaders.
He said members had also met with representatives of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), United Nations agencies, the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), non-governmental organizations and civil society. On its way out, the mission had stopped in Islamabad, the capital of neighbouring Pakistan, for a meeting with a senior official of that country’s Government.
Summarizing the mission’s message to Afghan interlocutors, he said it had reaffirmed that the Security Council would try its utmost to ensure that the international community supported Afghan Government efforts to attain stability and reconstruction, which was a long-term process and for which sustained commitment would be required. It had also emphasized the Council’s appreciation of the Government’s ownership of the political transition achieved under the Bonn process, leading on to the Afghanistan Compact. The team had also encouraged the Government to transform that ownership into further action for the Compact’s implementation.
He said the mission had also emphasized that a comprehensive approach was needed to address the multiple challenges facing Afghanistan, including the deteriorating security situation, corruption, human rights, rule of law, transitional justice and drug cultivation and trafficking. The mission had reaffirmed the central role of the United Nations in Afghanistan, including its coordination of efforts to implement the Afghanistan Compact. It had also encouraged the promotion of bilateral and regional cooperation between the Government and its neighbouring partners, particularly Pakistan, as a matter of crucial importance in addressing the challenges facing the country.
Noting that the overall security was the number one issue of concern, he pointed out, however, that, after a worrying upsurge in security-related incidents, there were some signs that insurgent and terrorist-related violence might have begun to subside somewhat. ISAF had informed the mission that clashes between armed insurgents and the Afghan and international military forces had decreased in October and November. The insurgency was more or less confined to one third of the country, encompassing the south, south-east and east, while the remaining two thirds was considered comparatively stable.
The security situation remained precarious throughout Afghanistan, however, with the threat of suicide attacks and other forms of terrorism by the Taliban and other armed insurgents posing a serious threat to nation-building, he said. The insurgency and acts of terrorism must be dealt with, through robust military and law-enforcement measures where necessary. ISAF’s expansion throughout the entire country and its assumption of the leading international role in providing security, given the absence of reliable and strong national military and police forces, should be welcome. At the same time, it was important that the Afghan Government, ISAF and Coalition forces observe international humanitarian law, avoid civilian casualties and respect local culture.
Measures must also be taken to address the growing frustration among ordinary Afghans, he said. The Government’s failure to show its capability in providing security, as well as other economic and social services had resulted in disillusionment and contributed in part to the surge in violence. The lack of a capable police force and widespread corruption in State and provincial institutions were of particular concern. The continued influence of warlords had also contributed to the loss of faith among the Afghan people. Interlocutors had also pointed to the narcotics issue, which was a direct result of the people’s desperation. The Government, with the international community’s backing, should take immediate and effective steps with a view to re-establishing trust among the people.
Regarding reconstruction, he noted that, due to years of conflict, Afghanistan must start its reconstruction, “not from zero, but from deep minuses”. In facing mounting challenges, the Afghanistan Compact remained the best framework for cooperation. It was essential to maintain the principle that Afghans keep their part of the commitment to the Compact by fighting corruption, establishing the rule of law and building a culture of respect for human rights, especially women’s rights. They must be encouraged to own the process and take responsibility at the current critical stage of consolidating peace after years of war and misery. “It is clear that the solution to Afghan problems requires a focus on the regional dimension of the problems, whether in the security sector or otherwise,” he said.
Fostering trust and cooperation between the Afghan Government and its neighbouring partners was of critical importance for regional peace and security, he added. Although the issues involved were complex and sensitive, President Karzai had stressed that the country wanted optimum relations with Pakistan, while Pakistan’s Foreign Secretary had repeated that his country wanted stability in Afghanistan.
He said UNAMA had reaffirmed the importance of its role, particularly that of coordinating implementation of the Afghanistan Compact, which should be further strengthened.
The meeting began at 10:14 a.m. and adjourned at 10:38.
* *** *For information media • not an official record