29 September 2008 Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has called for a change of pace and direction in Afghanistan, where the worsening security situation is hampering the efforts of the Government, the United Nations and international partners to rebuild the strife-torn nation.
“Despite the enhanced capabilities of both the Afghan National Army and the international forces, the security situation has deteriorated markedly,” Mr. Ban writes in a new report released today.
The number of security incidents in August rose to 983, the highest since the fall of the Taliban in 2001 and a 44 per cent increase compared to the same month in 2007.
Mr. Ban highlights three trends amid the recent deterioration in security, namely a greater focus by insurgent groups on areas that had been stable until now, more “sophisticated” planning of insurgent operations, and an increase in civilian casualties.
“Civilians are also being killed as a result of military operations carried out by Afghan and international security forces,” he adds.
The deterioration of the security situation has hampered the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) in carrying out its efforts, with 90 of the country’s nearly 400 districts identified as areas of extreme risk. In addition, attacks on aid-related targets and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have become more frequent and more deadly.
This is particularly disturbing given the worsening humanitarian situation in the country owing to a combination of conflict, drought and high food prices, which have left one-sixth of the population in need of food aid.
Mr. Ban says he is convinced that “a change of pace and direction is required,” in which, among other things, every party to the Paris Conference that took place earlier this year must do its utmost to implement the commitments made there as early as possible.
“It is essential that the people of Afghanistan begin to see quickly and clearly that we have embarked on a new course and that it will produce results,” he states.
The International Conference in Support of Afghanistan, held on 12 June, saw fresh pledges of resources for the country’s rebuilding efforts, as well as the launch of the Government’s five-year plan to reduce poverty and promote economic and social development, known as the Afghan National Development Strategy (ANDS).
“Ultimately, success will depend on our ability to bring about a ‘political surge’ that musters the political determination to address those areas in which international and Afghan efforts have been insufficient, and to accelerate progress where gains have been made,” the Secretary-General writes.
He adds that the Paris conference, which saw not only the launch of the ANDS but also $21.4 billion in pledges for the country’s development, is among the positive developments in recent months, in addition to the increase in poppy-free provinces from 13 to 18, as reported in a recent survey by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).
In a related development, UNAMA reported today that 190,000 children – most of them in the volatile southern districts of Helmand and Kandahar – could not be reached during a recent polio immunization drive because of obstruction or fighting.
“We continue to appeal to the community to support full and safe access for health workers and help the goal of ridding Afghanistan of polio for good,” Spokesperson Adrian Edwards told reporters in Kabul.
The UN and Afghan health authorities are planning to proceed with a further round of polio immunizations nationwide between 19 and 21 October.
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