World must act now to reverse worsening situation in Afghanistan – Ban

Refugees in their special tented camp in remote and desolate region

4 January 2010 – There is currently no indication of an early improvement in the security situation in Afghanistan, which deteriorated last year – dramatically so in Kabul, the capital – and a better coordinated international effort is crucial to reversing overall negative trends, according to the latest United Nations report released today.

“We are now at a critical juncture,” Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon tells the Security Council in the report, which focuses on the flawed presidential election and the adverse effects of increased Taliban suicide and other attacks both for the Government’s ability to deliver basic services and that of the international community to provide aid.

“The situation cannot continue as is if we are to succeed in Afghanistan. Unity of effort and greater attention to key priorities are now a sine qua non. There is a need for a change of mindset in the international community as well as in the Government of Afghanistan. Without that change, the prospects of success will diminish further.”

The Afghan Government and its international partners will be meeting in London on 28 January for a high-level meeting to discuss the country’s agenda in the wake of the recent elections.

Mr. Ban calls on the Government and world community to make the best possible use of the coming months to focus on agreed priorities, with a reinforced international coordination structure under a UN umbrella that will meet the principal needs of delivering services to the Afghan people and developing an economy that can gradually carry more responsibility for the people’s well-being.

He cites insufficient resources as one cause of the current lack of such coordination but singles out a lack of political readiness in donor countries to adapt their thinking to meet these needs. “If the international community were to continue along a course of substituting local capacity, rather than of capacity-building, the result would be entrenchment and ultimately failure,” he warns.

“If the negative trends are not corrected, there is a risk that the deteriorating overall situation will become irreversible. We cannot afford this.”

Mr. Ban rejects the argument that the election, marred by fraud in the first round and by the withdrawal of President Hamid Karzai’s main opponent Abdullah Abdullah in the second, was so flawed that it had condemned the state-building process to failure.

“This is incorrect. Rather, it is the weaknesses in the state-building process so far, including the ongoing culture of impunity, the still inadequate security forces, corruption and the insufficient pace of institution-building that undermined the electoral process,” he writes.

“Despite the flaws, however, this is not a reason to abandon what has been achieved and what must now be built upon,” he says, warning that the flaws and weaknesses must be corrected before the UN can engage in a similar supporting role for future elections. Parliamentary, district and mayoral polls are due this year, beginning in May.

Turning to the security situation, the report cites an average of 1,244 incidents per month in the third quarter of 2009, a 65 per cent increase over 2008, with armed clashes, improvised explosive devices and stand-off attacks constituting the majority.

The UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) recorded 784 conflict-related civilian casualties between August and October, up 12 per cent from the same period in 2008, with anti-Government elements responsible for 78 per cent of the total, of whom 54 per cent were victims of suicide and improvised explosive device attacks.

Mr. Ban notes the insurgents’ intimidation and threats against civilians to discourage them from participating in the elections, targeting community leaders and clerics in particular, as well as slightly increased attacks against the aid community, a nearly daily occurrence. On average nine people were assassinated per week in the third quarter, one of whom on average was a community leader.

“The continuing high rate of direct intimidation of national staff working for the aid community, including the United Nations, continued to pose obstacles to programme delivery,” he writes. Following the 28 October attack by the Taliban on a guest house in Kabul where UN staff resided, killing five and wounding five more, some 340 UN international personnel have temporarily been relocated outside of Afghanistan.

But he reiterates that the Organization will not be deterred, with over 6,000 national and international personnel remaining on the ground. “The United Nations plays an important role in Afghanistan and has the support of the Afghan people to continuing it,” he stresses.

Mr. Ban’s Special Representative for Afghanistan Kai Eide will brief the Council on Wednesday on what is needed to allow UNAMA to more effectively coordinate aid and whether its mandate needs to be changed.

Mr. Eide will make clear that the extra military resources committed to Afghanistan by United States President Barack Obama and other members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) are much appreciated but they must be accompanied by a coherent political strategy, UNAMA spokesman Aleem Siddique told a news briefing in Kabul today.

“For the military efforts to succeed, they must be led by a political strategy to build sustainable civilian institutions and begin a peace process under Afghan leadership and international partnership,” he said.

Asked what electoral reforms were needed, he replied: “We need to see reform that prevents the sort or level of fraud and the attempted fraud that took place in the presidential polls. We need to see a removal or replacement of all those officials who were complicit in fraud, or failed to live up to the expectation of Afghanistan’s voters. And we need to see cleaner and fairer elections.”

UNAMA, a political Mission directed by the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO), was set up by the Security Council in 2002 to provide political and strategic advice for the peace process following the US-led ouster of the Taliban. It currently has some 1,500 staff, 80 per cent of them Afghan nationals.


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