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Three years on, security eludes Afghanistan

The U.N. Secretary-General's Special Representative has painted a worrying picture of the situation in the country.


THE ALARM bell has been sounded on Afghanistan. Looking beyond the specific actions of the Taliban and Al-Qaeda forces in Afghanistan, the Special Representative of the United Nations' Secretary-General, Jean Arnault, has placed a stark assessment of the situation in Afghanistan before the Security Council.

Briefing the U.N. Security Council on June 24, Mr. Arnault said, "The violence had caused unspeakable suffering and jeopardised the chances for rebuilding in the most seriously affected regions ...

"United Nations agencies, like other international bodies, had been obliged to have a low profile, which impacted on the quality and quantity of projects. The worsening security situation had a negative impact for upcoming elections [in September]," he maintained.

Using diplomatic, but pointed language, the Special Representative didn't hesitate in pointing the finger towards Pakistan. A U.N. press release issued on Mr. Arnault's briefing said that another special effort, a greater effort than last year, was needed to address the worsening security situation.

"He [the Special Representative] also emphasised the consequences of the violence on the political transition ... the international response to thwart the destabilisation strategy could not be limited to combat operations on the ground.

"It was necessary to resolutely attack the financing, the safe havens where they trained and the networks that supported them. He welcomed the high-level contacts between Afghanistan and Pakistan in that connection. Also, the [Security] Council had a duty to follow the situation closely and support greater cooperation against terrorism, something that Afghanistan needed today," the press statement continued.

"What was needed most was to re-establish minimum security conditions. After three years of trying, the spoilers were still stonewalling in some regions. There were urgent lessons to be learned without delay," it added. While all these were "open remarks", Mr. Arnault is believed to have told the Security Council behind closed doors that the political process in Afghanistan could be destroyed if the international community didn't remain vigilant.

The Special Representative took the view that the Taliban and the Al-Qaeda were stronger today than at any time after the war was said to have officially ended. Comparing the present scenario to that of 1992-94 when the Taliban took advantage of the total insecurity and chaos that prevailed in most parts of Afghanistan, Mr. Arnault said that the Taliban and the Al-Qaeda were better equipped than before.

According to him, there were links between the money being funnelled to militant elements and organised crime, drug trafficking and foreign financial backing. He claimed that the growing number of attacks indicated a higher rate of border infiltration.


Karzai's problems

While international security forces may have sanitised Kabul, it's evident that the U.S.-propped Hamid Karzai Government has been unable to line up people behind the reconstruction efforts. It's even feared that any withdrawal of the current levels of international security assistance could well lead to the collapse of the Karzai Government.

Relations between Afghanistan and Pakistan haven't been great, principally because of what the Karzai-led Government believes Pakistan is doing again in Afghanistan. It is a fact that none of Afghanistan's other immediate neighbours has any interest in the further destabilisation of that country.

The Al-Qaeda has been the target of operations by Pakistani security forces in the North-West Frontier Province (NWFP), indicating that the terrorist outfit is far from finished in this area. It is, possibly, these very areas that continue to provide recruits to the Taliban and the Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan. Three years after the "war" commenced in Afghanistan, it's evident that the country remains a mess, with Mr. Arnault admitting that international agencies had to maintain a low profile on account of the prevalent security situation.

The inability to create an Afghan security architecture — a truly national Afghan Army and a functioning police force — lies at the heart of the security failure in Afghanistan. Continued reliance on foreign troops — whether from the International Security Assistance force or the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) — comes with its own costs. For many, having a non-Taliban government in place in Afghanistan is success in itself. The time for excuses is over. Three years on, the Karzai Government must deliver both security and governance.

This has also reduced the Karzai government's ability to absorb the aid pledged by donors. Without a perceptible improvement in the security situation, relief agencies and the government itself cannot undertake the projects urgently needed for providing succour to the people. A continuation of the status quo could only add to chaos, strengthen the warlords and bandits and prolong the misery of the Afghan people.