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Afghanistan will need international help to build future beyond elections, Security Council told

22 March 2005 Afghanistan will need sustained international help way beyond September's legislative elections marking the completion of the Bonn accord that set up the country's transitional phase after the ouster of the Taliban regime in 2001, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan says in his latest report delivered today.

This need "is rooted in the realization that a number of post-conflict peace-building tasks have yet to be fulfilled, including the restoration of countrywide security, full resettlement of refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs), the rehabilitation of key economic and social infrastructure and the establishment of functional state institutions across the country," he writes, seeking a 12-month extension of the UN mission there until 25 March 2006.

"The consensus on the need to extend the common endeavour that began in 2001 also rests on a keen awareness that the degree of destruction visited upon Afghanistan in the past three decades has been so high that nothing less than the close partnership established during the implementation of the Bonn agreement will measure up to the challenge," he adds.

Presenting the report to the Security Council today, Mr. Annan's Special Representative for the country, Jean Arnault, called on the 15-member body to extend the mandate of the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) as requested and to urge donors "to respond timely and generously" with the $110 million still outstanding from the $148.67 million needed for September's elections.

Mr. Annan outlines a list of important lessons learned after more than three years of intensive UN engagement, among them the need for an extended presence of international forces to tackle terrorism, insurgency and factionalism which, although waning, will remain a threat. "A credible international military deterrent will therefore remain a key component of the post-Bonn framework until Afghan security institutions are fully established and functional," he writes.

A "massive skills deficit" in such sectors as police, teachers, engineers and qualified labour must also be remedied, state institution need to be re-created, and "a bold strategy for economic development is necessary," he adds.

He will submit to the Council definitive recommendations on UNAMA's future role following consultations with the Afghan leadership and the new parliament to be elected in September.

Despite a relative calm in the security situation, partly due to winter as well as a disarmament programme, an increase in strength of the Afghan army and police and an expanded presence of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), "these positive developments should not lead to complacency," he warns.

"The determination of extremist elements to take advantage of the open political environment of the parliamentary elections should not be underestimated," he adds, noting that disarmament of Afghan militias remains insufficient to guarantee security. Illegal armed groups which perpetuate the drug industry must also be dealt with, according to the report.

Illicit narcotics dominates Afghanistan's economy with more than 350,000 families, some 10 per cent of the population, estimated to depend on opium poppy cultivation, which generates income equivalent to 60 per cent of the legal gross domestic product and 87 per cent of global supply, he writes.

"There is a consensus among Afghan and international experts that Afghanistan's position as a leading narcotics supplier must be turned back in 2005."

Meanwhile, in his briefing to the Council, Mr. Arnault noted that two roadside bomb attacks directed against UN convoys had taken place since the report was compiled, killing six people and injuring 31. "Protecting the life of UN staff will remain a priority for us, with the benefit of the strengthened security arrangements that have been put in place since last year," he said.

"The agenda of the next nine months is a heavy one. It will place demands on all human and material resources of the United Nations in Afghanistan, including those of UNAMA," he added.

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