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Taliban Still a Threat to Afghanistan, United Nations Says

15 March 2006

Ambassador Bolton says United States committed to Afghanistan for long term

By Judy Aita
Washington File United Nations Correspondent

United Nations -- A major challenge facing Afghanistan is how to prevent the return of the Taliban to the country, a senior U.N. official said March 14.

Briefing the Security Council just days after a bomb attack in Kabul, Afghanistan, was directed against former Afghan President Sebghatullah Mojadeddi, U.N. special envoy Tom Koenigs said that along with the insecurity caused by bombings, the potential for the Taliban to regroup is a major challenge facing the government.

In addition, Koenigs said, the lack of economic and government support in provinces and districts "might lead to a frustration and propensity for people to believe the messages of the Taliban."

There also has been "marked increase in the incidence of large and more deadly explosive devices.  The perpetrators of these attacks have shown a growing intent to target civilians, government officials, and reconstruction workers such as road-builders," he said.

Talking with journalists after the meeting, Koenigs said it is difficult to estimate the seriousness of the problem posed by the Taliban because the United Nations does not have detailed intelligence.  But the organization does know all the Taliban leaders have not been captured and there incidents for which the Taliban has claimed responsibility. “So they are still there and people fear, particularly in the south, that [the Taliban] hide on this or the other side of the border."


Koenigs also urged Kabul to extend its reach to local communities.

"This will require programs that ensure the participation of Afghans in the development of the country while meeting the needs of vulnerable groups and poor regions.  It will also challenge Afghanistan's government to make functioning institutions of justice and the rule of law more and more a reality in the communities in which most Afghans live," he said.

Koenigs said that he was "overwhelmed by the unanimity of support for Afghanistan" not only from the 15 members of the Security Council but from the long list of other nations who also spoke in support of the country's agenda, the peace process, the role of the United Nations in Afghanistan and U.N. Assistance Mission to Afghanistan (UNAMA).

"That reassures me that the international community is united to support the peace process and that is very important for the challenges ahead … in security, in human rights, in illegal drug trafficking and drug cultivation, in economic development," the U.N. envoy said.

An agreement in London earlier this year on a five-year plan to help Afghanistan, known as the Afghan Compact, "convinces me that we have a possibility for positive developments in this region, which hasn't seen a lot of achievements in the last decades," Koenigs said. (See related article.)

"We have no region in the world which has such a guarantee of a long-term commitment," he said.


At the March 14 briefing, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton said that the United States "remains committed to Afghanistan for the long term."

"The remarkable transition in Afghanistan since 2001 has underscored the importance of the United Nations’ contributions" throughout the Bonn Process, through the U.N. Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), to the present, Bolton said.

He agreed that the broad support for the Afghan Compact "demonstrates the international community's firm commitment to security, democracy and economic development in Afghanistan while highlighting the continuing requirement for a strong U.N. role."

The ambassador also said the United States looks forward to working with UNAMA to improve security, including the promotion of international human-rights standards with a reformed and fully capable Afghan police force and judicial system.

"With UNAMA we seek to help Afghanistan develop its human capital through strengthened access to health care and education for women and men at all levels," he said.  "Together with the people of Afghanistan, their democratically elected representatives and UNAMA, we look forward to creating a peaceful Afghan state that is a source of stability in Central-South Asia region."

For additional information, see Rebuilding Afghanistan.

(The Washington File is a product of the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)

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