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UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
13 November 2006

AFGHANISTAN: Growing insurgency and booming opium trade major challenges - Security Council

KABUL, 13 Nov 2006 (IRIN) - The growing Taliban-led insurgency and the ongoing rise in opium production are the major challenges facing war-ravaged Afghanistan, head of a United Nations Security Council mission to the country, Japanese Ambassador Kenzo Oshima, said on Sunday in the Afghan capital, Kabul.

His comments coincided with the publication of a gloomy report which warns that insurgent activity has risen fourfold and has claimed the lives of 3,700 people this year in Afghanistan.

Taliban militants are waging a deadly insurgency mainly in the southern and eastern parts of the country, following their removal from power in November 2001 by a US-led coalition.

"I think the single most important challenge facing Afghanistan is insurgency, fighting the Taliban insurgency, that clearly is the most serious challenge," Oshima, who arrived in Kabul on Saturday, asserted.

The new report was released on Sunday by the Joint Coordination and Monitoring Board (JCMB) - a body that is overseeing the implementation of the Afghanistan Compact, a five-year reconstruction and development blueprint signed in February in London.

It said that insurgents were launching more than 600 attacks a month as of the end of September, up from 300 a month at the end of March this year.

Oshima said that another daunting challenge for the country, which supplies over 90 percent of global heroin, was booming opium production.

Poppy cultivation in Afghanistan has jumped by almost 59 percent this year compared to 2005, while the area under cultivation has risen from 8,000 ha in 2001 to 165,000 ha currently, according to the Ministry of Counter Narcotics (MCN).

The UN team called on the government to prioritise the building of an independent and strong judiciary, police force and army, and for Kabul to extend its control to other parts of the country.

Deteriorating security, particularly in the south and east of the country, has made it difficult for aid workers to reach the most vulnerable, such as those fleeing fighting or severe drought, which has currently affected some 2.5 million people.

Some international NGOs in Afghanistan are looking for new solutions to ending the insurgency. Erik Toft, head of the Danish Committee for Aid to Afghan Refugees (DACAAR), called on the UN Security Council team to focus on non-military ways of boosting security and development in Afghanistan.

“I don’t believe that peace would be achieved through military means in Afghanistan and hope that having the UN Security Council delegation here, they will look to other alternatives,” Toft told IRIN.

On 31 October, the Danish aid group closed its office in Jaji district of southeastern Pakita province after unknown gunmen attacked their premises, killing a security guard.

At least 30 aid workers, including NGOs and UN and humanitarian contractors, have been killed since January 2006. Many NGOs and aid groups have very few staff on the ground in the volatile southern and southeastern parts of Afghanistan – where they are most needed - due to threats and fear of attacks from insurgents.

The New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) on Friday called on the Security Council team in Afghanistan to immediately address the deteriorating rights situation that has led to the deaths of some 1,000 civilians in insurgency-linked violence this year.

In a letter, the rights group urged the UN team to work with the 37 nations contributing to the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) tackling the Taliban to create a fund to compensate the scores of what HRW says are victims of ISAF military strikes.



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