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PRESS CONFERENCE ON WORK OF UNITED NATIONS ASSISTANCE MISSION IN AFGHANISTAN

Department of Public Information . News and Media Division . New York

21 September 2007

The country-wide celebrations of International Peace Day were an impetus for securing a reinforced commitment to the peace process during Sunday’s High-Level Meeting on Afghanistan, Tom Koenigs, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative there, said at a Headquarters press conference this afternoon.

He said there had been a two-month build-up of events associated with the International Day of Peace, which were cause for optimism in Afghanistan, and Sunday’s meeting could capitalize on the gains resulting from the country’s having remained on the “front page” of world attention.

Underscoring Afghanistan’s need for more troops, money and even greater commitment to the advancement of peace, he said even those who supported the Taliban were tired of the fighting and were taking part in demonstrations for peace. To achieve that end, however, the police and national security forces needed even better training, which could be done in Afghanistan rather than elsewhere due to the heavy international presence. The reinforced unity of countries supporting that training -- including Pakistan, Iran, United States, United Kingdom, India and the Russian Federation -- would already be a success come Sunday.

The High-Level Meeting on Afghanistan is scheduled to be co-chaired by United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and Afghan President Hamid Karzai. Mr. Koenig will participate, as will States, organizations and other entities represented in the Joint Coordination and Monitoring Board (JCMB) of the 2006 Afghanistan Compact, adopted as a framework for international cooperation on Afghanistan. The Compact followed the successful implementation of the 2003 Bonn Agreement that included the adoption of a new Afghan Constitution and the holding of presidential and parliamentary elections in 2004 and 2005 respectively. Mr. Koenigs also heads the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), established in 2002.

Asked how much money Afghanistan needed, Mr. Koenigs said there were no specific numbers but there were certain definite needs. For example, stepping up the national security forces went well beyond the issue of money to touch on such matters as mentors and better coordination. The need for better coordination, in turn, applied both to agencies, for maximum effectiveness and minimum overlap, and to security forces so as to minimize the incidence of civilian casualties. Better coordination was always welcome with a Mission as integrated and comprehensive as UNAMA.

He added that, beyond more funding, there was also a need to diversify financing sources and to channel funds more effectively through the Government and its ministries. Sunday’s ministerial-level meeting would give an opportunity for the two sides involved in coordination to come closer together since the goals of those who wanted to coordinate diverged at times from the goals of those who wanted to be coordinated.

Japan’s role in Afghanistan was hugely important, not only because that country was a major donor, but also because of Japan’s long-term investment in such important areas as road construction. Japan was also sponsoring development projects in neighbouring Pakistan, which opened the opportunity for the coordination of efforts in both countries.

Asked about security and the recent taking of hostages, reportedly as a result of proselytizing or adventurism, Mr. Koenigs said he was working on those issues with the Interior Ministry, but noted that proselytizing was expressly forbidden by Afghan law. Regarding security, there were enough calm days now for a resumption of vaccination campaigns by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), a condition that had not existed since the days of Taliban rule. There was also a general recognition that the insurgency would not be defeated militarily and that negotiations would have to take place. While the hard-core Taliban would not negotiate with the Government, there were enough tribal leaders in all parts of the country to make promising the prospect of negotiating peace on the basis of the constitution that no one wanted to abandon.

Asked who the Taliban supporters were, he said they were so diverse it was impossible to generalize. The question was approached from a broader angle whereby people were fighting either on the side of a tribe or on the side of the Government.

In response to another question, he said reports that the Government was arming militias to fight the Taliban were inaccurate. A disarmament programme was being administered with the vice-president in charge, but since implementation depended on the country’s 43 governors, disarmament was more successful in some districts than in others. Furthermore, with the insurgency still strong in the south, the movement to disarm was slowed in the central and northern regions since people did not want to lay down their arms while others remained armed. Overall, however, the progress of the movement for peace in Afghanistan was most visible in northern and central Afghanistan and that was evident from the lowered profiles of the warlords in those regions.

He added that it was untrue that President Karzai’s reach was limited to Kabul. The President appointed all 34 of the country’s governors and none had disobeyed his directives so far. The Government was gaining overall, even though its hold was still weak in some provinces.

Asked about Afghanistan’s tribes, he said it was difficult to quantify their number because tribal relationships were very complex. The Government was making a special effort to reach out to the alienated tribes.

Regarding illegal drug production, he said it had become worse in the south even as it had improved in the central and northern regions. In general, drug production activity increased in any area where the Government’s hold was weak. That was a major issue to be resolved by the Central Government, provincial governors and the international community coming together.

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For information media • not an official record



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