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Coming weeks critical for Afghanistan's future, top UN envoy says

29 September 2009 – The next several weeks will be critical for the future of Afghanistan, which is awaiting the final outcome of last month’s presidential election and the formation of a new government, the top United Nations envoy to the country said today.

“This is decision time in Afghanistan and for Afghanistan,” Secretary-General’s Special Representative Kai Eide told a meeting of the Security Council.

“A number of critical decisions will be made over the next weeks. Together, they will determine the prospects for success in ending a conflict that has become more intense over the last months.”

Mr. Eide, who also heads the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), noted that the final result of the 20 August presidential elections will be determined very soon and then certified.

“When the final outcome has been determined, it must be respected – by candidates and their supporters. What most Afghans – by far – now want is to see the election process end, a government formed, and their lives improved,” he stated.

The future president will then have to decide on the composition of the new government and its agenda, Mr. Eide added. The government will have to consider how a process of peace and reconciliation can be launched, as well as take decisions concerning the future size and composition of the international and Afghan security forces, and the priorities and allocation of international development assistance.

Faced with such important decisions, doing more of the same “simply is not an option anymore,” Mr. Eide emphasized. “We must change our mindset.

“Nothing of what we need to do is dramatically new. Much of it has been said and written – and even agreed solemnly at international conferences over and over again. But it has not implemented. If implemented, it can have a tremendous impact on the ground. But if we shy away from difficult decisions, then the overall situation on the ground will continue to deteriorate.”

The Special Representative noted that important decisions will also be required by the international community.

While he said he did not want to comment on the debate over the need for additional military forces, he did cite the need to improve the strength and capacity of the Afghan army and police, adding that there must be wider international engagement on this issue and that expanding the training, mentoring and equipping of Afghan forces cannot by an effort by the United States alone.

On the civilian side, he said urgent priority must be given to institution building and sustainable economic development.

“We need some tough decisions on the economic development side. I think we’re doing too little of too many things,” Mr. Eide later told reporters after the Council meeting. “We have to focus; if not the end result will be that much of what we’re doing today will in a few years prove to be unsustainable. We really have to start to build the Afghan economy.”

In his briefing to the Council, he also voiced support for the calls for a new international conference on Afghanistan, and said that, if security persists, the first such gathering should take place in the Afghan capital, Kabul.

In his latest report on Afghanistan, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said it is “imperative” that the international community maintain a long-term commitment to Afghanistan, while adding that there must be a “decisive shift” in that relationship.

“The Government must be enabled and determined to assume all the responsibilities that belong to a sovereign State,” he said. “The international community, for its part, must play a role that is clearly one of support.

“A new contract between the Government of Afghanistan and its people will be a critical component in this shift of responsibilities,” he added.



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