Top UN envoy to Afghanistan calls for greater political effort to end conflict
23 February 2010 – The outgoing United Nations envoy to Afghanistan today warned that – on its own – the massive United States-led military push in Taliban strongholds in southern Helmand province will not bring peace and stability to the country.
Furthermore, offering financial incentives to persuade militants to put down their arms in favour of a reintegration process could create further resentment and may serve to harden the insurgency, the Secretary-General’s Special-Representative, Kai Eide, wrote in an op-ed in London’s Telegraph newspaper.
At the recent London Conference, more than 70 countries and organizations agreed to create a trust fund that would help integrate Taliban and other insurgents who accept to stop fighting. The details of how the fund will work, who will be targeted, and how incentives will be provided still need to be worked out.
Mr. Eide stressed that the “reintegration trust fund” is not in itself a “game changer,” but could work if combined with a reconciliation process aimed at ideologically-driven insurgents as well as the political structures of the insurgency. “If you want relevant and sustainable results, you will have to involve relevant people with authority.
“We should not underestimate the number of those who fight for reasons of ideology, resentment and a sense of humiliation – in addition to criminal elements,” stressed Mr. Eide, who is slated to step down from his post early next month.
“Often, such motivation stems from a conviction that the government is corrupt and unable to provide law and order combined with a sense of foreign invasion – not only in military terms, but in terms of disrespect for Afghanistan’s culture, values and religion,” said Mr. Eide.
He proposed a series of confidence-building measures to test the waters for a wider political process, including the delisting of individuals from the UN sanctions list and the release of detainees from facilities such as the US detention centre at Bagram.
Such steps would have to be followed by commitments from the Taliban to refrain from attacking health facilities or schools and to facilitate humanitarian assistance.
“The leader of the Taliban, Mullah Omar, stated that he was committed to provide education to all Afghans,” said Mr. Eide. “The Taliban should demonstrate that this is serious by stopping attacks on schools.”
The international community must support – in financial and political terms – this process when it is launched, he said, adding that it will not come about suddenly, nor will there be a dramatic breakthrough overnight. “It will require careful orchestration among key actors” led by the Afghan authorities without any imposition by international civilians or military.
He underscored the importance of including women in President Hamid Karzai’s efforts to organize a “Peace Jirga” aimed at forging a nationwide consensus around a political process in an attempt to avoid the further fragmentation along ethnic lines in Afghan society, and to mobilize religious and community leaders for reconciliation.
“The involvement of neighbouring countries, and especially Pakistan, will be critical,” concluded Mr. Eide, who heads the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA).
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