Global Policy Forum

Violence Fuels Disillusionment and Threatens Reconstruction

Integrated Regional Information Networks
December 7, 2006


Growing insurgency, impunity for criminals and corrupt officials are factors causing signs of despondency and disillusionment among Afghans, according to a report by a United Nations Security Council (UNSC) mission to Afghanistan, released in New York on Wednesday.

The report warns these problems, along with weak governance and the growing drug trade constitute "a grave threat to reconstruction and nation-building" and that Afghanistan's state institutions are too fragile to fully meet the challenges. "Afghanistan needs additional and sustained support from the international community both for quick gains and for sustained progress over the long term," the report said.

However, the 13-page document says the partnership between the international community and Afghanistan that began with the 2002 Bonn Agreement is still "largely on track" and the commitment of the international community is unwavering.

Recommendations of the UNSC report cover 11 areas, including calls for improved governance, more attention to human rights and the protection of civilians, closer regional cooperation and strengthened efforts to counter poppy cultivation and drug trafficking.

Commenting on the report, the UN's top official in the country, UN Secretary-General's Special Representative for Afghanistan Tom Koenigs said that 2006 presented a mixed picture, with three-quarters of the country making progress and one-quarter facing big problems. Koenigs cautioned that security, judicial and governance problems experienced in 2006 "will accompany us most likely in 2007 and 2008". "A huge effort, a renewed and increased effort of the international community and the Afghans, particularly the Afghan government, is necessary to overcome the problems, particularly the problems in the south," he told IRIN in an interview in the capital, Kabul. However, Koenigs remained optimistic. "The will of the Afghan people to build their institutions, to develop their country and go into a prosperous future is unbroken."

Meanwhile, the report urged NATO and other countries to maintain or increase their military commitment and encourages the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) to continue expanding into the provinces.

The Security Council mission visited Afghanistan in mid-November, calling on the Afghan government and key players in the international reconstruction effort. The mission was briefed on a wide range of issues contributing to instability, including pervasive unemployment, the growing narco-economy, widespread corruption and the Afghan view that insurgent sanctuaries in neighbouring countries were prolonging the conflict.

Afghanistan is going through its deadliest phase of violence since the Taliban regime was ousted in December 2001. Almost 4,000 people, about a quarter of them civilians, have been killed in fighting this year. Many have been killed in southern Afghanistan – the heartland of the Taliban-led insurgency and the drug trade. The impoverished central Asian state produces more than 90 percent of the world's opium and has seen a nearly 60 percent increase in poppy cultivation this year, compared to 2005, aid experts estimate.

Afghan leaders told the mission members that the Taliban-led insurgency had been "fed by the failure of the government and the international community to provide basic services, governance and security to rural communities".

They also heard criticism of the international community for doing too little to help Afghanistan develop its own security forces. President Hamid Karzai told the mission that the international community is at fault for "inadequate and belated efforts" to build a national police force. The Afghan Parliament Defence Commission Secretary reported that the Afghan National Army (ANA) remains poorly equipped and understaffed.

The Commander of the 31,500-strong NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), Gen David Richards, told the mission that the ANA could field just over 14,000 combat soldiers. The Bonn Agreement called for a force of up to 70,000 soldiers and support staff. Inadequacies of the Afghan national police have already led to the development of an auxiliary police force.

The report recommends greater efforts from donors and the government to create a viable army and police force. However, it also calls on the Afghan government to do more to address corruption amongst officials and the judiciary, noting views that "widespread corruption in law enforcement and judicial institutions is central to the population's decreasing trust in government".

Both military and civilian players agree that security in southern Afghanistan cannot be achieved by fighting forces alone, with aid and development needed to convince local people to support the central government. But the mission heard of unease about who should undertake humanitarian and development work.

"We remain deeply concerned by NATO's involvement in humanitarian affairs which is beyond the technical expertise of military and associated actors," the Agency Coordinating Body for Afghan Relief (ACBAR), an umbrella group of NGOs working in Afghanistan, wrote in their submission.




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