Afghanistan, already facing a "humanitarian crisis of alarming proportions," could see increased fighting during the summer months, coinciding with the country's "hungry season," according to a new report by Secretary-General Kofi Annan.
The report warns that conditions are likely to worsen in Afghanistan, where drought and fighting have already driven over half a million people from their homes since late last year. The Secretary-General points to recent clashes as "evidence of the fact that fighting in Afghanistan is no longer seasonal, the two sides now being better equipped and trained for winter warfare."
Reduced precipitation and the lack of available seeds have caused Afghanistan's farmers to plant less this year, Mr. Annan notes, warning that the worst period was likely to be "the hungry season of June and July, which corresponds with the period of greatest conflict."
Assistance to the beleaguered Afghan people cannot keep pace with their growing needs, according to the report. "The aid community is now overstretched in its attempts to respond to the urgent needs of thousands of communities across the country and is being overwhelmed by the needs of the internally displaced persons," Mr. Annan observes, urging Member States to respond generously to UN appeals for funding.
At the same time, the Secretary-General calls for a new commitment to finding a comprehensive political solution. Noting that those States which have intervened the most in Afghanistan are also the most affected by the conflict, he expresses hope that those countries "will come to realize that the best means of guaranteeing their legitimate national interests lies in the establishment of a unified and representative government in Afghanistan."
The Taliban suspended its participation in the UN-sponsored dialogue between the parties after sanctions against the group were tightened late last year. The Secretary-General expresses hope that the Taliban "will come to realize that the capacity of the United Nations to act as an honest broker has not been compromised by the imposition of sanctions." At the same time, he points out that sanctions "cannot be an end in themselves or a substitute for a comprehensive policy."
Acknowledging the likely and "painful" prospect that heavy fighting will break out in the coming months, the Secretary-General expresses hope that the two sides will realize that "the resolution of the conflict cannot be found on the battlefield and that there is no alternative to a negotiated political settlement."