After more than 20 years of "fruitless endeavours," the Security Council might wish to consider adopting a comprehensive approach to settling the conflict in Afghanistan, Secretary-General Kofi Annan suggests in a new report released today.
Such an approach should set forth the basic requirements for ending the conflict and the principles on which a settlement should be based, together with a coherent strategy for reaching that goal, the report says.
"I am convinced that a political solution based on the twin pillars of enabling the Afghan people to freely determine their own future and securing the legitimate national interests of Afghanistan's neighbours through mutually binding commitments offers the best guarantee for a lasting peace in Afghanistan," Mr. Annan writes.
To achieve its goals, the Security Council may wish to consider a strategy, including incentives and disincentives, aimed at encouraging the parties to enter into serious negotiations and move towards a settlement, the Secretary-General says. "This would also eliminate any confusion about the objective of sanctions, which would thus be clearly seen as a means to an end."
An overall plan should also address the international and regional aspects of the conflict. "The Council may wish to encourage all the Governments concerned, in particular those of the 'six-plus-two' group, to reinvigorate their efforts to harmonize their legitimate national interests and find a common approach regarding the future of an Afghan nation and its system," the report says, referring to Afghanistan's neighbours - China, the Islamic Republic of Iran, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan - as well as the Russian Federation and the United States.
On the humanitarian front, the report notes that the combined effects of 22 years of conflict and the worst drought in living memory has caused the situation to reach "alarming proportions," with the current caseload of internally displaced persons estimated to be more than 700,000. A worrying feature of the current crisis, the report adds, is the lack of significant action by the authorities to provide assistance for their own people, with the parties citing a lack of budgetary resources as a reason for their inactivity.
Meanwhile the political and military outlook mirrors the humanitarian situation in many ways, Mr. Annan says, pointing out that no talks have been held between the two sides in recent months because of the Taliban's refusal to start a process of dialogue with the United Front. And since the beginning of May, fighting between those two parties has intensified, with neither side scoring any meaningful territorial gains.
Noting some coercive treatment of UN staff and arrests of national humanitarian workers, the Secretary-General says, "It is imperative that the Taliban cease the harassment of humanitarian workers."
Mr. Annan also reports no progress on the Taliban's position regarding Osama bin Laden or the closure of terrorist training camps.