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Afghanistan: marking anniversary of Bonn accord, UN envoy sees progress, challenges

Afghanistan: marking anniversary of Bonn accord, UN envoy sees progress, challenges

Lakhdar Brahimi
Nearly one year to the day after various Afghan factions signed a milestone accord paving the way for a political transition in their war-ravaged country, a senior United Nations official today hailed the progress achieved since then while underscoring the ongoing challenge of maintaining security.

Speaking to a conference in Petersberg, Germany, the head of the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), Lakhdar Brahimi, said the Bonn Agreement had been "a hopeful yet uncertain beginning" marked by indeterminate prospects for success.

"In many areas, the situation is now much clearer, justifying the optimism felt at the signing of the Bonn Agreement," Mr. Brahimi said, citing advances in the political, humanitarian and cultural realm. Since last year, the country established a transitional administration, while 3 million children went back to school - including more than 1 million girls banned from education under the Taliban regime - and 1.7 million refugees returned to their homeland.

Afghanistan's renewal, he said, is driven by a popular desire for peace and the patient determination needed to rebuild the nation. But, he cautioned, insecurity remains the country's "most dangerous enemy."

"Whether caused by the attacks of extremists, by factional rivalries, abuses of power or common banditry, insecurity and lawlessness undermine the people's confidence in the peace process, hamper economic activities, limit reconstruction assistance [and] threaten the exercise of the most basic human rights and the main objectives of the Bonn process," he said.

Mr. Brahimi offered his full backing to President Hamid Karzai's call for phasing in a national army. "Hardly any project could contribute more to rebuilding the Afghan State, to [repairing] divisions inherited from the civil war and restoring popular confidence in the Government than the creation of truly national security forces," he said.

Pointing out that the gains achieved so far have come thanks to a collective effort involving the Afghans themselves, governments, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and the UN, he urged those at the conference to "continue working in this spirit to achieve lasting peace and stability for the people of Afghanistan."

The Petersburg meeting was attended by representatives of 32 countries, including Afghanistan and the host, Germany. It adopted a communiqué noting that, "while security concerns remain in parts of Afghanistan, there has nevertheless been considerable improvement in security and stability in much of the country." The communiqué strongly endorsed the Transitional Administration's decision to create an Afghan National Army and disarm former fighters, reintegrating them into civilian life.