Despite significant progress in Afghanistan's peace process, insecurity remains the biggest threat to the country's future, a senior United Nations official told the Security Council today.
Hailing President Hamid Karzai's decision to create a new 70,000-strong Afghan army, Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Hédi Annabi urged the international community to provide financial support for reform of the security sector, which he called "absolutely vital to the peace process." He added that prospective donor countries would soon be solicited for contributions to a UN-administered trust fund.
Factional fighting persists in several parts of Afghanistan, including the west, which has seen heavy clashes among various parties. "A delegation from the Government managed to negotiate a ceasefire on 3 December, but the situation is still very fragile," Mr. Annabi said in his briefing.
In Kandahar, simmering tribal rivalries persist over who is responsible for law and order, while in Uruzgan, "several prominent Taliban leaders were recently arrested by the local intelligence agency and accused of seeking to revitalize the Taliban movement," he said.
Commenting on plans by the coalition forces to deploy teams outside Kabul to assist in the reconstruction and recovery process, Mr. Annabi pledged the UN's full cooperation with their efforts.
On the human rights situation in Afghanistan, he called attention to abuses by regional and local commanders against civilians, especially women and members of minority groups. In addition, he recalled the October attacks on four girls' schools in Wardak province. "Prior to the attacks, teachers reported that some of their female students had been threatened by unknown armed men on their way to school," he said. A preliminary inquiry by the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) points to "the possibility that local officials may have been involved."
Afghanistan has achieved a great deal since the milestone Bonn Agreement was concluded just over a year ago, but continued progress depends on improvements in the security situation, Mr. Annabi stressed. "The extension of the authority of the central government, the ability to deliver humanitarian and reconstruction assistance and the protection of human rights are all contingent upon a secure environment throughout the country," he said.
While there is "much to be proud of" in Afghanistan, he cautioned that "we have not reached appoint where the international community can afford to lapse into a state of complacency."