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Immediate security improvements needed in Afghanistan, Security Council told

Immediate security improvements needed in Afghanistan, Security Council told

Jean-Marie Guéhenno briefs Security Council
Citing "recent and worrying trends," the top United Nations peacekeeping official today called for immediate measures to improve security in Afghanistan, where international assistance agencies have come under threat of kidnapping and other hostile action.

Speaking at the outset of an open meeting of the Security Council, Jean-Marie Guéhenno, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, said the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) had discussed with UN agencies and foreign missions a potential contingency withdrawal from certain areas to other locations in the country, should incidents warrant it.

"I must stress that that is simply contingency planning and there is, at present, no sense among key actors in Afghanistan that there is any area that has, or is likely to, reach a state where withdrawal would be required," he said in his briefing, which was followed by statements from all 15 Council members as well as the representatives of Afghanistan and Japan.

Mr. Guéhenno referred to a series of incidents, including mine and grenade attacks in Kandahar and Kunduz, and kidnapping threats in Kabul, Jalalabad and Kunar provinces where security had been reinforced. "We remain, however, worried about increasing threats and actions against international assistance agencies," he said.

He said human rights continued to be undermined by poor overall security and UNAMA continued to hear of cases of extra-judiciary executions, extortions and forced displacements. "While the Bonn (peace) process has so far successfully averted full-scale fighting between major rival factions, Afghans continue to suffer on a human level from the insecurity created by the conjunction of weak national security and strong local commanders," he added.

"The challenges of reforming the Afghan security sector are significant. The national army needs to be built, factional armies need to be dissolved, and assistance needs to be provided to help ex-combatants reintegrate into civilian life."

Echoing that statement, Mutsuyoshi Nishimura, Ambassador of Japan in Charge of Afghan Aid Coordination, warned that nation-building would not be able to succeed in Afghanistan so long as it remained a land of weapons where dangerous levels of tension existed between various armed groups. Among the challenges ahead were identifying combatants, transparently collecting weapons, adhering to timetables, dealing with commanders to whom large numbers of people were loyal, and acquiring adequate funding. In that context, the more than $50 million pledged at the recent Tokyo conference on disarming, demobilizing, and reintegrating soldiers was a good beginning.

For his part, the Special Representative of the German Government for the training of the Afghan police force, Harald Braun, noted that rebuilding the police force was vital to future security in Afghanistan. Various conditions, such as continuing international support for the fight against terrorism in Afghanistan and diminished interference from regional leaders, had been designated as crucial for success.