While the upcoming parliamentary and provincial elections that will complete Afghanistan’s political transition are a vital step, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan warns in a new report that the overall objective – to restore peace and stability in the war-torn country under very difficult circumstances – remains to be met.
“[Elections] alone will not be sufficient for the establishment of lasting peace in Afghanistan. Security, effective institutions and development will require time and concerted effort to build upon the political achievement of the past three-and-a-half years,” Mr. Annan says in his latest report to the Security Council on Afghanistan.
Overall, he says, the security situation remains a paramount concern: “It is impossible to overestimate the importance of restoring security in Afghanistan as a condition for the sustainability of the peace process.” He notes a rise in the level of insurgency in that country, as well as in the sophistication of the insurgents’ weaponry and in the types of attacks being carried out. The southern and eastern parts of the country have borne the brunt of the recent upsurge in violence.
Even without the burden of violent insurgency, the reconstruction of Afghanistan faces a truly formidable combination of challenges, including the pervasive drug economy, some of the worst social and economic indicators in the world and the consequences of what was one of the deadliest confrontations of the Cold War. “It will no doubt require long-term commitment on the part of the international community to see this process to a successful conclusion,” Mr. Annan says.
Afghanistan’s myriad difficulties – internal and external, and those inherited from the past – should not draw attention away from the “remarkable achievements,” such as the election of a new government and the adoption of a new constitution, all over the past two and half years, since the Bonn Agreement set the country on the road to stability in 2001.
Preparations for the 18 September elections that will wrap up the Bonn process are on track, with over 5,000 registered candidates and about 1.5 million newly registered voters, Mr. Annan says.
He warns however that the ballot faces a serious funding gap and some $31 million is urgently needed in order to avoid a delay in holding the elections. He also urges Government and international security forces to remain vigilant with regard to all sources of intimidation and violence against voters and candidates.