UN envoy to Afghanistan says positive trends must spread to south

27 April 2006

The senior United Nations envoy to Afghanistan today reported economic growth in the war-ravaged nation, but emphasized that strengthened cooperation with Pakistan is key to stability in their volatile border region.

The senior United Nations envoy to Afghanistan today reported economic growth in the war-ravaged nation, but emphasized that strengthened cooperation with Pakistan is key to stability in their volatile border region.

Briefing reporters in Kabul, Tom Koenigs, head of the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), said the country's gross domestic product (GDP) has risen by 13.8 per cent, up from 8 per cent last year.

But growth was only found in three quarters of the country, he said, acknowledging that the security situation in the south has not stabilized. “That is where we have to improve. I say explicitly 'we' because UNAMA will try to take its share [of responsibility] to improve the situation,” he said. “We will try to increase our presence in the southern provinces in the course of this year to support the Government to function and to improve their functions.”

Mr. Koenigs, who met recently with officials in Pakistan, said they are “aware that they have to prevent a Talibanization of Afghanistan and Pakistan.”

During his meetings in Pakistan, he said he urged the Government to continue its cooperation with Afghanistan on security issues.

Responding to questions, he pointed out that both Pakistan and Afghanistan are fighting in the border regions the Talibanization through military actions against Al-Qaeda and Taliban extremists.

“You know that the Pakistani Army and the Afghan National Army are losing soldiers in this battle,” he said. “Civilians are dying on both sides and there is a clear knowledge that stability in Afghanistan and stability in Pakistan are closely linked.”

Emphasizing that security operations must be accompanied by improved governance, he voiced optimism that change would come. “I think the efforts being made at this moment in the southern provinces are very promising,” he said. “Looking back over the last four years, the security situation has improved and quite a number of conflicts have ceased to exist, and that is why we are optimistic.”

He emphasized that peace lies in tolerance and not extremism. “Extremists, terrorists and other enemy action in Afghanistan will only lead to what you have experienced in the last decades,” he said.

“The international community and the United Nations are clearly committed to supporting the people of Afghanistan in their fight against terrorism and extremism.”

 

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