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UN calls on Afghanistan, Pakistan to end war of words and cooperate in fighting Taliban

UN calls on Afghanistan, Pakistan to end war of words and cooperate in fighting Taliban

Chris Alexander
A senior United Nations official in Afghanistan today called on the Afghan and Pakistani governments to end their mutual recriminations and cooperate in fighting the Taliban insurgency in the south of the war-torn country, saying it is being fuelled from both sides of the border and urging greater action against the rebellion in Pakistan itself.

“This war of words, this rhetorical contest between two governments, between two partners in this region must end,” Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s Deputy Special Representative for Afghanistan Chris Alexander told a news conference in Kabul, the capital, noting that the recriminations grew louder in the past year.

“Pointing fingers leads nowhere, when what we really need, what Afghanistan most needs is constructive engagement and joint action to tackle a very serious security challenge,” he added.

“The truth is that these networks are operating in both Afghanistan and Pakistan that the leaders spend time in both countries and law enforcement and even military action is required wherever they are located.”

But Mr. Alexander said the UN believed that Pakistan’s plans to fence the border would not lead to better security in either country. He also opposed the decision to mine the area.

“The United Nations and most of the countries of the world are convinced that laying land mines is a very serous threat to the human security of the population that live nearby the places where the mines are laid,” he told a questioner.

“We regret the decision of the Government of Pakistan to proceed with the laying of land mines and we call up on both governments to strengthen their commitment to cooperative solutions to the security problems that this region faces,” he said, voicing the hope that Pakistan would in the future avoid unilateral steps.

He stressed that of the 142 Taliban leaders mentioned in Security Council Resolution 1267 of 1999, which slapped sanctions on Taliban and Al-Qaida operatives and associates, only a handful have been captured, reconciled with the new government or their whereabouts otherwise established, due to a lack of international cooperation.

He noted that Pakistan had taken steps against some people on the list, arresting some, but most experts would agree that others were in Pakistan for at least part of 2006. “Pakistan has given on many occasions the assurance that if these leaders are found in Pakistan action will be taken. We are all counting on them be true to that statement of intent,” he said. “And in our view there is more work to be done in and around Quetta and elsewhere.”

He voiced deep concern over support for the Taliban in Pakistan “because these voices are supporting terrorist organizations that are causing insecurity and violence on a significant scale in Afghanistan.”

Mr. Alexander also pledged that the UN would exert its best efforts to “see that the international community supports Pakistan in standing against the Taliban network and other terrorist networks that are operating in Afghanistan.”

The overriding UN priority for 2007 is to strengthen the rule of law and to the Afghan institutions improve standards of governance, which “have an enormous direct and indirect impact on development, on insurgency and indeed on Afghanistan drug trade and corruption,” he added.

In a related development, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) welcomed President Hamid Karzai’s decision to allocate $76 million for reconstruction projects in all districts near the border with Pakistan, noting that it could influence farmers not to cultivate opium poppy by offering alternative sources of licit income. Afghan opium, a $3-billion-a-year trade, accounts for more than 90 per cent of the world’s illegal output.

Also today, the UN Mine Action Programme for Afghanistan (MAPA), the largest and most experienced such programme in the world, employing 8,000 Afghans, reported that it cleared more than 126 million square metres of contaminated land from January through November 2006, more than 17 per cent of all such land thought to exist.

Meanwhile, the UN World Food Programme (WFP) said it helped 4.7 million Afghans in nearly all provinces last year, including drought victims and those displaced by fighting.