Afghanistan: UN envoy sees potential to end conflict amid ‘complex’ situation

30 June 2009
Posters of candidates line the streets in Afghanistan for the 20 August 2009 presidential election

The current situation in Afghanistan – marked by the most intense fighting in years, and upcoming presidential polls – is extremely complex, but if managed well could also become a turning point in ending the conflict, the top United Nations envoy to the country said today.

“The situation in Afghanistan is certainly the most complex we have experienced for many years,” Kai Eide, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s Special Representative, told the Security Council, noting that ensuring a credible election process leading up to the August elections is just one of the reasons.

“The August election is about more than choosing Afghanistan’s leaders,” he said. “It is about strengthening people’s confidence in the democratic process, and about strengthening Afghanistan’s institutions. It is not only about who will lead, but about the legitimacy of leadership.”

Mr. Eide, who heads the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), added that no one’s interests can be served by an election result which is disputed by the people and affects the legitimacy of a new government.

Presenting Mr. Ban’s latest report on Afghanistan, the Special Representative highlighted recent progress such as the strengthening of security institutions, and reforming agriculture and the private sector, noting a “totally new momentum” in these areas.

“My fear, however, is that the noise from the election campaign and the fighting season will absorb so much energy and attention that it will overshadow these positive trends and affect the momentum which has now developed,” Mr. Eide stated.

“If we do not succeed in maintaining this momentum, then I am afraid we will witness new stagnation and more disillusionment among the public.”

He added that more effective and coordinated development efforts that meet the concerns of the Afghan people and their demands for greater economic and social justice will also enhance their confidence in their own Government and in the international community.

Also crucial is to strengthen efforts to ensure that international military engagement continues to enjoy the support of the Afghan people, he noted, pointing to the call made in the Secretary-General’s report for a review of the operations of special forces – which by far account for the majority of civilian casualties caused by pro-Government forces.

“It is my view that the political costs of recent mistakes are simply disproportionate to military gains and that such reviews are urgently required.”

At the same time, he stressed that the clear majority of civilian casualties are caused by the insurgency. “For them, it is not a result of tragic mistakes, but of deliberate policy.”

Mr. Eide noted that the ongoing conflict is seriously undermining the prospects for peace. The number of security incidents rose beyond the 1,000-mark for the first time in May, and there are more incidents in parts of the country which have, up to now, been considered relatively stable. “This is the most intense fighting season we have experienced,” he said.

He added that a credible and successful peace process can only take place if there is a government that enjoys the support of the people and has confidence in itself. “And it can only take place if we have an international presence which enjoys the support of the people and has confidence in itself.”


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