AFGHANISTAN: UN Secretary-General warns of threats to "still fragile" country
KABUL, 12 March 2008 (IRIN) – More than six years after the ousting of the Taliban, violence and insurgency have intensified, and the scale of international support has also grown in Afghanistan, the UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, said in a report to the Security Council.
“To meet the security challenge and stabilise Afghanistan, a common approach is needed that integrates security, governance, rule of law, human rights and social and economic development,” said the report entitled The situation in Afghanistan and its implications for international peace and security [http://www.reliefweb.int/rw/rwb.nsf/db900sid/ASAZ-7CLHWP/$File/full_report.pdf], released on 10 March.
Ban praised progress made in the past few years in the war-torn country but warned that Taliban insurgents, narcotics and poor governance represent serious threats to “still fragile” Afghan institutions.
The Afghan government has denied assertions by Mike McConnell, USA’s director of National Intelligence, that Taliban insurgents control about 10 percent of Afghanistan’s territory. McConnell told a Senate Armed Services Committee on 28 February [http://edition.cnn.com/2008/POLITICS/02/27/afghan.assessment/] the Afghan government effectively controls only 30 percent of the country.
In his report the UN Secretary-General said that out of Afghanistan’s 376 districts at least 36 – in the east, southeast and south – are inaccessible to Afghan officials.
“Owing to insecure conditions, United Nations agencies are unable to operate in 78 districts in the south of the country,” the report said. “United Nations road missions to almost all districts in the south have been suspended for several months,” it said.
Aleem Siddique, a spokesman for the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) in Kabul, told IRIN the UN would work closely with the Afghan government to get access to all areas of the country in 2008.
Attacks on aid workers
Ban Ki-moon voiced particular concern about increasing attacks on local and international humanitarian workers.
In over 130 separate attacks on humanitarian workers 40 were killed and 89 abducted in 2007, of whom seven were later killed by their captors, Ban told the Security Council.
Over 8,000 killed in 2007
Armed conflicts between the Taliban and Afghan and international forces left over 8,000 people dead in 2007, of whom at least 1,500 were civilians, according to the UN.
Insurgency-related violence reached unprecedented levels in 2007 with an average of 566 incidents recorded per month, and 160 “actual suicide attacks” throughout the year, according to the report. However, the deadliest security breach in the past six years happened on 17 February 2008 in Kandahar Province when more than 67 people were killed in a single blast.
While Taliban insurgents are widely blamed for their disregard of civilian safety and systematic violations of the Geneva Conventions and international humanitarian law, many non-combatant Afghans also died in aerial bombardments and military operations conducted by US and NATO forces.
The UN and other aid organisations have repeatedly called on all warring parties in Afghanistan to avoid attacks on civilians and aid workers and ensure humanitarian access to all parts of the country.