Afghan U.N. envoy urges sense of urgency on help
By Robert Birsel / April 9, 2008
KABUL (Reuters) – The new U.N. envoy to Afghanistan said on Wednesday he wants to inject a sense of urgency in efforts to coordinate help for the country.
Norwegian diplomat Kai Eide arrived in Afghanistan last month aiming to improve coordination of international civilian and military activities and cooperation with the Afghan government.
“What I want to do is to create a new sense of momentum and a new sense of urgency,” Eide told his first news conference in Kabul since taking the post.
More than seven years after U.S.-led troops ousted the Taliban for refusing to hand over Osama bin Laden, a Taliban insurgency in the south and east shows no sign of fading despite the presence of a 47,000-strong NATO-led force.
The United States has a separate force of about 14,000 in Afghanistan.
Enduring hardship and widespread corruption faced by many Afghans has fueled some resentment of both the government and its foreign backers.
Eide said international efforts to help Afghanistan were too fragmented.
“We have to get away from the situation where an Afghan government administration, which is still in need of capacity-building, is faced with a too-fragmented international community,” he said.
“That simply is not going to work.”
The U.N. Security Council voted last month to extend for another year the mandate for the U.N. mission in Afghanistan and called for what U.N. officials described as a “sharpened” role for Eide.
Afghanistan won fresh promises of long-term support and some extra troops from NATO at an alliance summit last week.
Eide called for a re-think on the coordination of efforts to help a country devastated by decades of conflict.
“We will only do it by asking ourselves, each and every one of us, what can we do differently from what we’ve done in the past,” he said. “I expect openness by my interlocutors in providing answers.”
On the question of military-civilian coordination, Eide said the military had to accommodate political and humanitarian efforts.
Governments and agencies had to look at how aid was spent and improve their response to humanitarian crises, he said. Tackling corruption and developing a civil service were among main issues for the government.
The Taliban insurgency has hobbled reconstruction efforts in much of the south and east and scared off all but the bravest foreign investors.
The failure to end the fighting has led to calls from some Afghans for talks with the militants.
Kai said the question of talks was up to the government but in the end, a political solution was essential.
“Progress and solutions to the problem of Afghanistan cannot and will not rest with military forces,” he said.
Eide, a former U.N. envoy in the Balkans, is known as an effective diplomat with experience in nation-building and dealing with NATO.
He was chosen for the post after Afghan President Hamid Karzai vetoed British politician Paddy Ashdown’s appointment following media speculation about the extent of his powers and possible influence over the government.
Eide declined to comment on the controversy over Ashdown.