Concerned over Afghanistans security Annan urges expansion of international force

Calling security in Afghanistan an ongoing “cause for concern,” Secretary-General Kofi Annan has advocated a limited expansion of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) currently deployed in Kabul, according to a report released today at United Nations Headquarters in New York. In a report to the General Assembly and Security Council describing the implementation of the Bonn Agreement now guiding Afghanistan’s political transition, the Secretary-General enumerates the many challenges that remain for the country and the international community. Concerning security, he notes that the Taliban have not formally given up. “They may have been significantly weakened, with those left being effectively contained by the anti-terrorist coalition headed by the United States,” he observes, “But they are still present, along with remnants of Al-Qaida.” These pariah groups are not the only elements causing instability in Afghanistan, according to the report. “The presence of armed factions that nominally support the process continues to pose a threat to the consolidation of peace and civil government in the country,” Mr. Annan notes. The Secretary-General cautions that in the absence of functioning Afghan security forces and an expansion of the ISAF, Afghanistan will stay hostage to this prevailing insecurity. “Lack of tangible improvement in the security situation could seriously undermine the political and reconstruction efforts,” he warns. Against this difficult background, the Secretary-General hails the Afghan people for successfully convening their Loya Jirga grand council, which, despite some imperfections, accomplished its central tasks of electing the country’s Head of State and setting up a Transitional Authority. “These moments provided hope that the first tentative steps in the process of national reconciliation and unity have now been taken,” Mr. Annan says. If the peace process is to succeed, humanitarian and recovery activities must continue alongside these critical political steps, the report states. But a slowdown in donor disbursements “has caused potentially serious disruptions to programmes addressing the most urgent needs around the country the Secretary-General said.” Of even greater concern, he adds, “is the lack of funding available to the Government to fund its basic services and extend its presence beyond Kabul.” read more