U.S. Urges Greater International Support for Afghanistan

By Judy Aita
USINFO Staff Writer

United Nations - Emphasizing that 2007 is a turning point for Afghanistan, the United States urged the international community to increase its efforts to help stabilize the country.

In remarks to the U.N. Security Council March 20, U.S. Ambassador Jackie Sanders said even with robust and determined military action against the Taliban and its supporters, Afghanistan is "confronted with a ruthless enemy ... [that] will not be defeated by force of arms alone."

"It is essential that as the international community steps up its efforts to assist the Afghan authorities, it carries out a comprehensive security, political, and economic strategy," Sanders said.

The Security Council and the international community "need to continue to work toward a secure, stable, and more prosperous Afghanistan, based on the rule of law and human rights, so that the country will never again fall prey to extremists and terrorists," said Sanders, the U.S. alternate representative to the U.N. for special political affairs.

The United Nations, the ambassador said, should continue to promote a sustained international engagement in Afghanistan through the Joint Coordination and Monitoring Board which helps the government and international community implement the five-year Afghanistan Compact and by reaching out to key members of the international community for support.

U.N. Special Envoy Tom Koenigs of Germany described Afghanistan as a "place of hope and challenge."  The threat to peace has not diminished, but the response by the government, donors and the Afghan people themselves is encouraging, he told the council.

It is crucial that the country's national development strategy works well and delivers.  But, Koenigs said, international participation "needs to improve," including adding staff and resources on the ground in the capital, Kabul, and the provinces.

Afghan government agencies also need to take their responsibilities more seriously, the U.N. envoy said.  "The continued passivity of many government agencies - in the expectation that the international community will come to their rescue to meet the compact objectives - only serves to delay progress and, in some cases, undermines it."

Koenigs said as the weather gets warmer, the violence in Afghanistan will intensify.  The Taliban's ability, however, to acquire and retain the military initiative "is now under active challenge in many districts" and "the Taliban model of governance remains broadly unpopular."

The protection of civilians is "a burning concern" as military action increases, he said.  Despite some success by Afghan security forces in detecting and dismantling suicide attack networks, the rate of suicide attacks is at an all-time high, Koenigs said.

Antonio Maria Costa, executive director of the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime, reported that even though the opium poppy crop survey predicts a record harvest in 2007, an analysis of the situation "shows a new and possibly encouraging phenomenon:  divergent cultivation trends between the center-north and south of the country."

In the center-north where security and development slowly are taking hold, farmers are turning their backs on drug cultivation, Costa said.  A balanced system of eradication and assistance "is creating an opium-free belt across the middle of the country from the border with Pakistan in the southeast to the border of Turkmenistan in the northwest."

Costa said he expects the number of opium-free provinces to increase from six in 2006 to about 12 in 2007, making one-third the country without opium cultivation.

In the south, however, "the vicious circle of drugs funding terrorism and terrorism supporting drug lords is stronger than ever" with increased opium poppy cultivation in five provinces, he said.  "It is therefore vital to fight them both together, at the same time, with the same weapons."

Costa said the international community, especially Afghanistan's neighbors, must help with improved border management and increased aid for security and judicial reform.

The United States is the leading donor to Afghanistan, having provided more than $14.2 billion in reconstruction and security assistance since 2001.  President Bush recently asked Congress for an additional $11.8 billion for the remainder of 2007 and fiscal year 2008, which is a significant increase in resources.  The new U.S. funding, if approved, will go to security, infrastructure, governance, counternarcotics and rural development projects.

The United States also has increased the number of troops to the International Security Force by 3,400 along with increased troop contributions by the United Kingdom, Poland, Bulgaria and Hungary.

The full text of Sanders’ remarks as delivered is available on the Web site of the U.S. Mission to the United Nations.

A U.N. summary of statements made to the Security Council is available on the U.N. Web site.

For further information on U.S. policies, see Rebuilding Afghanistan.