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Eide Warns Of 'Negative Trends' In Afghanistan

  • Andrew Tully

The UN's special representative for Afghanistan, Kai Eide (in file photo), is expected to leave his post in March.

The UN's special representative for Afghanistan, Kai Eide (in file photo), is expected to leave his post in March.

WASHINGTON -- Outgoing UN envoy to Afghanistan Kai Eide has told the UN Security Council that many of the problems that country faced years ago remain, boosting resentment of the foreign presence in the country.

Eide, appearing before the Security Council for the last time, argued that security in Afghanistan cannot be resolved by an increased U.S. troop presence alone, but rather will need civilians to build up the country and displace the Taliban as the dominant presence.

Eide called on the world body to increase the number of experts dedicated to helping the Afghan people establish institutions under which they can begin governing themselves more efficiently.

But whether civilian or military, Eide said, the foreigners brought in to help Afghanistan must be more sensitive to the nation's culture.

He told the council that NATO and its allies have a tendency to plan and execute their operations in ways that Afghans see as "disrespectful and sometimes arrogant."

"Afghans do sometimes feel that their country is treated as a no man's land, and not as a sovereign state," Eide said. "This perception contributes to an unnecessary and dangerous tension between the Afghan government and the international community, it fuels suspicion of unacceptable foreign interference, and breeds a sense of humiliation."

Central to Afghanistan's problems is the insurgency, led by the Taliban, which ruled the country until U.S. forces ousted it eight years ago for harboring Al-Qaeda in the months following the terror attacks of September 2001.

In the past few years, however, the Taliban appears to have made a comeback.

Eide argued that primary reason for that is the failure of foreigners in Afghanistan to establish a presence and assist populations in the relatively peaceful areas of country.

Paying For 'Neglect'

He said those neglected regions are where the Taliban saw an opening.

"Before leaving for New York [to be at the UN today], I asked a number of prominent Afghan politicians why the insurgency has spread over the last few years," Eide said. "There's no simple answer, but one element mentioned by all was the neglect of stable provinces in the allocation of development resources. For that neglect, we now have to pay a high price."

Eide urged the international community to broaden its activities into regions that don't demand urgent military attention, and his advice for visiting experts was to help build roads and infrastructure, improve agriculture and education.

The retiring Norwegian diplomat said a balanced civilian-military approach is the only way to reverse what he called the "negative trends" in Afghanistan, and without such an approach, he warned the situation could become "unmanageable."

Rosemary DiCarlo, the deputy U.S. ambassador to the UN, said the United States is prepared to do its part on the civilian front. She noted that the number of American civilians in Afghanistan would soon reach 1,000 -- nearly triple the number there one year ago.

Zahir Tanin, Afghanistan's ambassador to the UN, asked that the Security Council "conduct a review of the Consolidated List established under Resolution 1267, with a review to the possibility for elements of the Taliban, willing to renounce violence and join the peace process, to be removed from the sanctions list upon request by the Afghan government."

Those on the list have seen their bank assets frozen and are denied visas to visit many countries. But if the Afghan government vouched for them, Tanin argued, they would cease to be problems for Afghanistan and finally become part of a solution.

Eide said involving insurgents in a peace process could help, but cautioned that strict conditions should apply.

Those ex-Taliban who want to break with the past he said, must prove that they are committed to embracing the future of Afghanistan as a free and democratic country.

Earlier, Eide had warned that increased foreign troop numbers in Afghanistan "must not be allowed to undermine equally important civilian objectives and the development of...a politically driven strategy."