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UN Says Afghan Security Worse, More Police Needed

Kai Eide

Kai Eide

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) -- Security in Afghanistan has worsened in recent months and the international community must redouble efforts to help build up the Afghan police, the top UN official in Afghanistan has said.

Some 3,000 people have been killed in Afghanistan this year, the worst violence since a U.S.-led invasion in 2001 ousted the Taliban government for refusing to hand over the mastermind of the September 11 attacks, Al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden.

"The security situation today is worse than it was three months ago," UN special envoy Kai Eide told Reuters in an interview on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly.

As a result of the deteriorating security atmosphere, countries active in Afghanistan have been "distracted" from fulfilling commitments they made at a conference in Paris in June to support the rebuilding of Afghanistan's institutions and to promote sustainable economic development.

"Now is the time to return to the Paris agenda," he said.

Eide said there would be an annual lull in violence due to the harsh winter, which makes it difficult for militants to launch attacks. This will be a chance for the international community to redouble efforts to help rebuild Afghanistan.

"What we need most of all is a political surge," he said. Afghanistan needs a major boost in building up key institutions and some countries that had promised to help were not living up to their commitments, he said. "I'm not saying that the next six months are decisive, but they're very important. ... It's a window of opportunity."

He said it was good that the Afghan Army was expanded but it was time to do the same with the police, who will eventually be responsible for the country's day-to-day security.

Engaging The Taliban

In his speech to the General Assembly on September 24, Afghan President Hamid Karzai appealed for more international help to train and equip both his army and police.

Having Afghan soldiers shoulder more military duties would also reduce civilian casualties resulting from U.S. and NATO military actions that have angered the population, he said.

Eide also said it was crucial to engage in dialogue with insurgents, something Karzai's government has tried to do with its program of reconciliation for willing Taliban militants.

"If you want results that matter, you have to talk to the people that matter," he said.

Eide said improved relations between the governments of Afghanistan and Pakistan represented "the most important new trend" and should be encouraged.

The Taliban and Al-Qaeda insurgents, fighting to topple Karzai's government, use Pakistan's tribal areas to launch attacks in Afghanistan.

Eide said he had no information on an exchange of fire on September 25 between U.S. and Pakistani ground forces on Afghanistan's border with Pakistan.
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