Jean-Marie Guehenno told the UN Security Council yesterday that the certification of Afghanistan's presidential election marked a milestone. But it is unrealistic, he said, to assume that further elections will be easy to stage.
"The international community might be tempted to diminish its commitment after the success of the presidential elections," Guehenno said. "If so, it should resist that temptation. While Afghans have shown a remarkable political maturity, they must still be able to count on the full backing -- economic, financial, political, and military -- of the international community."
Guehenno said security in particular remains a major concern of the United Nations. Three of its electoral workers in the country were kidnapped two weeks ago, and the organization has now instituted stringent staff security measures.
Afghanistan is due to hold parliamentary, provincial, and district elections in the spring. Guehenno said those polls will be much more complex than October's presidential election, more affected by local tensions, and more susceptible to fraud and intimidation.
"The influence of local commanders, the widespread and tangled web of narcotics and arms, and the absence of an efficient local civil administration continue to constitute serious obstacles to holding legitimate parliamentary and local elections," Guehenno said.
Among the key organizational issues still to be addressed, he said, are setting the boundaries of districts, refining voter lists, and vetting the qualifications of thousands of potential candidates.
After Guehenno's briefing, the UN Security Council issued a statement saluting Afghans, their neighbors, and international forces for ensuring peaceful presidential elections. The Security Council also pledged its support in safeguarding the next round of elections.
The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, John Danforth, who is the current president of the Security Council, read the statement: "In preparation for these elections, council members reiterated their determination to continue to provide unwavering support to the government of Afghanistan in the fight against narcotics and the reinforcement of security."
UN officials are urging NATO-led peacekeepers in Afghanistan to expand into western provinces ahead of the elections.
Guehenno said irregular militias are emerging as a problem. They are not included in the current disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration program. The peacekeeping chief said these groups may be more destabilizing for the security in many parts of the country that the regular militias.