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UN: Annan Says World Must Support Afghanistan More Or Risk Failure

Prague, 9 December 2003 (RFE/RL) -- United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan has warned that the international community must increase its support for Afghanistan -- or risk failure.

The warning came in an annual report by Annan to the UN General Assembly released yesterday in New York.

Annan's report says unchecked criminality, outbreaks of factional fighting, and the illegal narcotics trade have all had a "negative impact" on the peace process -- begun two years ago in Bonn -- to set up a democratic government.

It also cautioned that insurgents are gaining ground, striking at UN and other relief workers.

Jean-Marie Guehenno, the UN under-secretary for peacekeeping, introduced the report. He said the next 12 months are critical if the Bonn process is to succeed.

"In those next 12 months either we will consolidate the situation, we will build the institutions that were envisaged by the Bonn agreement, we will have an Afghanistan which has a solid constitution, which has elected authorities," Guehenno said. "Or if we go in a half-hearted way in that effort then, indeed, what has been achieved in the past two years could be compromised. That's why it's so important now to re-energize and refocus the international community on Afghanistan."

The report came as Afghanistan prepares to hold a Loya Jirga, or Grand National Assembly, this month to approve a new constitution, which would pave the way for elections next year.

But for all that to succeed the "present deterioration in security" must be halted and reversed, the report says.

International support must be significantly increased and sustained, it says, adding: "Above all, the international community needs to strengthen its commitment to provide security."

That's now the job of ISAF, the International Security Assistance Force, which NATO took over earlier this year.

It's meant to expand its presence beyond the capital Kabul, but so far, that expansion has been limited to a single German reconstruction team in Kunduz.

Guehenno said much more is needed: "The good news was [the] decision in principle. The bad news is that so far we haven't had yet from NATO any clear indication of a stronger ISAF. We're pleased to see that Germany has set up the first Provincial Reconstruction Team in Kunduz and we expect other PRTs to follow under the ISAF lead. That was a very good move, it will be an improvement in Kunduz, but we certainly need more PRTs and we need more than PRTs to improve the security situation in Afghanistan."

In the report, Annan also said he wants another conference like the one in Bonn two years ago that began Afghanistan's democratic process.

Guehenno said talks on such a conference are under way with Afghan officials: "Depending on how things develop, this is something that could gain traction and happen. I think it has to happen in a natural way, as something that reflects the needs of the Afghan people, and that's how the mission is approaching it."

Annan's report also noted some positive developments in Afghanistan.

The country's economy has grown. Many more children are going to school.

And the government has begun to overhaul the key ministries responsible for security -- the fledgling Afghan national army now has some 6,500 troops.