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UN Appeals to Taliban to Allow Afghan Food Aid


The United Nations chief in Afghanistan is making an appeal to the Taliban not to disrupt food aid heading to hungry Afghans. The representative of the world body on Monday also lashed out at the increasing number of pessimistic voices predicting that the seven-year-old international military and humanitarian campaign in the country is doomed to failure. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Kabul has details.

With millions of Afghans expected to confront hunger this coming winter, the United Nations' top representative in Kabul is calling for food aid from the international community not to be impeded by the Taliban.

Kai Eide, the Special Representative of the U.N. Secretary General to Afghanistan, says insurgents in the country should understand the food shipments are purely humanitarian, not a political effort "to win hearts and minds."

"I will take this opportunity to appeal to the Taliban and to the appeal to its leaders to ensure access for food distribution," he said. "There are disagreements on so many things but let us demonstrate that we can share this humanitarian agenda."

Drought and a poor harvest have led some international experts to warn of a possible humanitarian disaster. Estimates of the number of Afghans facing an acute shortage of food in the months ahead go as high as nine million - one-quarter of the population.

The International Committee of the Red Cross on Monday issued a warning that 200,000 people in northern Afghanistan this winter could be forced to leave their homes in the face of drought, insecurity and rising food prices.

Afghans already confront a worsening security situation, partly due to a resurgent Taliban. And there are complaints that corruption within the government is seriously impeding reconstruction of the war-torn country. All this despite a seven-year-old military and humanitarian effort, with tens of billions of dollars pledged to rebuild Afghanistan.

In recent weeks, diplomats, generals and other prominent voices in the international community have issued increasingly pessimistic statements about the country's fate. Some predict failure to defeat the Taliban militarily and worry openly about the collapse of democracy.

The U.N. chief representative here, clearly exasperated, told reporters in the capital he is "sick and tired" of hearing such negative comments.

"I address those particularly in the international community who've almost made it a hobby to be pessimistic and to talk in terms of gloom and doom. I think that is incorrect and is dangerous with regard to our ability to move forward." he added.

But Eide agreed with those contending that the insurgents cannot be defeated solely by force. Asked to comment on President Hamid Karzai's hopes for a Saudi-brokered attempt to bring the Taliban to the negotiating table, the U.N. official said there must be political engagement with relevant parties - a clear reference to the resurgent Taliban.

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