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Absence of Security Threatens Aid Operations in Afghanistan, says Envoy - 2003-05-06

The U.N. special envoy to Afghanistan, Laktar Brahimi, warns that a dangerous lack of security is threatening the capabilities of international aid organizations and Afghanistan's transition to democracy.

In his latest report to the Security Council, Mr. Brahimi said the security situation in Afghanistan is undermining all aspects of life, particularly outside of Kabul.

He said human rights violations against ethnic Pashtuns, women, and journalists continue. Mr. Brahimi also cites the re-emergence of some Taleban and al-Qaida elements and the persistent power of local warlords as signs of diminished security.

Mr. Brahimi told the Security Council that if security can not be guaranteed, then the so-called Bonn process to create a constitution and ultimately hold national elections in June, 2004 will also come under threat.

"There are many signs that the security situation throughout Afghanistan is worsening, precisely when the next phases of the Bonn process need it to improve. There is still a real, but avoidable, risk that the Bonn process will stall if security is not extended to the region and that Afghans will lose confidence in the central government if it can not protect them," he said.

Mr. Brahimi warns the Afghan population may also suffer from the reduction of international aid organizations in the country due to security concerns.

Following a surge in recent attacks, including the murder of a worker for the International Committee for the Red Cross in March, some relief groups have started to scale back operations in the south.

Mr. Brahimi said the United Nations is also reviewing its presence in response to an attack on a U.N. vehicle last month near Kabul that injured two people and recent grenade attacks at UNICEF and other U.N. offices in Jalalabad.

"While there will be no panic, we will certainly not be irresponsible. We will continue operations in all areas where possible to the maximum extent possible, but we, of course, can not guarantee that the United Nations and other civilian aid organizations will be able to maintain current operation levels if the security of its personnel can not be assured," Mr. Brahimi said.

Mr. Brahimi urged the international community to increase contributions to Afghanistan to help the struggling nation strengthen its security.