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June 20, 2013

UN Urges Smooth Transition; Elections in Afghanistan

by Margaret Besheer

The United Nations' top diplomat in Afghanistan said Thursday that a smooth transition of political power next year largely depends on well-planned, credible and timely elections.

In a briefing to the U.N. Security Council, Jan Kubis warned that the coming months are likely to see heavy fighting, as Afghan security forces crack down on anti-government elements across the country and insurgents target security personnel and civilians in return.

He noted an increase in high-profile attacks and said more than a thousand civilians, many of them children, have been killed since January - nearly 25 percent more people than were killed in the same period last year.

Afghanistan is preparing for elections next April, but Kubis warned that continued delay in passing two important pieces of electoral legislation has raised doubts about the intention to hold the vote in a timely and credible manner.

“There is no alternative to inclusive and transparent elections as a means of delivering political transition with the necessary degree of legitimacy and acceptability.  The elections are central to international and domestic legitimacy and sustained extraordinary support of the international community for the new government,” Kubis said.

On the opening of a new Taliban office in Qatar this week, and the fallout which led to Afghanistan canceling security talks with the United States, Kubis said he hoped this would soon be resolved so talks between the Afghan High Peace Council and the Taliban could begin.

Afghanistan’s Ambassador Zahir Tanin criticized the Taliban for inaugurating its office in a manner he said went against the very spirit of peace.  He said Afghanistan broke off talks with the United States, because it expects its allies “to stand against any threat to the independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity of the country.”

The U.S. envoy said Washington has made clear that the Taliban office must not be treated as, or represent itself as, an embassy or other office representing the Afghan Taliban as an emirate, government, or sovereign.

In remarks directed at Pakistan, Ambassador Tanin warned that terrorism continues to pose a serious threat to Afghanistan’s peace and stability.

“So long as terrorist sanctuaries continue to exist in Pakistan’s soil and some elements continue to use terrorism as an instrument of foreign policy, peace will not prevail; neither in Afghanistan, nor in the region,” Tanin said.

Pakistan’s envoy rejected those remarks, saying before the council that all state institutions agree that terrorism is a threat to both Pakistan and Afghanistan and both countries should work together to eliminate it.