News / Asia

Afghan Security Worries Top UN Envoy

A U.S. Marine from the First Battalion Eighth Marines Alpha Company patrols near the town of Kunjak in southern Afghanistan's Helmand province, Feb. 23, 2011.
A U.S. Marine from the First Battalion Eighth Marines Alpha Company patrols near the town of Kunjak in southern Afghanistan's Helmand province, Feb. 23, 2011.
Lisa Schlein

A senior United Nations official says security in Afghanistan is at its lowest point since the departure of the Taliban 10 years ago. He said aid agencies are unable to deliver humanitarian assistance to 40 percent of the country and that access to many other areas is limited.

In his two years as U.N. humanitarian coordinator in Afghanistan, Robert Watkins said security in the country has steadily deteriorated. The outgoing envoy said that between 2009 and 2010, insurgent attacks increased by 66 percent and civilian casualties rose by 20 percent.

In addition, Watkins said more than 700 NATO soldiers were killed last year - the highest death toll since the beginning of the war. Violence has increased as the Taliban insurgency spreads from the southern provinces of Helmand and Kandahar to many other parts of the country.

The U.N. official said NATO has justified its military surge by arguing that security will get worse before it gets better.

"We are at a phase right now where we have not seen things turning the corner," said Watkins. "We are told that they are getting better, but it has not yet translated into tangible improvements insofar as the way that we are able to deliver assistance in Afghanistan."

Watkins also noted that access to different parts of Afghanistan has been getting progressively worse over the past decade. He said the United Nations currently can effectively deliver aid to a third of the country and limited assistance to another 30 percent. He said, however, the remainder of the country is off limits.

In the past, NATO has dispersed humanitarian assistance to the Afghan people. Watkins said this has contributed to a perception by Afghans and the insurgents that humanitarian aid is linked to military action.

Watkins said it is crucial NATO understands how important it is to keep these two roles separate. At the same time, the U.N. envoy said it is important the humanitarian community establishes and maintains strong relations with insurgent groups in order to ensure the delivery of aid.

Watkins said U.N. agencies in the past have successfully negotiated with local commanders of the Taliban to gain access to parts of the country that they control to deliver vaccination and other programs.

"But, it is important that we intensify those contacts so that we can go to even greater parts of the country with some kinds of guarantees of safety. "But, as I say, we have had a problem and we continue to have a problem of them perceiving this international assistance as being part of a wider international political, military program, which, of course, it is not," said Watkins.

Watkins said the United Nations also is having difficulty obtaining funds for its humanitarian operations, because he said donors see Afghanistan as being a post-conflict country only in need of rehabilitation aid.

The U.N. official said donors must understand the conflict in Afghanistan is far from over and the people remain in desperate need of humanitarian assistance.

NEW: Follow our Middle East stories on Twitter
and discuss them on our Facebook page.

You May Like

Video Afghan Refugees Complain of Harassment in Pakistan

Afghan officials and human rights organizations assert that Pakistani authorities are using deadly attack at school in Peshawar as pretext to push out Afghan refugees More

At Boston Bombing Hearing, Sides Spar Over Boat

At final pre-trial hearing, lawyers for suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, prosecutors disagree on whether vessel where he hid from police can be shown to jurors More

Iran Judiciary 'Picks' Lawyer for Detained WP Reporter

Masoud Shafii has been attempting to secure official recognition as Rezaian’s attorney, but is not allowed to see his client in prison More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Casei
X
Katherine Gypson
February 25, 2015 11:30 PM
The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Case

The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Hurt Nascent Illinois Hydraulic Fracturing Industry

Falling oil prices are helping consumers purchase cheaper petroleum at the pump. But that’s made hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” less economically viable for the companies in the United States invested in the process. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports on one Midwestern town that was hoping to change its fortunes by cashing in on the next big U.S. oil boom.
Video

Video Fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan Fuels Mass Displacement

Heavy fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan state is causing hundreds of thousands to flee into uncertain conditions. Local aid organizations estimate as many as 400,000 civilians have been internally displaced since the conflict began more than three years ago, while another 250,000 have fled across the border to refugee camps in South Sudan. VOA's Adam Bailes reports.
Video

Video Lao Dam Project Runs Into Opposition

A Lao dam project on a section of the Mekong River is drawing opposition from local fishermen, international environmental groups and neighboring countries. VOA's Say Mony visited the region to investigate the concerns. Colin Lovett narrates.
Video

Video A Filmmaker Discovers Her Biracial Identity in "Little White Lie

Lacey Schwartz grew up in an upper middle-class Jewish family, in a town in upstate New York where almost everyone she knew was white. She assumed that she was, as well. Her recent documentary, Little White Lie, tells the story of how she uncovered the secret of her true racial background. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more on the film.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.
Video

Video US-Cuba Normalization Talks Resume Friday

Negotiations aimed at normalizing diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba resume Friday. On the table: lifting a half-century trade embargo and easing banking and travel restrictions. There's opposition in Congress, but some analysts say there may be sufficient political and economic incentives in both nations for a potential breakthrough this year. VOA's Mil Arcega reports.
Video

Video Pakistan's Deadline For SIM Registration Has Cellphone Users Scrambling

Pakistani cell phone users have until midnight Thursday to register their SIM cards, or their service will be cut off. While some privacy experts worry about government intrusion, many Pakistanis are just worried about keeping their phone lines open. VOA Deewa reporter Arshad Muhmand has more from Peshawar.
Video

Video Myanmar Warns Factory Workers to End Strikes

Outside Myanmar's main city Yangon, thousands of workers walked off their jobs earlier this month demanding a doubling of their wages, pay raises after a year and input from labor unions on industrial regulations. Since Friday, the standoff has grown more tense as police moved in to disrupt the sit-ins, resulting in clashes that injured people from both sides. VOA correspondent Steve Herman visited industrial zones which have become a focus of Myanmar's fledgling workers rights movement.
Video

Video Oscar Winners Do More Than Thank the Academy

The Academy Awards presentation is Hollywood’s night to reward the best movies from the previous year. It’s typically a lot of glitter, a lot of thank you’s, a lot of speeches. But many of this year’s speeches carried messages beyond the thank you's. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti takes a look.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More