The U.N. Security Council has expressed grave concern about violence in Afghanistan ahead of next month's elections. The Council noted a sharp increase in attacks linked to al-Qaeda and the Taleban.
The 15-member Security Council issued a statement condemning the surge of violence aimed at disrupting the September 18 legislative elections.
The Council president, Japanese ambassador Kenzo Oshima said the main threat is no longer from militias operated by Afghan warlords, most of whom have turned in their weapons. That threat, he says, has been overshadowed by the re-emergence of extremist groups using ambushes and makeshift bombs to spread terror.
"There is less problems by warlords, more than 60,000 former combatants have been disarmed and reintegrated into society, so lessened threats used to be posed by them," said Mr. Oshima. "Increasing violence and terror attacks from the Taleban, al Qaeda and other extremist elements, and this is a matter of serious concern."
In a briefing to the Council, top U.N. envoy to Afghanistan Jean Arnault said deteriorating security conditions are making it difficult to provide what he called "a level playing field" for the elections. One new development he noted is a surge of attacks on community leaders, including the killing of at least eight Muslim clerics. But he expressed confidence that, despite the violence, the elections would fulfill the steps to democracy laid out in a 2001 agreement reached in Bonn, Germany.
"These developments on the security front are a reminder of the hurdles that Afghans face in rebuilding their country," said. Mr. Arnault. "Nevertheless, we are confident that by the end of this year a representative new national assembly will be established, and that with it, the Bonn process will be successfully completed."
Washington's U.N. ambassador John Bolton issued a brief written statement welcoming the elections. The statement said the United States would continue to work with Afghanistan's neighbors to strengthen its borders and reinforce regional security initiatives.
A U.S.-led coalition force of 23,000 troops is currently in Afghanistan to help with security, along with a separate NATO-led force, which has been boosted to a strength of more than 10,000 for the elections.