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UN Security Council Says Terrorists, Drugs Still Biggest Problems in Afghanistan


The United Nations Security Council says terrorism and the drug trade in Afghanistan continue to undermine peace and stability. From VOA's New York Bureau, Mona Ghuneim reports.

Head of the U.N. mission in Afghanistan, Tom Koenigs, says an increase in civilian casualties and violent incidents in 2007 shows that the international community must strengthen its resolve to help the Afghan nation.

Briefing the U.N. Security Council Monday, Koenigs said the protection of the civilian population must remain a priority as the Afghan government and international community continue efforts to stabilize the country.

"The biggest threat to the civilian population and the overall stability is the ongoing campaign of intimidation, abduction and execution being carried out by anti-government elements against all those seen to have a connection with the Afghan government or the international community," he said.

Council members say improvements in education, healthcare and the economy are being overwhelmed by challenges in governance, regional cooperation, security - especially an ineffective police force - and drug trafficking. He says there was a 34 percent increase in opium production from 2006 to 2007.

Koenigs says the link between the drug trade and the growing insurgency could jeopardize the already weak government.

U.S. representative Alejandro Wolf told the Security Council that the international community must assist the Afghan government in exerting its authority throughout the country. "While the international community's assistance to Afghanistan has been great, the needs are greater still. We must not slacken in our resolve to provide the Afghan people with the tools to rebuild," he said.

Wolf says one way to help tackle the drug problem is to create a robust agricultural sector in Afghanistan that will reduce the incentive to grow opium. He says the international community must help strengthen Afghanistan's rule of law, security and human rights, and that long-term assistance to the nation is imperative.