The United Nations special representative for Afghanistan, Lakhdar Brahimi, has appealed to the U.N. Security Council to consider expanding a multinational security force in the country. Mr. Brahimi briefed Council members in New York Friday for the first time in five months.
Mr. Brahimi reported the peace process in Afghanistan is on track but remains fragile. He said the 4,500-strong peacekeeping force in Kabul is doing an effective job but warned its work could be undone by developments in northern and central Afghanistan.
The U.N. special representative told Security Council members that security is elusive outside Kabul and pointed to scores of violent episodes in the countryside that he said undermine the spirit and hope of the Afghan people. Mr. Brahimi stressed that Afghans broadly would welcome a strengthened international presence.
"It is important," he said. "It will be effective. It will not require tens of thousands of soldiers. I think another 5,000 soldiers will do the trick. It therefore will not be very expensive and it will not be dangerous."
Secretary-General Kofi Annan issued an appeal a few days earlier, noting that it will take time to train a new Afghan army, perhaps as long as another 18 months.
But the 15-member Security Council so far has ruled out expanding the multinational security force. Key governments on the Council, including the United States, Britain and Russia, maintain the Afghans themselves should start getting more involved in building their institutions and security mechanisms.
Meanwhile, U.N. envoy Lakhdar Brahimi noted assistance in other areas is far below the country's needs. Over a million Afghan refugees have returned from Pakistan alone since the voluntary repatriation program began March 1, about three times higher than the expected number.
Mr. Brahimi said resources for resettlement and re-integration are inadequate. And, with the Afghans anticipating another hard winter this year, he added, this could mean a lot more suffering for a country that has already endured much.