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UN Envoy Outlines Challenges Facing Afghanistan - 2002-10-31

Afghanistan continues to face challenges in maintaining security, preparing a new Constitution and upholding human rights, according to the U.N. secretary-general's special representative to Afghanistan, Lakhdar Brahimi.

Mr. Brahimi briefed the Security Council on major development in Afghanistan since last July.

He began his remarks by talking about the sporadic fighting, particularly in the North and South East of Afghanistan, which continues in the war-torn nation. Mr. Brahimi reiterated the need for the international community to support Afghanistan and to provide security while it trains a new national police and national army.

"The government does not yet have the means to deal in an effective manner with the underlying problems which are the cause of these threats to security," he said. "The government, with the support of the U-N can only address the symptoms, and like a fire-brigade, the government's and our interventions aim at putting out the local fires, rather than preventing their occurrence.

As frequently reported, much of the fighting involves factional leaders. But in his report, Mr. Brahimi said that clashes have also resulted in the loss of life of civilians in many parts of Afghanistan, including the capital, Kabul.

Despite gradual progress, Mr. Brahimi says that more needs to be done to uphold human rights in Afghanistan. Many ethnic Pashtuns, who have suffered abuses including harassment and intimidation in Northern Afghanistan, are still unable to return after fleeing their villages.

The situation remains grave for women as well. Women in many parts of Afghanistan are continually subject to forced marriages and local authorities often fail to intervene in cases of domestic violence.

However, progress has been made for women since the the fall of the Taleban that followed the U.S. led military campaign. Mr. Brahimi says he remains "somewhat" optimistic about the future of Afghanistan.

"Considering where it was a year ago, Afghanistan has made remarkable progress," he said. "But considering where it needs to go, Afghanistan needs continued commitment from its leaders to work together, to achieve genuine reconciliation, and as I said earlier, to accept and strengthen the idea that Afghanistan belongs to all its citizens."

Although the country's constitution is not expected to be drafted until the end of next year, Mr. Brahimi says the international community is anticipating the creation of a new Judicial Commission, which is expected to be formally announced later this week.