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UN Official: Peace Process in Afghanistan is 'Far from Secure' - 2003-02-01

A U.N. official has told the Security Council he is encouraged by improvements made in Afghanistan during the past year. But there is concern about future support to continue the progress.

Special representative to the U.N. secretary-general for Afghanistan, Lakhdar Brahimi, told the Security Council Monday that Afghanistan has made "remarkable progress" in the past year in establishing its government under the leadership of President Hamid Karzai.

Despite steps forward, Mr. Brahimi noted, Afghanistan faces many serious problems, and Afghans worry the county's plight will be overshadowed by international crises elsewhere.

"While the international community faces a number of new challenges, the challenges in Afghanistan have not yet been overcome," he said. "Afghans are watching closely, developments elsewhere with some sense of fear that they will be forgotten again."

The Brahimi report reiterates the need to move forward with rebuilding a national army and reforming and training Afghanistan's police force. By the end of the year, he pointed out, 7,000 soldiers will have completed basic training and some Afghan units are now being deployed.

Mr. Brahimi went to say that inter-factional fighting and sporadic terrorist activity continues, especially in the northern part of Afghanistan. The most recent incident occurred in the southwest of Kandahar Friday, when at least 18 people were killed as a bus detonated a landmine.

Mr. Brahimi said that crime is high in and around Mazar-e-Sharif, and points to serious human rights violations recorded in a series of human rights reports.

He noted that ethnic conflicts and human rights abuses against women and girls, especially in rural areas, remain a serious concern.

"Human rights abuses are so endemic, after the decades of war and state collapse, that real change in the human rights situation will require systematic reform," he stressed.

As in past reports, Mr. Brahimi emphasized the need to rebuild Afghanistan's economy. He said, one of the highest priorities will be to absorb more than one million refugees expected to return to Afghanistan this year.

Although progress has been made in creating new work for Afghans, Mr. Brahimi said, many citizens have turned back to poppy cultivation, refining and transportation for income.

"In the past in Afghanistan, these profits have been used to nurture a war economy," explained Mr. Brahimi. "It is crucial, during this transitional period, that such an economy not be allowed to regain its former proportions."

Mr. Brahimi said that the Afghan people worry that, without continued international commitment, the progress that has been made since the fall of the Taleban could easily be reversed.