Afghanistan: Security Council condemns attempts to disrupt upcoming elections

With preparations for Afghanistan's legislative elections taking place in the shadow of escalating violence, the United Nations Security Council today condemned "terrorist acts or other forms of violence" aimed at disrupting the political process, and called on the international community to make up a nearly $30 million shortfall to fund the poll.

"The Security Council expresses grave concern about the increased attacks by the Taliban, Al-Qaida and other extremist groups in Afghanistan over the past few months, Ambassador Kenzo Oshima of Japan, which holds the 15-nation body's rotating Presidency for the month of August said.

Reading out a statement that wrapped up a briefing by Jean Arnault, head of the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), Mr. Oshima encouraged all Afghan participants, especially the candidates and their supporters, "to work constructively to ensure that the ongoing electoral campaigns are conducted peacefully, in an environment free of intimidation, and that the elections can be held successfully."

Mr. Oshima said that Council members expressed the strong view that the international community must maintain a high level of commitment to help Afghanistan address such challenges as, disbandment of illegal armed groups, the production and trafficking of drugs, development of government institutions, acceleration of judicial reforms, protection of human rights, and sustainable economic and social development.

The Council also voiced its readiness to review UNAMA's mandate after the completion of the electoral process, in order to allow the UN to continue to play a vital role in the post-Bonn period, the transitional phase that began with the international conference on Afghanistan in Germany in 2001. Mr. Oshima added that at the request of the Afghan Government, the Council is also ready to consider the renewal of the mandate of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) working to restore order in the war-torn country prior to its expiration.

In his briefing to the Council, Mr. Arnault said that while troubling developments on the security front were a reminder of the hurdles that Afghans faced in rebuilding their country, he was confident that by year's end a representative new National Assembly would be established, and with it Afghanistan's political transition would be successfully completed.

Mr. Arnault also noted the deteriorating security in June and July. Attacks had recently resumed with increased intensity in the south, east and southeast, with ambushes and improvised explosive devices (IEDs) remaining the tactics of choice of the extremists, with deadly effect.

The number of attacks against UN staff had decreased compared to last year, and those against the candidates and electoral workers had been mostly indirect. However, Mr. Arnault said it was too soon to rule out attempts at causing major disruptions of the elections. In addition, increased insecurity in the provinces along the eastern border was a cause of concern for the elections there.