Press Releases

    24 August 2005

    Security Council Stresses Need for High Level of Commitment by International Community to Address Remaining Challenges in Afghanistan

    Security, Illegal Armed Groups, Drug Trafficking, Sustainable Development, Government Institutions, Human Rights Among Areas Requiring Increased Attention

    NEW YORK, 23 August (UN Headquarters) -- As the Bonn political process in Afghanistan neared its completion, the Security Council today expressed its strong view that following the parliamentary and provincial council elections on 18 September, the international community must maintain a high level of commitment to assist that country in addressing its remaining challenges, including the security situation, disbandment of illegal armed groups, production and trafficking of drugs and development of government institutions.

    In a statement read by Council President, Kenzo Oshima (Japan) after 27 speakers took the floor in an open debate on the situation in Afghanistan, the Council welcomed the desire of the international community and the Afghan Government to agree on a new framework for international engagement beyond the completion of the Bonn process.

    In that connection, it also expressed its readiness to review the mandate of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) after the completion of the electoral process, in order to allow the United Nations to continue to play a vital role in the reconstruction of the country.  The Council is also ready to consider the renewal of the mandate of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) prior to its expiration, upon the request of the Government of Afghanistan.

    At the opening of the meeting, the Council was briefed by Jean Arnault, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Afghanistan and Head of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan, who described the situation in the country and outlined the progress in the preparations for the elections, including the compilation of the final candidate list and updating of voter registration.  He also briefed the Council on "an important and necessary" adjustment to the electoral budget, in which connection the Council called upon the international community to extend additional financial assistance in order to fill the gap of $29.6 million for the elections.

    Several speakers today urged the international community to resist the temptation to move on after the holding of elections and continue their assistance until Afghan security institutions are fully established and functional.  It was noted that having established a transitional government, adopted a new constitution and held their first democratic elections, the Afghan people had demonstrated that they could put behind them the divisions of the past. 

    Representatives of many countries, however, expressed concern over a recent increase in the number of attacks by the Taliban, Al-Qaida and other extremist groups in Afghanistan, warning that they should not be allowed to disrupt the political process in the country.  Another important area in which concerted efforts of all the players were needed was the fight against illegal drugs.  Despite the efforts of the Government and the international community, opium cultivation remained one of the largest sources of illegal income in the country, which served to support criminal and factional agendas that aimed to undermine the Government.  The failure to address the current situation in illegal drug cultivation and trafficking could undermine the political progress, economic growth and social development in Afghanistan, several speakers insisted.

    Statements were made by representatives of Brazil, China, Russian Federation (on behalf of Collective Security Treaty Organization), Argentina, Denmark, Benin, Philippines, United Republic of Tanzania, United Kingdom (on behalf of the European Union and in its national capacity), France, Algeria, Romania, Greece, Japan, Afghanistan, India, Spain, Germany, Iran, Canada, Pakistan, Malaysia, Italy, Republic of Korea and Turkey.

    The representative of the United States requested that a text of his remarks be circulated for consideration of the Council.

    The meeting was called to order at 10.10 a.m. and adjourned at 1.35 p.m.

    Presidential Statement

    The full text of presidential statement S/PRST/2005/40 reads as follows:

    "The Security Council welcomes the progress in the preparations for the parliamentary (Wolesi Jirga) and provincial council elections scheduled for 18 September 2005, including the compilation of the final candidate list and updating of voter registration, and encourages 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.  The Council calls upon the international community to extend additional financial assistance in order to fill the gap of USD $29.6 million for these elections.

    "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.  The Council condemns the attempts to disrupt the political process by terrorist acts or other forms of violence in Afghanistan.  The Council, in this regard, endorses the effort of the Afghan Government, with the support of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) and the Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) coalition, within their respective responsibilities, to improve the safety and stability of the country.

    "The Security Council also stresses the importance of continued cooperation and increased dialogue between neighbouring States and the Afghan Government to promote regional development and the long-term peace and stability of Afghanistan.

    "The Security Council notes the progress made to date, in particular in Security Sector Reform, and in this regard welcomes the completion of the disarmament of the Afghan Military Forces (AMF).  The Council expresses its strong view that the international community must maintain a high level of commitment to assist Afghanistan in addressing its remaining challenges, including the security situation, disbandment of illegal armed groups, the production and trafficking of drugs, development of Afghan Government institutions, acceleration of justice sector reform, promotion and protection of human rights, and sustainable economic and social development.

    "The Security Council welcomes the desire of the international community and the Afghan Government to agree a new framework for international engagement beyond the completion of the Bonn political process.  The Council expresses, in this regard, its readiness to review, based on the report of the Secretary-General to be submitted in accordance with its resolution 1589 (2005), and in the light of consultations the United Nations will have with the Government of Afghanistan and all concerned international actors, the mandate of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) after the completion of the electoral process, in order to allow the United Nations to continue to play a vital role in the post-Bonn period.  The Council is also ready to consider the renewal of the mandate of ISAF prior to its expiration, upon the request of the Government of Afghanistan."


    The Council had before it a report of the Secretary-General on the situation in Afghanistan and its implications for international peace and security (document A/60/224-S/2005/525).  According to the report, the benchmarks set out in the political agenda of the Bonn Agreement of 5 December 2001 will have been met with the holding of parliamentary (or Wolesi Jirga) and provincial council elections on 18 September this year.  Preparations for the forthcoming elections are on track, with the completion of candidate nominations, the challenge and vetting period, and voter registration.  Civic education efforts are ongoing, and the official campaign period will start one month prior to election day.  Funding, however, continues to be a crucial factor for keeping the elections on track, and some $31 million is urgently needed to fill a funding gap and avoid any delay in the holding of the elections.

    The report notes that although significant gains have been made in meeting the objectives of the political agenda, the implementation of the institutional agenda of the Bonn Agreement has been uneven across sectors. Institution-building continues to be a challenge.  Many critical State institutions, at both the national and provincial levels, remain weak and susceptible to corruption.  Efforts to reform security sector institutions have enjoyed varying degrees of success.  With the successful completion of the disarmament and demobilization components of the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration (DDR) programme, additional support of some $21 million will be required to complete the ongoing reintegration efforts and to implement the successor programme established to disband illegal armed groups.

    The Afghan National Army will reach its target strength of 43,000 by September 2007, three years ahead of schedule, the report states.  The current plan provides for the training of 62,000 Afghan National Police by the end of the year.  So far, over 40,000 police officers had been trained, and significant funding has been proposed for a major new police reform and mentoring programme.  In spite of the efforts of Afghanistan's counter-narcotic forces, the cultivation and trade in narcotics remain one of the greatest threats to the establishment of the rule of law and effective governance in Afghanistan.  If left unchecked, the fragile democratization and State-building achievements attained so far will be undermined. 

    Reform in the justice sector has been relatively slow, the report adds, hampered by lack of capacity, poor infrastructure and communications and the difficulty of integrating legal reform with traditional justice mechanisms.  The Government has taken some steps to address public sector and civil service reform.  Sufficient resources, however, have not been dedicated to developing effective provincial administrations, responsive to the central Government.  The Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission has had a positive impact on the protection and promotion of human rights, which is likely to be sustained in view of the Commission's current presence in 11 locations throughout the country.

    The Secretary-General notes that the past three years have seen significant economic growth in urban centres, as well as an improvement in food security.  Yet, despite these achievements, the reconstruction process had been hampered by the uncertain security situation, which, coupled with an underdeveloped legal and regulatory framework, continues to discourage private sector investment.  Estimates show that State revenues will average less than $400 million per year until 2008 -- less than half of projected expenditures for public sector salaries and operations.  Despite extensive international assistance to Afghanistan, a smooth transition from relief to recovery has been hindered by years of drought; internal displacement; land rights issues; urban pressures, due to a large returnee influx; and, more recently, severe flooding in certain districts.  The Administration's disaster response mechanisms, however, have grown increasingly effective and have taken on additional responsibilities for disaster relief and humanitarian assistance.

    The Secretary-General says it is impossible to overstate the importance of restoring security in Afghanistan as a condition for the sustainability of the peace process.  Significant progress has been made in a variety of areas.  Factional clashes, a prominent feature of insecurity three years ago, have become a localized issue and are no longer a threat to national security.  By contrast, extremist violence continues to thwart the basic aspirations of Afghans who seek peace, stability and a normal life after decades of war.  It is time for the security situation to be addressed resolutely.  Military action, carefully calibrated to ensure that it does not add to the population's suffering, is required.  The insurgency's sources of funding, training and safe havens must also be effectively addressed.

    "There is no simple answer to the problems of extremist violence and terrorism", the Secretary-General states.  The Afghan Government must do its share to address them, in particular by tackling official corruption and ineffectiveness, which undermines the population's confidence in Government institutions.  While domestic and international agencies involved in reconstruction must continue to do their best in what are, in several provinces, difficult security conditions, this will not suffice to curb extremists whose internal political isolation has not prevented them from finding financial resources to mount increasingly violent attacks against Afghan Government officials and communities. 

    Even without the burden of violent insurgency, Afghanistan's reconstruction faces a formidable combination of challenges, including the pervasive drug economy, some of the worst socio-economic indicators in the world, and the consequences of what was one of the deadliest confrontations of the Cold War.  The international community must resist the temptation to move on after the holding of elections, and Afghanistan's international security partners must continue their assistance until Afghan security institutions are fully established and functional.  Having established a transitional government, adopted a new constitution and held their first democratic elections, the Afghan people have proved wrong those who deemed them unable to put behind them the destructive divisions of the past.  With the international community's help, they can still surprise public opinion with their determination to embrace opportunities offered to them for the first time in decades.

    Briefing by Special Representative of Secretary-General

    JEAN ARNAULT, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Afghanistan and Head of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), said the Secretary-General's report described events since March 2005.  With a little over three weeks before polling day, he provided an update on election preparation.  The electoral campaign had been launched on 17 August, and candidates had begun canvassing support throughout the country.  The campaign period was governed by the Electoral Law and Regulations from the Joint Electoral Management Body (JEMB), which protected freedom of speech and assembly.  The campaign was monitored by international observers.  For their part, the Afghan Human Rights Commission and UNAMA would continue to verify the exercise of political rights by candidates and citizens throughout that period. 

    Providing a level playing field to candidates had been a permanent concern since last year's presidential election, he said.  The completion of disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programme had helped, as had the disqualification of a number of candidates with links to armed groups.  The final preparations for the polling day were ongoing, and some 40 million ballots were ready for distribution throughout the country.  Contingency plans were in place to address any shortages at the polling stations.  The training of 130 trainers had been completed in Kabul.  The Secretariat of the JEMB had been working with national and international security bodies to finalize plans for the polling day.  Some 30,000 Afghan national police would be required to secure the first ring about the polling sites and to allow for a quick reaction force.  International military forces capacity had arrived in the country and would be deployed as a backup to national forces.  In that regard, he paid tribute to the 17 Spanish soldiers who had died in a helicopter accident on 16 August, and expressed gratitude to the Spanish Government for sending new troops.

    Noting several events that would take place after the elections, he said he expected that the counting of ballots would be completed by 4 October, before the start of Ramadan.

    Over the past few days, the JEMB Secretariat, in consultation with UNAMA, had informed the Organization that the originally projected resource requirements of $149 million had to be revised to $159 million, he said.  The increase was mostly attributable to an increase in polling and counting cost, due to higher ballot production and transportation requirements.  He would be grateful if the Security Council would request urgently the international community to fill the funding gap, which stood now at $29.6 million.

    The report of the Secretary-General addressed in detail the concerns regarding the deteriorating security situation in June and July, he continued.  Those concerns had not abated since the report had been completed.  Attacks had recently resumed with increased intensity in the South, East and South-East, with ambushes and improvised explosive devices remaining the tactics of choice of the extremists, with deadly effect.  The number of attacks against United Nations staff had decreased compared to last year, and those against the candidates and electoral workers had been mostly indirect.  However, 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.

    While developments on the security front were a reminder of the hurdles that Afghans faced in rebuilding their country, he was confident that, by the end of this year, a representative new National Assembly would be established and that with it, the Bonn process would be successfully completed.  The democratic approach was generating new popular expectations vis-à-vis the Government and elected officials and more demanding criteria, by which they would be judged.  In doing so, it was also shaping, to a large extent, the contents of the post-Bonn agenda.  Security was paramount, and bringing extremist violence and other forms of insecurity under control would remain at the top of the agenda for the Government and for millions of Afghans, for whom the most basic dividend of peace -- security -- remained a distant goal even as the Bonn process drew to a close.

    The strengthening of key State institutions -- police, justice, and civilian administration -- would have to catch up with progress made in the creation of the Afghan National Assembly and become tangible where it was most needed -- at the local level.  What had been an array of reconstruction interventions would have to come together into a comprehensive development strategy that could maximize the use of the country's economic assets and create a reliable revenue base for the State.  Steady progress in the elimination of the narcotics industry would remain a key goal, on which progress in many other areas was predicated.

    In the next phase, international financial, technical and security resources would remain indispensable complements to the Afghan State's own political will and fiscal effort.  The Government had approached UNAMA and other international partners with the proposal that a high-level conference on the post-Bonn compact be held in the second half of January.  In the meantime, he was particularly keen to see closer links between Afghanistan and its neighbours in all fields.  The proposed conference would play an important role in that regard.  For his part, immediately after the elections, the Secretary-General would initiate consultations with President Karzai and the Government of Afghanistan, as well as other concerned stakeholders, with a view to defining the role of the United Nations in the post-Bonn period.

    RONALDO MOTA SARDENBERG (Brazil) said Afghanistan had progressed in rebuilding its institutions, and promoting reconciliation.  Much progress had been made in preparations for the elections, and technical preparations were on schedule.  Nevertheless, there were still enormous obstacles to be overcome as a relentless war was being waged in the country.  Since March, the wave of violence in Afghanistan had taken more than 1,000 lives and the intimidation against candidates was a source of concern.  No candidates had so far resorted to the offered protection, which might be an indication that the system needed to be improved.

    He said the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programme had achieved success, and training of security forces was ahead of schedule.  However, more support was needed for efforts to disband the more that 1,800 remaining illegal armed groups.  In spite of an estimated decline in poppy cultivation, the drug trade remained a worrisome obstacle.  Offering alternate livelihood for poppy growers should be combined with a tougher stance vis-à-vis drug cultivators.  The effect of national disasters, the return of more that 3 million refugees and other factors added additional burdens to the country's reconstruction and return to normalcy. 

    CHENG JINGYE (China) noted with satisfaction that the peacebuilding process had been progressing positively and that preparations for the election had progressed in an orderly manner.  Moreover, Afghanistan had overcome the negative impact of natural disasters, and agricultural production had reached a record level.  The reform in military and police sectors and the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programme had also been progressing, and the Government continued its efforts to counter narcotics.  With the help of the international community, Afghanistan had made steady progress in reconstruction and development.

    He said the election was not only a final step in the Bonn process but also an urgent requirement for establishing the Government in the country.  He hoped that the whole population could actively participate in the election in order to pave the road towards peacebuilding.  The lack of funding had become a straining factor in the preparations for the election, and he urged the donor community to fulfil the commitments already made and make further commitments.  Improving security was crucial to the elections and to reconstruction.  The deterioration in security was a source of great concern. 

    Economic and social development were prerequisites for efforts to counter narcotics in Afghanistan, he said.  He hoped the international community could continue efforts to help in that regard.  Lasting stability and development in Afghanistan were in the interest of the international community.  He urged the international community to continue its important role.

    Speaking on behalf of Member States of the Collective Security Treaty Organization -- Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, the Russian Federation and Tajikistan -- ANDREY I. DENISOV (Russian Federation) said that the delegations he represented expected the Government of Afghanistan and UNAMA to do their utmost to successfully hold parliamentary and provincial elections in September.  It was important that the established schedule was met with a view to forming effective authorities reflecting the multi-ethnic and politically diverse nature of the Afghan society.  Also very important was the activity of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) sanctioned by the Council.  He expected the ISAF and coalition troops to effectively assist the Afghan authorities in ensuring security before and during the forthcoming elections.

    He expressed concern about a considerable increase in the terrorist activity of the Taliban and other extremists in recent months.  At the same time, representatives of the Taliban and Al-Qaida, many of whom had committed war crimes and other offences, were persistently trying to infiltrate into Afghan Government bodies. A number of top officials of the former Taliban regime had already registered as candidates for Parliament.  Such actions ran counter to the antiterrorist decisions of the Council, including the recently adopted resolution 1617 on strengthening sanctions against the Taliban and Al-Qaida.

    The process of national reconciliation was an important phase in reaching a long-term comprehensive settlement of the Afghan conflict, he said.  However, it should rest upon a cautious and responsible approach without creeping erosions of the sanctions regime, the scope of which went far beyond Afghanistan.  Individuals included in the sanctions list of the 1267 Committee posed a real threat to peace and security, and their involvement in active political life could have dire consequences and undermine stability in the country and the region.  It was necessary to take specific measures against that dangerous trend.  Both the Afghan authorities and the international community should play their role in that respect.

    Countering production and trafficking in drugs remained one of the key preconditions for stabilization of the situation in Afghanistan, he continued.  The efforts to halt the Afghan narco-threat were not effective enough, and the country was actually on the brink of becoming a drug State.  A strategy aimed at ensuring tight control of the Afghan borders through strengthening and establishing new anti-drug "security belts" could be the most effective one under current Afghan conditions.  The Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) had drawn a plan of actions to counter the terrorist and drug threats emanating from Afghanistan.  A working group on Afghanistan had been established to coordinate actions in cooperation with the Afghan Government.  He called upon the States concerned and international and regional organizations to closely coordinate their actions in the post-conflict settlement in Afghanistan, in light of the central role of the United Nations, so that the country could resolve its political and economic problems and become a democratic State.

    He added that the future role of the United Nations should include coordination of the peacebuilding and reconstruction efforts of the international community.  The specific format of future United Nations presence was yet to be defined, taking into account the real needs on the ground and ensuring participation of the Afghans in the process. The CSTO Member States intended to constructively participate in that work.

    CÉSAR MAYORAL (Argentina) said that the parliamentary and local elections in Afghanistan would mark the completion of the Bonn process.  The deficit of almost $30 million for the organization of the elections required an appeal to donor countries to meet those needs.  In general, he concurred with the analysis that the progress achieved in the political transition process had not been matched with progress in such areas as security and the building of democratic institutions.

    The security situation was still precarious, and the level of violence in some parts of the country was even higher than in recent years, he continued.  The 1267 Committee would continue to work actively to combat the terrorism of Al-Qaida and the Taliban within and outside of Afghanistan.  The surge in violence had been foreseeable with the approach of the elections as extremist groups sought to derail the political process.  However, despite the military campaign and many efforts, the scale of the insurgency had increased; its tactics had become more brutal; and it could still find the sources of financing.  However, any military response should be carefully calibrated to avoid inflicting more suffering on the civilian population.  Also, to resolve the problem of violence, the military response should not be the only one -- it was important to cut the sources of financing to the insurgents and control the border areas, which required cooperation from the neighbouring countries.

    Afghanistan continued to be the world's greatest opium producer, he said.  He regretted the fact that despite the efforts to eradicate that production and trade, success had been modest so far.  Progress in that area would be key to future success in stabilizing the country.

    While significant progress had been made, he continued, more remained to be done to achieve lasting peace in the country.  Improvement of security, building of institutions and reconstruction of the country would require more time, and the international community should continue its efforts to bring normalcy to Afghanistan in the coming years.  He supported the work by UNAMA in preparing the next stage, and he hoped that specific recommendations on the matter would be received before the expiration of its mandate.

    LARS FAABORG-ANDERSEN (Denmark) said he was pleased that preparations for the elections for the Wolesi Jirga and Provincial Council were on track for 18 September.  A high voter turnout would be crucial, and he hoped that the high turnout of women at last year's presidential elections could be repeated or surpassed.  The remaining funding gap for the preparations for the elections must urgently be closed.  He was extremely concerned about the deteriorating security situation in the south and east, and the increasing number of assaults on the Afghan and international security forces.  The growing influence of non-Afghan elements, including Al-Qaida, the growing sophistication of Taliban and Al-Qaida weaponry and the targeting of local communities were particularly worrying.  He also extended condolences to the people and Government of Spain for the recent loss of personnel.

    He welcomed the successful disarmament, demobilization and reintegration process and supported the ongoing "disarmament of illegal armed groups" (DIAG) programme.  Another key to improving the security situation was to combat the cultivation, sale and trafficking of illegal drugs.  Afghan leadership, inclusiveness and sustained international support would be crucial to ensure the success of the Kabul-based process beyond the Bonn-process.  Denmark wanted to see the Kabul Compact address a prioritized range of nation-building issues and further the momentum by setting out clear targets, deadlines and demands to Afghanistan as well as to the international community. 

    It was for the international community to support and help implement the goals and priorities set by the Afghan Government, he said.  Denmark had decided to extend its development and humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan until 2009 and encouraged other development partners to enter into similar long-term commitments.  Denmark attached great importance to institution-building and civil administration reform, particularly in the justice sector, including strengthening of the rule of law, rooting out corruption and ensuring the protection of human rights, including women's rights.  In the field of transitional justice, the action plan developed by the Afghan Government, the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission and UNAMA was encouraging.  An increasingly Afghan-led process required enhanced coordination of international actors.

    JEAN-FRANCIS RÉGIS ZINSOU (Benin) said the situation in the country had been progressing steadily over the last three years, but some stages still needed to be completed in order to achieve the end of the transitional process.  Issues such as elections, security and post-transitional peacebuilding were of particular concern to his country.  As Afghanistan, in its quest for progress, was drawing on the partnership with the international community, the funding issue for elections called for action.  It would be incomprehensible if progress was held up because of lack of funding, he said, and urged donors to bridge the funding gap.  Lessons learned from last year's presidential elections should include increased security for transport of ballots. 

    He said extremists and illegal armed groups continued to pose a challenge to peace and security.  The rising power of the insurrection was a major challenge for the main stakeholders.  The source of financing for the insurrection, as well as external support for the insurrection should be addressed.  He called for strengthening of the military force to protect humanitarian workers and expressed concern about the risk of a premature disengagement of the international community after the election.  Multisectoral integrated assistance was necessary to eliminate drug trafficking and promote alternative crops.

    JOHN R. BOLTON (United States) asked that his prepared remarks be circulated for consideration by the Council. 

    The text, as circulated, welcomed the upcoming elections as signifying the conclusion of the Bonn Agreement political transition plan and underlined key principles that needed to be included in the post-Bonn framework:  metrics for taking stock of progress and mechanisms for accountability; a focus on better governance, capacity-building and the sustainability of Government institutions; and the fulfilment of the security sector reform goals, as outlined in the Bonn Agreement.

    The post-Bonn framework, the text continues, would also require enhanced coordination by the international community to assist Afghanistan at the current critical time.  The United States would continue to work with Afghanistan's neighbours to strengthen its borders, as well as reinforce regional cooperative efforts on security. 

    LAURO L. BAJA (Philippines) noted that in less than four weeks, the Afghan people would, once again, exercise their right of suffrage, this time to vote in the crucial parliamentary and provincial council elections.  The electoral process, except for some funding problems, was on track.  With the international community's full support, he was hopeful that the September elections would conclude the political agenda of the Bonn process.  It was gratifying that the Afghan people, with the international community's help, was once again exhibiting its resolve to determine its political future through the process of democratic elections.  It was, therefore, urgent that able international donors respond to the Secretary-General's appeal to fill the funding gap to ensure that the preparations remained on track and within schedule.  The successful conduct of election preparations depended, to a large extent, on the timely completion of technical preparations.

    The other vital element that would determine the credibility and integrity of the coming elections was the security environment under which the elections would be conducted, he said.  As in last year's presidential elections, the security environment should ensure that the people would be able to exercise its choice freely, without fear or intimidation.  The recent successes in some elements of the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programme, the safe removal of over 10,880 heavy weapons, and progress in the disbandment of illegal armed groups were encouraging.  Recent violence, however, attributed to the Taliban, Al-Qaida and other extremist groups, was a cause for concern.  They were not only now better organized but also clearly aiming to destabilize the Afghan political transition.

    He highlighted the Secretary-General's observation that, while the completion of the political transition was a vital step, alone it would not be sufficient for the establishment of lasting peace.  It was indeed time for the international community to start considering a new framework of engagement with Afghanistan after the completion of the political process.  The institutional agenda of the Bonn Agreement would now have to be pursued simultaneously with the reconstruction process.  The development of effective Government institutions at the provincial and local levels would be crucial to ensuring the implementation of vital economic recovery, as well as humanitarian and social protection programmes.

    Clear, sustained international support was needed in the coming post-electoral stage to achieve security, full disarmament, justice and a competent civilian administration in all provinces to ensure the development of those institutions, he added.  He welcomed the Secretary-General's clear identification of the key principles that would contribute to enhancing further the cooperation between the Afghan Government and the international community.

    AUGUSTINE P. MAHIGA (United Republic of Tanzania) said there was some cause to rejoice as the political process mapped out by the Bonn Agreement proceeded.  The parliamentary elections planned for 18 September offered a glimmer of hope that the process would continue to shape the Afghan political life based on a constitutionally acceptable and representative government.  There was growing concern, however, on whether the elections would create a strong and stable parliament as some political parties were being sidelined.  He, therefore, urged the establishment of a mechanism that would guarantee participation by all pluralistic political parties and all sectors of society, including women.

    Another aspect of concern, he said, was the increase in cultivation and trade in narcotics.  Afghanistan remained the largest producer of opium, providing nearly 87 per cent of the world's total supply.  The magnitude of the problem called for serious regional and international engagement to combat the production of opium in Afghanistan.  He was pleased to note the renewal of an agreement between Afghanistan and the neighbouring countries that guaranteed the voluntary return of Afghan refugees.  It was also a significant step that the returnees were being registered as voters for the September parliamentary elections.  He was encouraged by the positive effect of the International Security Assistance Force in maintaining peace in Kabul and supported the call for its expansion beyond Kabul to other urban areas.  The deteriorating security situation in some parts of the country must be addressed in a more creative manner.  He expressed condolences regarding the recent helicopter crash resulting in the death of 17 Spanish soldiers.

    The disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programme, institution-building and reforms, legal and regulatory framework and economic reconstruction of Afghanistan were still daunting challenges to the Afghan authorities, to UNAMA and to all the countries assisting Afghanistan in its painful recovery.  While progress had been achieved, the work to bring Afghanistan to a state of peace and normalcy was nowhere near completion.  It was, therefore, urgent that the funding gap for the coming elections, for building democratic governance institutions and reconstruction, was made available to ensure the continuation of peacebuilding programmes.  He called on the Afghan Government and people to work together for peace, to conduct fair and inclusive parliamentary elections and to cooperate with United Nations and development partners.  He called also on illegal armed groups to desist from further violence and instead join in their country's development efforts after decades of devastating violent conflict.

    EMYR JONES PARRY (United Kingdom), speaking on behalf of the European Union (EU) and associated States, said that as the Bonn process neared completion, the members of the Union reaffirmed their long-term commitment to Afghanistan's regeneration.  Significant challenges remained, which, if left unchecked, could undermine the progress achieved.  Members of the European Union had taken the lead in a number of key areas.  Germany coordinated international support to the Afghan Government's efforts to develop an impartial and effective national police force; Italy coordinated international assistance to help establish a justice system based on the rule of law; the United Kingdom coordinated the counter-narcotics effort; and France lent support to the new National Assembly.  Member of the EU had contributed both funds and expert assistance to the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration process and were supporting the Disbandment of Illegal Armed groups programme.

    The September elections would mark a further step towards entrenching democracy in Afghanistan, he said.  The EU was contributing to the success of those elections in several ways.  For example, an EU electoral observer mission would monitor all aspects of the elections.  In terms of financial assistance, the EU Member States plus the European Commission were providing a contribution of $60 million towards the cost of organizing the elections. That contribution represented just one element of a larger $3.8 billion collective EU package over 5 years in support of the reconstruction of the country.  Many Union members were also deploying security resources as part of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force.

    The EU acknowledged the excellent work of UNAMA and the Secretary-General's Special Representative, he continued.  He looked forward to contributing to discussions about an agreed framework for the next phase of international engagement in Afghanistan and hoped that the United Nations would continue to play a significant leading role.  The EU's Council of Foreign Ministers had invited Javier Solana, the High Representative and the European Commission to prepare proposals for a long-term comprehensive framework for the EU-Afghanistan relationship following the parliamentary elections in September.

    Speaking in his national capacity, he then said that the United Kingdom welcomed the determination of the Government of Afghanistan to tackle the drug trade. There were several significant successes this year.  The tempo of interdiction operations was on the rise, and the first convictions of drug traffickers had been secured earlier this year.  However, it would take time, particularly when challenges were severe, as they were in Afghanistan. The cooperation of neighbouring States and better border controls were needed.  Furthermore, the cultivation and trafficking were not an isolated challenge, but one which threatened to undermine all aspects of the reconstruction effort. "Unless we increase our shared commitment to countering narcotics in Afghanistan, we face a real risk of strategic failure in the long run", he said.

    In that respect, he noted the establishment of the Counter Narcotics Trust Fund.  As the lead nation for counter narcotics, the United Kingdom urged international partners to contribute to the Fund and consider seconding international mentors to support law enforcement and criminal justice training in Afghanistan. Channelling funding through the Fund would ensure that resources were allocated transparently and effectively, while giving the Government of the country greater ownership of and ability to manage the narcotics problem.

    MICHEL DUCLOS (France), associating himself with the statement on behalf of the EU, stressed the importance of the 18 September election which was crucial to finalizing the political process.  However, many challenges had to be met.  His country was disbursing 1 million euros to bridge the funding gap for the elections and would also be strengthening its military contingent, as security was crucial for the elections.  After 18 September, it must be ensured that the elected authorities were properly established.  His country would provide 2.5 million euros for establishment of the Parliament and intended to train 150 parliamentary officials.  He supported continued engagement of the international community after implementation of the Bonn process.

    He said his country remained concerned about the lack of security that prevailed in Afghanistan, despite major efforts made in that area.  A high price had been paid by some countries in terms of soldiers that had lost their lives, including Spain and the United States.  The threats to security and the attacks that continued to impede stability must harden the resolve of all in the areas of combating drugs, promoting disarmament, building the Afghan army and police and combating terrorist groups.

    MOURAD BENMEHIDI (Algeria) said that the peace process in Afghanistan had been moving forward, and the elections scheduled for September would represent an essential step towards establishing a democracy there.  Despite security concerns, the preparations for the elections were continuing.  The worsening security situation, however, represented a serious threat, and assistance of the international community in that area was of great importance. The role of United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan and ISAF was also crucial.  He also welcomed the progress in the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration process and in the collection of arms in the country.  Among other priorities, he also mentioned the efforts to counter narcotics production and trade in Afghanistan.

    In conclusion, he said that for the peace process to be irreversible, the international community needed to continue providing assistance after the completion of the Bonn process. 

    MIHNEA IOAN MOTOC (Romania), aligning himself with the statement on behalf of the European Union, paid tribute to Japan, which had been the lead nation for  the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programme and for coordinating initiatives of the Council on the Afghan question.  The remarkable progress achieved in the Bonn process would not have been possible without the resilience and determination of the Afghan people and the partnership between the Government and the international community, he said.  After completion of the Bonn process, Afghanistan would continue to need the support of the international community.  The United Nations should continue to play a central role in coordinating efforts of the international community. 

    Considering the forthcoming parliamentary elections as a major priority, he said the process had to take place in a safe and stable environment. The extended presence of international forces remained key to improving security conditions. NATO's commitment to continue to expand its presence in the country was commendable.  Romania was increasing temporarily its military presence with 400 additional troops for the elections.  The launching of a campaign to disband illegal armed groups was timely and very much needed. In counter-narcotic efforts, emphasis should be put on creating alternative livelihoods.

    Counter-narcotics efforts at the national level should be accompanied by coordinated actions undertaken at the regional and even international levels.  The ultimate goal of all actions should be a democratic and stable Afghanistan. 

    ADAMANTIOS TH. VASSILAKIS (Greece) said the September elections marked an important threshold in the country's long and difficult journey to a stable, peaceful and democratic future.  At the completion of the Bonn process, Afghanistan had come a long way to freely determining its own political future, despite lagging behind the set targets in the implementation of the institutional agenda of the Bonn Agreement.  After the elections, a new process would begin.  The key responsibility lay with the Government and the people of Afghanistan who would determine in which ways the international community could provide its assistance.  He shared the Secretary-General's observations with regard to the major challenges ahead, such as those related to State capacity-building, especially in the provinces where the warlords and vicious drug networks continued to reign.  Implementation of reforms in public administration and justice were essential for the full protection of human rights and the establishment of the rule of law.

    Security was the most difficult of the country's serious problems, he continued. A recent escalation of violence posed serious threats, and not only to the forthcoming elections.  The murders and attacks against international humanitarian personnel and those working for the reconstruction of Afghanistan were particularly deplorable.  The commitment and engagement of the Government in that regard was crucial.  The progress in establishing and training Afghan National Army and police officers was a hopeful development, as well as achievements in the implementation of the demobilization and disarmament components of the DDR programme.  He hoped that the extension of the programme to members of illegal armed groups would be equally effective.

    Another important area in which concerted efforts of the Government and the international community were needed was the fight against narcotics, he said.  Opium cultivation was one of the largest sources of illegal income in the country and served to support criminal and factional agendas that aimed to undermine the central Government.  The Government had demonstrated the necessary commitment and had undertaken serious measures in order to deal with the issue, but no progress was yet tangible.  If the current situation in illegal drug cultivation and trafficking was prolonged, political progress, economic growth and social development could not be achieved and consolidated.

    He concluded that the Afghan people had the courage and determination to overcome the remaining challenges.  Continued international engagement and support were crucial in that respect.  The completion of the Bonn process must be a clear benchmark.  He welcomed the Secretary-General's intention to initiate the process that would define in a concrete way the future role of the United Nations in Afghanistan.

    KENZO OSHIMA (Japan), speaking in his national capacity, said that, as the Bonn process came to its final and delicate stage, it was encouraging that the preparations for the elections were on track.  Japan had contributed a substantial amount for the elections, including emergency assistance totalling $8 million.  Despite the overall progress in the political process in Afghanistan, however, the security situation remained extremely volatile.  The international community's presence should be maintained at the same level beyond the elections, and the Council should begin discussion at the earliest possible opportunity to extend ISAF's mandate.

    He said that Japan, as the lead nation for disarmament, demobilization and reintegration in Afghanistan, was pleased to announce that the disarmament phase of the programme had been completed, and his country remained strongly committed to supporting the efforts of Afghanistan to complete the reintegration of Afghan Military Forces by the end of June 2006 and the disbandment of illegal armed groups.  Afghanistan must also address multi-faceted challenges, including fighting the production and trafficking of narcotics, institution-building and economic and social development.  After so much investment and sacrifices made by the Afghans themselves and by the international community, it was clear that the continued role of the United Nations in the consolidation of peace was essential for the post-election agenda.  Discussion on a framework for maintaining cooperation after the Bonn process must be accelerated.

    RAVAN A. G. FARHÂDI (Afghanistan) said that the successful completion of the parliamentary elections would mark the last step towards the implementation of the historic Bonn Agreement.  Since its signing, Afghanistan, with the vigorous and sustained support of the international community, had succeeded in achieving many of the objectives that had once seemed beyond reach.  The Secretary-General's report offered a lucid illustration of the developments that had transpired in the country.

    Regarding the preparations for the forthcoming elections, he said that nearly 6,000 Afghans had met the qualifications to become candidates.  More than 600 candidates were women.  Candidates had begun their official campaign on 17 August.  His Government wanted to express its gratitude to the European Union, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and all other international partners that had deployed electoral support teams to monitor the electoral process.  Their support would be invaluable to the activities of the Joint Electoral Management Body in ensuring the transparency of the process.

    In its effort to further exert and consolidate its authority throughout the country, his Government continued to make significant progress with regard to the formation of the national army and police, he said.  The Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission continued to make progress in promoting and protecting human rights.  Among other achievements, he listed the return of some 4 million children to school under the "Back to School" programme, the return of a large number of refugees to the country, the restoration of the rights of women and the implementation of the DDR programme.

    The main challenges included the security situation in the south and south-east of the country, fuelled by the cross-border infiltration of Al-Qaida and the Taliban, he said.  As the Secretary-General had rightfully stated in his report, it was time for the security situation to be addressed resolutely.  That required military action.  The insurgency's source of funding, training and safe havens must also be effectively addressed.  His Government remained fully committed to its continuing struggle against the Taliban, Al-Qaida and international terrorism.

    Turning to the issue of illegal drugs, he said that it was one of the top priorities for his Government.  Measures had been taken to destroy opium and poppy crops, and President Karzai had issued two presidential decrees banning the production, trafficking and sale of illegal drugs.  An emergency Loya Jirga had also been convened to address the matter.  The President had chaired the deliberations of the Committee on Counter-Narcotics, and the Counter-Narcotics Ministry had been established in the country.  The Government had also established a Special Tribunal to punish those associated with the production and trafficking in illegal drugs.  The country remained committed to cooperating closely with all regional and international efforts in that regard.

    Economic recovery and reconstruction in Afghanistan, and the security and improvement of lives of the people were closely interrelated, he stressed.  Provision of services, building of roads and creation of jobs could have a great impact on reducing insecurity and illicit activities.  The consolidation of peace and security largely depended on the international community's sustained engagement in providing the necessary assistance for the rehabilitation and reconstruction of Afghanistan.  Since June, his Government had been engaged in negotiations with UNAMA on the role of the United Nations beyond the holding of parliamentary elections.  The Organization's sustained engagement and support were required over the coming years.

    NIRUPAM SEN (India) said the international community looked forward to a successful conclusion of the parliamentary and provincial elections.  His country had participated in the construction of the Afghan Parliament building and was training 30 Afghan parliamentary officials.  Although the completion of the political transition was a vital step, unfortunately it was not enough.  Attacks by extremist elements took place on an almost daily basis.  The continued external support to extremist elements was aimed at undermining the central authority of the Afghan Government.  The threat of violent attacks could have an impact on the electoral process.  Elections were not the only target of those groups; their objective was the long-term destabilization of the country.  The tap that controlled the influx of extremist elements must be shut off for good.

    He said that, although the international presence of security forces might be required at the current stage, indigenous Afghan security structures should be put in place as early as possible.  India was ready to provide any assistance that would help in speeding up the rebuilding of the Afghan national army and policy force.  Afghanistan remained the largest opium-producing country in the world.  Drug trafficking was feeding criminal and terrorist activity, and could undermine the political and economic reconstruction.  His country was exploring the possibility of a pilot project on community development programmes to wean farmers away from poppy cultivation.  As part of the international effort, India's commitment towards economic rehabilitation and reconstruction exceeded $500 million. 

    The emergence of a strong, democratic and prosperous Afghanistan was essential for peace and stability in the region and beyond, he said, and announced that, in a few days, India's Prime Minister would be visiting the country in an endeavour to strengthen and support democracy and economic growth.

    JUAN ANTONIO YÁÑEZ-BARNUEVO (Spain), associating himself with the statement made on behalf of the European Union, paid tribute to the Spanish soldiers who, on 16 August, had given their lives in helping to defend peace and freedom in Afghanistan.  He expressed gratitude for speakers' expressions of sympathy.  He also paid tribute to the 62 Spanish soldiers who perished in a plane crash upon returning home.  He said that, from the outset, his country had been present in Afghanistan to safeguard the freedom of a people who had suffered for decades under tyranny, and he described the numerous contributions it had made in that regard.

    He said the parliamentary and provincial elections were the most important short-term challenge the country faced.  He was concerned at the worsening of the security situation in various parts of the country, as well at the increase of intimidations and violence by extremists.  They should not be allowed to prevail.  Spain had, therefore, deployed on a temporary basis an additional 500 personnel to support protection for the electoral process and had given other assistance. 

    With the conclusion of the Bonn process, a new chapter would begin, in which the presence and assistance of the international community in the rebuilding of Afghanistan would still be important, he said.  The donor community and the Government should focus on economic and social development, rebuilding State institutions, respect for human rights and reform of the justice system.  He went on to explain Spain's intended contributions in that regard and said, in conclusion, that the United Nations would have to continue playing a leadership role. 

    WOLFGANG F. H. TRAUTWEIN (Germany) noted, with great satisfaction, the achievements of the Bonn process, in particular the successful transition to elected political institutions, as stated today in the Secretary-General's report.  The process would be completed mid-September with the holding of parliamentary and local elections.  His delegation appreciated that progress, which must not be taken for granted.  Germany also acknowledged the prominent role and outstanding work of the United Nations and its mission in Afghanistan.

    Turning to the challenges lying ahead for the post-Bonn process, he said that they included the security sector, institution-building and the rule of law, as well as the suppression of drug production and trafficking.  Those challenges would require further commitment of the international community in close cooperation with the Afghan Government.  He welcomed talks between the Afghan Government and the United Nations on the post-Bonn agenda.

    As for Germany's own contributions, he pointed out that his country had committed another 320 million euros for economic reconstruction from 2005 to 2008.  Today, Germany provided the largest military contingent to ISAF and had recently taken over the task of regional area coordinator in the north of Afghanistan.  Germany continued to run two provincial reconstruction teams in Kundus and Faisabad.  It was a lead nation for the Afghan police, as part of the security sector reform.

    He added that the suppression of the cultivation and trade of drugs, which heavily impacted on the economy, the security sector and institution-building would remain a major cross-sector challenge.  His country was seeking ways and means to address that issue, together with the United Kingdom and other partners.

    M. JAVAD ZARIF (Iran) said that he was confident that the Afghan people, ably led by President Karzai and benefiting from international and regional assistance, would be capable of bringing the election process to a successful conclusion.  His country stood ready to extend its unreserved cooperation to the Government of Afghanistan in the holding of elections.  However, despite many commendable efforts and achievements in Afghanistan, there was no room for complacency and much remained to be done.  A pervasive drug economy, the burden of terrorism and a violent insurgency had burdened the reconstruction of the country with a truly formidable combination of challenges.  Those problems, if unchecked, could disrupt the country's return to peace and stability.

    The completion of the political transition was a vital step, but, alone, it would not be sufficient for the establishment of lasting peace in the country, he continued.  It would certainly require a long-term commitment from the international community to see the process of economic development, reconstruction and rehabilitation to a successful conclusion.  He supported the Secretary-General's idea that the international donor community must resist the temptation of moving on after the elections.

    Continuing, he expressed concern over the increase in insurgency and terrorist threats in Afghanistan.  In combating the elements of disorder, priority must be given to enhancing the capabilities of the Afghan national army and police, and the expansion of the authority of the central Government across the country.  The issue of security was closely related to the problem of drug trafficking.  He noted the steps by the Government, with the support of the international community, to contain the threat of narcotic drugs.  However, the magnitude of the trade and the immense wealth that it generated suggested that combating it would be a long-term endeavour requiring a multifaceted and resolute strategy adapted to the varying conditions.

    He also agreed with the Secretary-General that Afghanistan must develop and implement such a strategy in close cooperation with the international community.  The United States, as the country with the widest military presence in Afghanistan, and the United Kingdom as the lead nation in combating drugs there, had a special responsibility and should play a more resolute role in combating the menace.  Situated on the smuggling route from Afghanistan to Europe and beyond, Iran had done more than its share in fighting a costly war against drug traffickers in the last two decades.  Nonetheless, it stood ready to stay at the forefront of the worldwide war against drugs.  Also, as opium cultivation had turned into a major source of income for many Afghan farmers, the major cure lay in accelerating the pace of the country's reconstruction, in all fields.  Thus, the international community should also redouble its efforts to provide assistance for the reconstruction of Afghanistan.

    Iran had hosted almost 3 million Afghan refugees for about three decades, incurring huge costs in the process, he said.  His expectation was that, in the new era, and with the cooperation of the international community and the Afghan Government, the voluntary repatriation of the refugees could occur in a more timely manner.  Currently, the process was not progressing satisfactorily.

    ALLAN ROCK (Canada) said his country's commitment to Afghanistan was matched by its investment there.  Canada was a major contributor to the NATO-led ISAF mission.  The objective of the international community and the Afghan people was the creation of a stable, democratic and self-sustaining Afghan State that could provide for its own security and would never again serve as a haven for international terrorism.  Achieving that objective was vital to international peace and security and to ensuring a secure future for the Afghan people.  Afghanistan had made significant progress on the path towards that goal.  The country was now at a stage where democracy had taken root and was paying dividends, particularly in terms of building the confidence and pride of Afghans in their country.

    Both the adoption of a constitution and the presidential elections last October were watersheds in Afghanistan's transition and key elements of the Bonn Agreement, he said.  With the holding of provincial and parliamentary elections next month, the initial benchmarks for Afghanistan's democratic transition would be met.  It was time, therefore, to take stock of the challenges ahead and support Afghan-led efforts to develop a new compact with the international community that identified concrete commitments on both sides.  The challenges that confronted Afghanistan were serious but not insurmountable.  Addressing those challenges facing Afghanistan would require the international community's long-term commitment.  The international community could no longer defer facing some of the most difficult problems, including how to deal with the local commanders who continued to challenge the authority of the central Government by adhering to illicit pursuits.  Concerned over persistent violence against civilian populations and at humanitarian and development agencies, he called on all actors to ensure respect for international human rights and humanitarian law.

    Regarding the issue of governance, he said Canada believed that building institutions and lasting capacity was the only way to ensure that its investments would endure beyond its engagement.  On transitional justice, he noted that the confidence of the citizenry was key to any Government's success.  Inclusion of individuals responsible for serious past transgressions of Afghan and international law would call into question the credibility of the Government, complicating efforts towards future progress.  While the process of addressing past injustices would no doubt be highly charged, the political sensitivity could be mitigated by a process that was transparent, objective and founded in law. 

    He also stressed the need for strategic coordination, noting that pillars of the security sector were interdependent and mutually reinforcing.  A shortcoming in one pillar would jeopardize the sustainability of progress in another.  Given those challenges, it was important that sufficient attention be paid to charting the path ahead.  The vision of Bonn must be extended, as its goals had yet to be fully realized.  He supported the Secretary-General's vision for future engagement in Afghanistan, in particular the continued role for both the United Nations and the international community in consolidating peace.

    MUNIR AKRAM (Pakistan) said that a comprehensive strategy for success in Afghanistan should include addressing the security, political, economic and social objectives of the country.  Apart from Afghanistan itself, no other country had a more vital stake in establishing peace, security and prosperity in that country than Pakistan.  Peace would enable the nearly 3 million Afghan refugees staying in Pakistan to return home.  Peace and economic revival would accelerate the already burgeoning trade between Pakistan and Afghanistan.  It would also benefit all the countries of the region. 

    He said cross-border traffic was one -- not the major -- element in Afghanistan's security matrix.  Pakistan had mounted a determined campaign to eliminate Al-Qaida and Taliban elements on its side, and had captured over 700 of them.  As a result of those efforts, Al-Qaida's command and control structure had been broken and largely dismantled.  Pakistan's troop strength in the frontier tribal areas was higher than the combined strength of the national and international military presence within Afghanistan.  He was, therefore, disappointed that his country's efforts had not been mentioned in the Secretary-General's report.  The effort to prevent the two-way flow of Al-Qaida, Taliban, tribal or criminal fighters was a cooperative endeavour among Pakistan, Afghanistan and the United States forces in Afghanistan, promoted through, among other things, the Tripartite Commission.  His country supported the continued presence of the United States and ISAF forces in Afghanistan until peace and stability were fully restored and a viable Afghan national army could assume full responsibility for the country's security.  Those who doubted Pakistan's commitment were those who wanted to hide their own failure, or those who wanted to poison the relations between the two countries.

    Pakistan's relations with Afghanistan had improved and diversified considerably, he said.  During his Prime Minister's visit to Kabul in July, a number of economic cooperation programmes had been agreed upon, including Pakistan's additional assistance of $100 million for reconstruction.  Of the $100 million earlier pledged, $49 million had already been utilized for humanitarian assistance, projects in infrastructure, health, education, transport and capacity-building of State institutions.

    MOHD. RADZI ABDUL RAHMAN (Malaysia) said his country was encouraged by the relatively impressive progress in implementation of the Bonn Agreement.  Nonetheless, many essential measures to further enhance stability and development in the country should be pursued.  He was concerned that, in the area of social and economic development, 20 per cent of children died before the age of five and a woman died every 30 minutes from pregnancy-related causes.  The extent of poverty and underdevelopment could only be left to the imagination.  It was, therefore, clear that the question of development must be given serious attention when addressing issues of security, illegal drugs and good governance.  He urged the international community and the United Nations to continue their support to the Afghan Government.

    The coming parliamentary elections would hopefully mark the completion of the political transition towards national reconciliation and stability, he said.  The security situation, however, must be effectively addressed prior to the elections.  Narcotic drug eradication efforts in 2005 had not been as successful as expected.  The international community must, therefore, play its role in assisting the Afghan Government in substantively decreasing the drug trade in the near future, with a view to its total eradication in the long term. 

    He said that, in the trying period of national reconstruction, it was clear that Afghanistan would require continuing support from the international community.  Although remaining efforts would continue to be challenging, he was convinced that, with the sustained support from the international community, the Government and the people of Afghanistan would be able to rebuild their country, strengthen the foundations of a constitutional democracy and assume their rightful place in the community of nations.

    ALDO MANTOVANI (Italy) said that his country's efforts for the stabilization and reconstruction of Afghanistan were not, in this particular phase, of a "business as usual" kind.  They were, indeed, unprecedented, having been recently exponentially scaled up as a response to the latest developments.

    The worrying notes in the report of the Secretary-General reflected the difficult reality on the ground, he said, but that should not frighten the members of the international community.  On the contrary, the daunting challenges that lay ahead should strengthen their commitment.  Those challenges were based on the three vital and intertwined pillars of security, institution-building and economic development.  No effort should be spared to tackle the three of them, in an integrated manner.

    As a lead country, he said, Italy was intensifying its efforts to support the plans of the Afghan authorities to reform the justice sector; it remained among the top development partners in terms of financial contributions to priority sectors such as infrastructure, health, education, culture, media, refugees, repatriation, demining, counter narcotics, and women's empowerment.  In the next nine months, Italy would hold the ISAF rotating command, while maintaining that of the ISAF Regional Command West and that of the Herat Provincial Reconstruction Team.  That implied the presence of around 2,000 Italian soldiers in Afghanistan.  Also, in recent months the political dialogue had continued between the Afghan and Italian leaders.  In response to the urgent appeal for new financial contributions for the parliamentary and local elections, Italy had decided to allocate one more million euros, on top of the 4 million previously disbursed.  He urged other potential donors to join in that important endeavour.

    Turning to the post-electoral agenda, he agreed with the basic principles of the renewed partnership between Afghanistan and the international community that were outlined in the report.  The United Nations must maintain a strong role of leadership and overall coordination of the efforts deployed by the international community.

    OH JOON (Republic of Korea) said substantial progress had been made on the institutional agenda of the Bonn Agreement in such areas as disarmament, demobilization and reintegration, establishment of the Afghan National Army, police reform and the establishment of a Human Rights Commission.  Success in the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration process reinforced the conviction that the process should be further intensified.  The achievements were due to the steadfastness of the Afghan people and to the partnership between the international community and the Afghan Government.  It was vital that the remaining challenges be faced squarely. 

    He said continuing violence and terrorism were of the utmost concern.  Criminal drug trafficking was another major challenge.  Those ongoing challenges continued to hamper both reconstruction and the implementation of the Bonn process.  His country had been a strong supporter of reconstruction, development and stability of Afghanistan.  Since February 2002, a medical unit and a reconstruction unit from his country, totalling more than 200 personnel, had been part of the multinational force in Afghanistan.  In addition, the Republic of Korea had contributed $57 million for emergency relief and reconstruction since November 2001, and would continue its assistance in the years ahead.

    BAKI İLKIN (Turkey) said that he wanted to highlight a few points, in light of his country's deep rooted historical and friendly ties with Afghanistan.  The adoption of the Constitution, in January 2004, and the direct presidential elections, on 9 October 2004, had constituted important milestones in the Bonn process and reaffirmed the dedication of the Afghan people to achieve reconciliation, peace and stability.  He hoped that the last benchmark, the parliamentary and provincial council elections on 18 September, would be held on time and in a secure environment.

    As of February 2005, Turkey had assumed for the second time the leadership of the ISAF with the participation of a large Turkish military contingent.  Having fulfilled its mission, Turkey had handed over the command to Italy on 4 August.  However, Turkey's strong commitment for the security, unity, reconstruction and welfare of Afghanistan would continue unabated.  The visit to Afghanistan of the Turkish Prime Minister last April had given his Government the opportunity to confirm its readiness to assist and support Afghanistan in every possible way.  The only option for Afghanistan was success.  Hence, the continued commitment of the international community for the realization of that goal was, and would remain, essential in the months and years to come.

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