Afghanistan Faces More Taliban Violence – UN Report


By Bill Rigby

August 16, 2005

A resurgent Taliban, a rampant drug trade and persistent corruption are hampering Afghanistan's reconstruction and threatening next month's elections, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said on Tuesday. The country urgently needs extra funding to prevent any further delay in parliamentary and provincial elections now set for Sept. 18, Annan said. The elections were originally expected in October 2004.

With the elections just weeks away, some $31 million is needed to avoid any slippage in the technical preparations for the elections, the U.N. leader said in his latest progress report on the central Asian nation of some 30 million people. International donors have already contributed $8.4 billion to help Afghanistan rebuild and establish itself as a democracy after decades of violence. U.S.-led forces ousted the country's former Taliban rulers for harboring al Qaeda leaders following deadly Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States. Afghans chose Hamid Karzai as their president last October in an election that took place in relative calm and with few serious irregularities.

Annan said the country faces a worrying resurgence of violence despite the presence of 8,000 peacekeepers under NATO command and about 18,000 U.S. troops. "Afghanistan today is suffering from a level of insecurity, especially in the south and parts of the east, not seen since the departure of the Taliban," his report said. "There have been troubling indications that remnants of the Taliban and other extremist groups are reorganizing."

"No Simple Answer"

Bombings and mine explosions in May were up 40 percent from the previous year in the south and southeast, Annan said. He blamed the increase on extremist groups -- some claiming allegiance to the Taliban and al Qaeda -- extending their attacks beyond international targets to local community leaders and pro-government clerics.

Afghanistan is also struggling with a thriving drug trade, corruption and a weak economy as it inches toward democratic parliamentary rule and a sound legal system, the report said. "The money generated from narcotics production and trafficking is used to fund crime, corruption, illegal armed groups and extremist elements," Annan said. Afghanistan is the world's largest opium producer, supplying nearly 87 percent of the world's supply, according to the United Nations.

The drug trade accounts for about 60 percent of Afghanistan's gross domestic product, hampering legitimate economic growth. The economy grew 7.5 percent last year, according to the International Monetary Fund, below the country's recovery target of 9 percent. Government revenues are expected to average less than $400 million per year until 2008, less than half of the projected spending on public-sector salaries and operations, Annan said. The government is not expected to cover its own costs until 2013.

"There is no simple answer to the problems of extremist violence and terrorism," he said. "The government of Afghanistan must do its share to address them, in particular by tackling forcefully official corruption and ineffectiveness, which undermine the population's confidence in government institutions."

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