Former UN envoys fears Afghanistan a "step away from catastrophe"

By: Anjali Sharma


Kai Eide, former UN Special Representative


NEW YORK – Two prominent former UN envoys who served on Afghanistan peace and security efforts, Kai Eide from 2008 to 2010 and Yamamoto from 2016 to 2020 alarmed the international community that the UN must step into this vacuum in Afghanistan and the Secretary-General must immediately convene the Security Council meet and seek a clear mandate to empower the UN, both in the country and at the negotiating table.

The authors in an opinion piece for New York Times said that would mean the United States, Russia, China, and other members of the council coming together to authorize a special representative to act as a mediator. With the pivotal support of member states, this would put pressure on both sides to halt the fighting and reach a settlement, they stated.

They said the UN must now step up and guide Afghanistan away from catastrophe. The alternative, as all-out civil war beckons, is too grim to contemplate.

They said the organization needs to do more. Though two UN envoys are currently assigned to Afghanistan, neither is sufficiently empowered to make a difference. The UN’s humanitarian appeal to support the basic needs of Afghans — nearly half of whom urgently need material assistance — remains woefully underfunded.

Eide and Yamamoto stressed that at the diplomatic level, the Security Council has looked on blankly as peace talks, held in Doha, Qatar, have failed to make any serious headway.

“Yet no single country involved in Afghanistan is well placed to help. For its part in the conflict, the United States is now viewed with suspicion. Russia and China, which have different allies among Afghanistan’s neighbors, aren’t seen as neutral, either. Pakistan, regarded with hostility by the Afghan government for its ties with the Taliban, doesn’t want the involvement of India, which has opened its own channels of communication with the Taliban. Turkey, Iran and the Central Asian states are all important but cannot act alone”, they added.

They emphasized that there has not been a unified effort to hold the peace process together. The Taliban, resisting talks with the government, have focused instead on taking as much territory as possible, spreading violence across the country. Faced with a fight for its survival, the Afghan government has encouraged local warlords and leaders to take up arms. In the absence of international mediation, the two sides are raging against each other on the battlefield rather than engaging at the negotiating table. It’s a situation that revives dark memories of the 1990s when the country descended into civil war.”

The past few months in Afghanistan, even by the standards set by two decades of war, have been especially calamitous.

They added as the US President Biden announced the withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan, violence has escalated at a terrifying rate. Emboldened, the Taliban have advanced across the country and now surround major cities, including Kandahar, the second largest. The toll has been terrible: Vital infrastructure has been destroyed, hundreds of thousands of people have been displaced, and the number of people killed or injured has reached record levels. As the United States and its allies complete their withdrawal, Afghanistan, so long devastated by conflict, could be on the brink of something much worse".


 

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