Afghan needs breakthorugh in reconciliation efforts: UN

Watkins welcomed Indian assistance & said it was without political agenda.

Geneva: Afghanistan needs a "breakthrough"
in reconciliation efforts between the NATO forces and the
unstoppable rise in insurgency groups in 2011 to break the
cycle of violence which reached the worst proportions last
year, a senior UN official said Wednesday.

"2011 is a critical year for Afghanistan and if there
is a breakthrough in reconciliation efforts [between the NATO
forces and the insurgent groups] it would bring down
violence," said Robert D Watkins, UN resident and humanitarian
coordinator for Afghanistan.

When NATO turned the corner in 2001, the insurgency
was scattered and was in a defensive mode.

But, over the last two years, there is a material
change on the ground with escalating violence triggered by the
insurgency in response to the surge in NATO military
operations, he suggested.

"Security in Afghanistan is at the lowest point since
the Taliban was removed [almost ten years ago]," said Watkins
and pointed out that the surge in NATO military operations has
indirectly contributed to an increase in the cycle of

In turn, the worsening security situation made things
difficult for humanitarian and developmental agencies to
operate in the country, the UN official said.

Over 700 NATO personnel were killed last year while
the number of civilian deaths is many times higher than what
it was in 2009.

Besides, there is widespread destruction of property
and loss of lives from the continued operations on both sides.

Currently, there are around 130,000 NATO forces waging
the grimmest battle against the Taliban insurgents.

The NATO forces led by General David Petraeus are
confident "that they have blunted the insurgency and taken
away the momentum from the insurgents," Watkins said.

More disturbingly, the UN humanitarian and
developmental agencies are facing acute difficulties in
delivering food and other assistance because of the perception
that they are part of the NATO forces.

Watkins said the humanitarian agencies are not able to
work in 40 per cent of Afghanistan because they are often
clubbed with military operations.

"Part of the big problem is that humanitarian and
developmental agencies are lumped into political and military
operations," he said, arguing that we are being forced to
address the problem of adverse perception which is not helping
in establishing contacts with opposition groups to carry out
the humanitarian work.

"There is a growing need for military to desist from
humanitarian work," said Watkins, suggesting the international
assistance is being perceived as part of the military and
political operations in Afghanistan.

India which is providing developmental assistance to
Afghanistan has been "welcomed by the international forces and
the Afghan government," he said, adding that the Indian
assistance is not linked to political agenda.

Though billions of dollars are being pumped into
developmental work, the humanitarian assistance has come down,
he said, underscoring the need for about USD 657 million from
international donors this year.



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