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Afghan military surge mustn't harm civilian work: U.N.

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - The U.N. special envoy to Afghanistan on Wednesday warned the United States and other Western powers not to let a planned troop surge divert attention from civilian and political goals in the Asian nation.

An Afghan boy watches as U.S. Marines from India Company, 3rd Battalion 4th Marines, patrol in the small town of Delaram in Helmand province, southern Afghanistan, January 6, 2010. REUTERS/Marko Djurica

Washington has pledged to send 30,000 extra troops to Afghanistan in the coming months, bringing the Western force there to more than 140,000. Some other NATO members also are promising more soldiers to help counter Taliban insurgents.

“The military surge must not be allowed to undermine equally important civilian objectives and the development of ... a politically driven strategy,” Kai Eide, the U.N. envoy to Afghanistan, told the Security Council.

Offering a bleak assessment of the Afghan situation, Eide voiced concern about “growing impatience in public opinion in (aid) donor and troop-contributing countries,” Afghanis’ frustrations over the slow rebuilding of their country and the persistent insurgency.

“If these negative trends are not soon reversed, then there is a risk that they will become unmanageable,” said Eide, a Norwegian diplomat who is expected to leave his post in March.

Eide called for an accelerated “Afghanization” of efforts to rebuild Afghanistan and combat the Taliban, who ruled Afghanistan until a U.S.-led invasion toppled their government eight years ago.

He said a revised political strategy must help build civilian institutions, enabling the Afghan government to deliver services to its people and develop the economy so it can pay for services.

“If we do not take these civilian components of the transition strategy as seriously as the military component, then we will fail,” Eide told the 15-nation council. “The political strategy is too often shaped as an appendix to military thinking.”


Deputy U.S. Ambassador Rosemary DiCarlo echoed some of Eide’s views, saying: “For truly sustainable progress, our troop increase must be matched by a stronger civilian effort and by additional foreign assistance.”

She also encouraged the Afghan government to press ahead with its fight against widespread corruption in the nation.

Eide called for an Afghan-led peace and reconciliation process that would reach out to members of the Taliban willing to renounce violence.

Afghanistan’s U.N. Ambassador Zahir Tanin said Kabul would give the council’s sanctions committee a list of names of Taliban members who Kabul feels should be removed from the U.N. sanctions list in exchange for supporting the government.

In a report to the Security Council released earlier this week, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon criticized fraud in Afghanistan’s presidential election last year and said the world body would not support future polls without reforms.

Addressing Wednesday’s council meeting, however, Ban appeared to drop his threat, pledging “to support the process” if Kabul asked for U.N. help in another election. Afghanistan plans to hold parliamentary elections in May.

Editing by Paul Simao