Afghanistan under scrutiny at UN-sponsored meeting

UNITED NATIONS (AFP) – Eighteen countries meet here Sunday to review six years of efforts to spur reconstruction and good governance in Afghanistan at a time when the restive country is beset by a resurgent Taliban insurgency and soaring opium output.Afghan President Hamid Karzai and UN chief Ban Ki-moon are co-hosting the three-hour high-level meeting, set to open at 10:00 am (1400 GMT), which comes two days before world leaders begin summit talks during the UN General Assembly session. The Afghan leader is due to address the assembly Monday.

Joining Afghanistan at the talks are Britain, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Iran, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, Norway, Pakistan, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Spain, Turkey and the United States.

Also invited are the Asian Development Bank, the European Union, the European Commission, NATO and the World Bank.

Organizers say the talks are to focus on ways the international community and the United Nations can help the Kabul government tackle issues of security, good governance, regional cooperation and drug trafficking.

Afghanistan was in tatters after the 2001 fall of the Islamist Taliban regime, which led the international community to spend billions of dollars on development and send in tens of thousands of troops to fight a growing Taliban insurgency.

Participants at the meeting will review progress toward implementing the Afghanistan Compact, a five-year development blueprint launched in January 2006 by Kabul and some 70 foreign partners.

Under the deal, Afghanistan promised to take specific steps in the areas of security, governance, rule of law and human rights, and economic and social development in return for military and economic support.

Voicing concern about increased violence and terrorism in Afghanistan, the UN Security Council Wednesday voted overwhelmingly to extend for one year the mandate of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) there.

The UN-mandated ISAF force is at 39,000 people from around 37 nations, its most powerful since 2001, even though original estimates of troops and equipment requirements still have not been met.

It operates alongside a US-led coalition of about 15,000 and the fledgling Afghan security forces.

Around 168 international soldiers have been killed in Afghanistan this year — the bloodiest since the insurgent Taliban were removed from government.

US-led forces in October 2001 toppled the Taliban, which was funded by and sheltered the Al-Qaeda extremist network, for refusing to hand over Osama bin Laden following the September 11, 2001 attacks in the United States.

Opium production meanwhile reached a record high in Afghanistan this year and more people are being killed in a Taliban insurgency that has seen suicide attacks spiral.

Check Also

Deadly bomb hits de facto capital of Taliban-governed Afghanistan

Authorities in Afghanistan said Monday that a bomb blast had killed at least one person …