UN urges NATO to adopt holistic approach to conflict

NATO commands about 47,000 troops from 39 nations, including 26 member states, and operates 26 Provincial Reconstruction Teams across Afghanistan.
(Abdullah Shaheen/IRIN)

As NATO sets about exploring ways to boost its military effort in Afghanistan at a summit in Bucharest on 3 April, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and UN Special Representative for Afghanistan Kai Eide are urging a holistic approach and better coordination by all parties to defeat the Taliban and restore stability.

"I am confident that NATO’s new military-political strategy will help provide a more comprehensive approach to International Security Assistance Force efforts," Ban said in his speech in Bucharest. "It must also address the underlying issues that have prevented past efforts from achieving the degree of success we have desired."

Aleem Siddique, a spokesman for UNAMA, told IRIN: " To defeat the insurgency we need to see more than just military efforts; we need to see political outreach efforts; we need to see development efforts; we need to see humanitarian assistance efforts; and more broadly, regional cooperation.The insurgency cannot be defeated and peace cannot be achieved only through military means."

All parties involved in peace-building and development in Afghanistan - chiefly NATO, the UN and the Afghan government - should “step-up coordination” among themselves, Siddique said.

More on peace-building in Afghanistan
 UN Secretary-General warns of threats to "still fragile" country
 New envoy to boost coordination and reinforce UNAMA
 Donors should support local peace-building efforts - Oxfam
 ICG report calls on donors to “make decisive change”
 Oxfam calls on donors to overhaul aid policy
 UN ready to aid dialogue to boost prospects for peace

NATO role in humanitarian activities?

Apart from its military operations in coordination with the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), NATO also runs Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRTs) in 26 of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces and has carried out over 7,500 development projects, said a NATO report released on 1 April.

While some aid agencies criticise the increasing involvement of NATO soldiers in development and humanitarian activities and consider this a major reason for the “shrinking humanitarian space” in Afghanistan, UNAMA says Afghanistan needs more than the traditional distinction between help from the military and help from aid agencies.

“We want to get away from this black-and-white scenario where it is purely the military that are responsible for security and purely the international community and the government that are responsible for political outreach and the development,” said Aleem.

However, aid agencies such as Oxfam America, member of Oxfam International, have said the military should not be engaged in humanitarian and development activities unless there is no other way to meet life-threatening needs.


Photo: Abdullah Shaheen/IRIN
The UN says non-military aspects of NATO-ISAF mission need reinforcement.

Civilian casualties

At least 1,500 Afghan civilians lost their lives in insurgency-related violence in 2007, the UN has reported.

Preliminary reports compiled by the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) indicate that almost half of civilian casualties in the past two years came about as a result of aerial strikes and other military operations conducted by international forces.

During the Bucharest summit, Ban and Eide will reiterate the UN’s concerns about civilian protection and ask NATO leaders to adopt stronger measures to minimise the impact of the conflict on civilians, Siddique said.

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This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions

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