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World must back Afghans, UN peacekeeping chief says

Asserts it is vital for country’s own leaders to step up

By Edith M. Lederer
Associated Press / March 19, 2010

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UNITED NATIONS — The UN peacekeeping chief said yesterday that it is time for the international community to take concrete steps to allow Afghans to take charge of their future — and to ensure that “Afghanization’’ becomes more than a slogan.

Alain Le Roy told the Security Council that the Afghan government is “legitimately eager’’ to lead and the international community risks failure in its goals for the country if this does not happen.

He said Afghan “ownership’’ must take place on both the military and civilian side, with the international community in support.

Afghanistan’s UN ambassador, Zahir Tanin, told the council the government has taken up the leadership challenge and in the coming year its priority will be Afghanization, with Afghans and Afghan priorities taking the lead in every area.

“We face a busy calendar that will test our strength and resolve, but, with the support of the international community, it can also set us firmly on the path towards success,’’ he said.

Le Roy was briefing the council on Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s latest report, which noted the “crowded agenda’’ in the next three months.

President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan has called a peace “jirga,’’ or conference on reconciliation, for next month. Kabul is hosting its first major international conference in June, which Le Roy said will mark “the concrete and systematic beginning’’ of Afghanization to present its priorities and programs in civilian areas in hopes of attracting funding. Preparations for parliamentary elections in September must begin, and the military surge is continuing.

Ban said these events “could form the structure of a transition to greater Afghan leadership.’’

“The focus of this transition is on making Afghan sovereignty real,’’ the secretary general said. “There is no sovereignty without capacity and responsibility, and the purpose of the transition is to ensure that the government of Afghanistan has both sufficient capacity and sufficient responsibility to exercise actual sovereignty.’’

Ban warned that if the international community bypasses the government the transition could be undermined. He called for “a new mindset that shows greater respect for Afghans’ own understanding of their country.’’

At the same time, Le Roy said, “the Afghan government must concretely demonstrate that it can deliver on the accountability required for a real transition process to be sustainable.’’

Tanin, the Afghan ambassador, said the first step is to reverse the Taliban’s momentum and improve security across the country. He predicted that the strategy of the top commander in Afghanistan, US General Stanley McChrystal, “will begin to turn the tide.’’

At the same time, he said, the Afghan Army and police, with intensive international training, will gradually replace international forces, beginning “as soon as possible.’’

“And with the help of the international community, Afghans will bear full responsibility in five years,’’ Tanin said.