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Afghanistan: disarmament to start in Sholgara

Afghanistan: disarmament exercise to start in Sholgara, UN reports

A United Nations spokesman in Afghanistan today reported that disarmament exercises will soon commence in Sholgara – an area rumored to be blighted by growing instability.

"There are unconfirmed reports of increasing numbers [of] armed people in Sholgara and about the construction of a military checkpoint just outside the city," David Singh told the press in Kabul. The situation is being investigated.

The decision to start weapons collection next Saturday was taken at a recent meeting of the Mazar Security Commission, according to Mr. Singh, who noted that regional commanders "have also agreed not return to Sholgara until after the disarmament has been completed," and to continue reporting daily to the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan.

The spokesman stressed that the various disarmament exercises taking place in the north "are not to be confused, linked or associated with the national disarmament, demobilization and reintegration (DDR) process which is planned for the future." Conflict resolution measures in the north "are part of a voluntary initiative undertaken by the various factions under the mantle of the Security Commission, which UNAMA helps to facilitate."

Elaborating on the security picture in Afghanistan, he noted in response to questions that elements in the south "seem bent on destabilizing the government [and] are not aligned to any particular faction as you have in the north."

Tension in the south is linked to the difficulty of getting relief supplies into the area. "Insecurity is out there and it is affecting aid operations to the detriment of the Afghan people," he said. "It is an issue that the UN is concerned with and it is one that we would like to see improved."

Offering a long-range perspective, he said, "This has been a problem from day one and ultimately the solution to this is the Afghan army which is being trained at the moment, 70,000 strong." This process will require three to four years, he added.

He also called attention to the need for a neutral Afghan police force. "As with the army, there are efforts underway to restructure, reform and rebuild the police and this is all part of overall reform of the security sector."

At the same time, he cautioned that these measures will take time to implement. "Afghanistan is coming out of 23 years of war and it is coming out of a situation where the institutions have all fallen apart, where there's no functioning army and no functioning police force," he said. "There has to be a concerted effort by the government, by the UN, by the international community to erase these negative factors and to create a climate where Afghans can feel that they're getting benefits – that they no longer have to live in fear or live under the rule of the gun."

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