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Violence & Drugs Remain Threats To Afghanistan

Violence, Drugs And Factionalism Remain Threats To Afghanistan - Annan

Extremist violence, factionalism and the illicit drug industry are on the rise in Afghanistan, threatening lasting peace as the country prepares for elections, Secretary-General Kofi Annan says in a report on the country released today.

Noting that violent attacks and cross-border infiltrations have increased, especially in Afghanistan's south, he says these activities are effectively depriving many communities of the benefits of economic and political reconstruction.

Violence - both terrorist and criminal - is carried out "with seeming impunity," resulting in "the loss of too many Afghan lives and increasingly of those of international assistance workers," he says.

But he says the high rate of voter registrations - more than 9.9 million people have now enrolled, with 41 per cent of them female - shows that the groups responsible for the violence are politically isolated ahead of presidential and parliamentary polls.

The voter registrations are "a clear response to the efforts of the Taliban and other extremist groups to derail the elections and to exclude women from public life," he says in his report to the Security Council. But he notes that registration remains uneven in some provinces because potential voters and electoral workers have been deterred by the threat of violence.

The Secretary-General says Afghanistan's illicit drug trade is burgeoning, with at least one initiative by the country's authorities to eradicate opium poppy fields "largely ineffective." Corruption caused by the drug trade is also on the rise.

More anti-drug officials and greater determination to tackle the problem is necessary if Afghan farmers are going to stop production and turn to legal crops, he adds.

The report says increased security assistance from the international community is essential if Afghanistan is to successfully conduct presidential elections on 9 October, and then national and local parliamentary polls next April.

He says he is encouraged by the decision of North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) members at their recent summit in Istanbul to commit more troops to stabilizing Afghanistan. But the slower than expected pace of disarmament and the lack of credible, accurate population figures is hampering political reform and development, he adds.

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