- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 27, 2004

The departing U.N. envoy to Afghanistan warned yesterday that violence and drug trafficking still pose grave threats to the government of President Hamid Karzai, as a suicide bomb attack killed a Canadian soldier in the NATO peacekeeping force just outside the capital, Kabul.

Lakhdar Brahimi, who ended a two-year stint in Afghanistan to become the U.N.’s top official on security issues, told a Washington luncheon that antigovernment attacks in the country’s south and southeast pose a direct challenge to the fledgling government and have the potential to undermine planned elections under the country’s just-adopted constitution.

“Security is really the key issue for the Karzai government. When you travel around Afghanistan, people don’t ask for food first, they ask for security,” Mr. Brahimi said, addressing a luncheon at the National Press Club.

The resurgent Taliban, the fundamentalist Islamic regime ousted by a U.S.-led military coalition in the 2001-02 war, claimed responsibility for the attack on a convoy of the NATO-led security force that killed a Canadian soldier and an Afghan civilian and wounded 11 others on a main road just west of Kabul.

The attack, which came a day after Mr. Karzai formally signed the country’s new constitution, was part of a wave of violence blamed on the Taliban that has killed more than 60 people this month.

Mr. Brahimi said the attacks have complicated efforts to organize the first presidential and parliamentary elections for a new government and have made it difficult for international donors to find local Afghan partners willing to work in dangerous areas of the country.

The U.N. envoy’s concerns were echoed in a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing, where lawmakers and U.S. military officials both said more troops and resources must be devoted to Afghanistan.

A NATO-led security force largely confined to the Kabul region has about 5,500 troops, and a separate 11,000-strong U.S. force is focused on crushing Taliban and anti-government resistance.

William Taylor, the State Department’s coordinator of Afghan programs, told the panel that parliamentary elections set for June — a key deadline in the plan to rebuild the country — might slip because of difficulties in registering voters and organizing districts.

Said Tayeb Jawad, Afghani- stan’s ambassador to the United States, told a conference at Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty that any delay in the elections would be measured “in weeks or a month, but no more,” and that 600,000 voters already were registered across eight cities.

Gen. James Jones, the top U.S. military commander in Europe, said some U.S. allies have not come through on troop and support commitments they had made to the Afghan security force.

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