- Feb 17, 2009
It's 'time to talk' to Taliban: UN envoy
KABUL (March 05 2010): The head of the UN mission in Afghanistan said Thursday that it's "high time" a political solution is found with the Taliban to resolve the more than 8-year-old conflict. "It's time to talk," Kai Eide said. In his last news conference as the UN representative, Eide said he hoped a spring peace jirga or conference that Afghan President Hamid Karzai is organising would result in a national consensus for peace that the entire nation could rally around.
In a wide-ranging news conference at the heavily secured UN compound, Eide said he has always been behind a policy of engagement, but has no allusions about the complexities of negotiating peace with Taliban leaders. He also said he would continue his push for electoral reform following Karzai's decree last week giving the Afghan the authority to appoint members of a formerly independent Electoral Complaints Commission.
The panel, which monitors election fraud, was previously dominated by UN appointees, who uncovered massive fraud in last year's presidential election. Eide said he met with Karzai on Thursday morning to ensure a fairer ballot during parliamentary elections this fall. "We have made some progress, for instance with regard to international participation in the Electoral Complaints Commission," Eide said. He sounded optimistic about the ongoing negotiations but did not provide further details.
Eide, a Norwegian diplomat, is stepping down after a two-year tenure marked by a deadly Taliban attack that killed five UN workers at a small hotel in the Afghan capital, Kabul. His stewardship also was tarnished by allegations from his American deputy, Peter Galbraith, that he was not bullish enough in curbing the fraud in the August presidential election. Karzai was declared the winner three months later after his last remaining challenger dropped out of a scheduled runoff.
Eide has denied that the election controversy was linked to his decision not to renew his two-year contract. Eide acknowledged that he fell short of what he had hoped to achieve during his tenure but stressed that all parties working in Afghanistan face the same problem, including military forces that are driving a massive offensive to oust the Taliban from the southern town of Marjah.
"We all have to admit that we could have achieved more," Eide said. He said "decisive success" within a year or two in a nation marred in conflict was "unachievable," but that progress was needed this year to show the Afghan people and the international community that a solution to the conflict is within reach.
He said the London conference on Afghanistan in January marked the start of a transition phase one that's dependent on a change of mindset by both the Afghan government and donor nations. "Afghanistan is sometimes, I must say, seen as and treated as a no man's land, and not as a sovereign state," he said. "That has to come to an end because it has fuelled suspicion of unacceptable foreign interference, a sense of humiliation and a feeling that Afghans do not have control of their future."
Eide reiterated his fear that the flood of more than 30,000 US troops and thousands more Nato forces into Afghanistan will increase pressure for quick results from civilian aid projects _ just to satisfy taxpayers abroad. He has repeatedly criticised the military for getting too involved in the disbursement of humanitarian aid and not doing enough to prevent civilian deaths.