In Bosnia and Somalia peace, however fragile, is being underwritten by United Nations authority and contingents of foreign troops wearing blue helmets. Why is there no comparable effort to stop the human suffering in Afghanistan? Is it because the Afghan war began 15 years ago, back in 1979, so long ago that the fresher tragedies of Bosnia and Somalia seem to many people more relevant or even more pressing?
The failure of the UN's strategy for dealing with the Afghan crisis and reaching a political settlement linked to the Russian withdrawal back in 1989 is in itself no reason why the UN - and the international community as well - should cynically abandon Afghanistan to its own devices.
The West applauded when Afghan mujahedin resisted Russian policy and fought hard and long against a superpower, at tremendous cost in Afghan lives. The Afghan people deserve better than to be forgotten in their time of need
For the good name of the UN, its 'special envoy' in Afghanistan, Sotirios Mousouris, must be seen to be doing something towards reaching a peace. Instead, he appears to have limited UN activities during the past months to trying - and so far failing - to get two small food convoys into the capital, Kabul, where 1 million people need to be fed.
More than 200,000 civilians have been forced to flee their homes in Kabul since 1 January. This futile power struggle is being carried on solely for the benefit of short-sighted leaders. It is destroying the Afghan capital and bringing further misery and danger to yet more innocent civilian victims. Without a ceasefire, the situation can only deteriorate further, and no aid can be certain to reach the starving people in Kabul.
The fragmentation of the country along ethnic and sectarian lines makes the situation all the more dangerous potentially for the region as a whole. There must be an end to interference in the civil war by the neighbouring states and some Arab states which are financing and arming rival Afghan parties.
What is needed as a matter of urgency is a fresh UN initiative, combined with strong and effective international pressure to reach a settlement. Britain and other influential governments of the West, acting through the UN Security Council, can and should help to start this process.
The Anglo-Afghan Circle
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