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Envoy warns of continued Afghan violence
Updated: 2005-09-10 10:48

Rebel violence in Afghanistan may drag on for at least another two years unless the international community does more to stop it, the top U.N. envoy to the country warned on Friday, the Associated Press reported.

In an interview with The Associated Press, Jean Arnault urged neighboring Pakistan to do more to prevent aid being channeled to the insurgents.

He also said large-scale attacks were possible during landmark legislative elections in just over a week, although he said he was still optimistic the vote would be a success.

"We need certainly to take all the steps we can take to make sure the elections will not be derailed by the violence," Arnault said.

"Spectacular incidents in Kabul or elsewhere are absolutely not ruled out," he added. "It would be unrealistic to think we can prevent them from happening."

Taliban-led insurgents have vowed to try to subvert the Sept. 18 polls and have stepped up attacks, leaving more than 1,200 dead in the past six months and much of the country off-limits to aid workers.

Arnault said each of the 6,000 polling stations would be guarded by up to seven police officers, supported by Afghan soldiers and roving police commando units. The 21,000-strong U.S.-led coalition and a separate force of 11,000 NATO-led peacekeepers also will be scattered throughout the country, ready to respond to any assaults, he said.

A huge amount of preparation has gone into safeguarding the elections, the country's next key step toward democracy after two decades of war. But the envoy urged the international community to look beyond the balloting to find ways to ensure the rebellion doesn't drag on indefinitely.

"We must use all our resources ... to deny the extremists the opportunity to make 2006 and 2007 again years of violence," he said. "Those who have an extremist agenda, dragging Afghanistan back into the Taliban years, they will not stop just because of the parliamentary elections have taken place."

Arnault said a driving force behind the rebellion was assistance that the rebels were receiving from supporters in Pakistan and elsewhere.

"More will have to be done to control this problem of external support ... by the Pakistani government," he said.

Islamabad, a staunch U.S. ally, vehemently denies allegations that the militants are receiving help by some sections of Pakistan's government and military and points to the deployment of some 80,000 of its troops along the rugged mountainous frontier that divides the two countries.

Pakistani Gen. Pervez Musharraf, in a separate interview with AP on Friday, said his government has proposed building a barbed-wire fence along the border to help keep Islamic insurgents from crossing the area freely.

But he cautioned that curtailing the violence in Afghanistan would be difficult.

"Afghanistan is a tribal society. ... converting a tribal, feudal society into a homogenous body under a democratic set up is not that easy. It will take some time," he said. "We will remain supportive to all that they are doing."

Looking ahead, Arnault predicted that Afghanistan would need assistance from the international community for at least a decade.

The United States and other countries are pumping hundreds of millions of dollars into Afghanistan to help rebuild roads and schools, recruit and train new security forces, and reconstruct other infrastructure destroyed during a quarter-century of war.

The United States has also boosted the number of its troops in the country because of the escalating violence.

"We have to be patient and realize it takes a long-term engagement," he said. "Let us brace ourselves for a process that will have to be lengthy."

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