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'We may lose Afghanistan' without more troops -UN
( 2003-12-19 10:56) (Agencies)

World governments must send more peacekeeping troops to Afghanistan or risk seeing the central Asian nation crumble into chaos, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan warned on Thursday.

If the security situation does not improve, "we may lose Afghanistan," he told a news conference.

Annan had been asked whether he agreed with his special envoy, Lakhdar Brahimi, who said recently the United Nations might leave Afghanistan if security could not be ensured.

"I think it was legitimate that he sounded the alarm, and I urge member states to pay attention to it and help us in improving security in Afghanistan so that we can get on with our work," Annan said.

Brahimi, an architect of Afghanistan's 2001 peace plan who is leaving his post at the end of the month, has also suggested that Afghanistan's first elections, scheduled for June 2004, should be postponed until a reasonable level of security could be established.

But Afghan President Hamid Karzai has said the June timetable could be kept.

Annan said security was crucial both for successful elections and for Afghan reconstruction after the 2001 U.S.-led invasion that toppled the country's Taliban rulers.

Washington went to war to punish the hard-line group for sheltering the al Qaeda network blamed for deadly Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States.

But Taliban fighters have re-emerged as a potent force in recent months, particularly in the south, targeting aid workers and supporters of Afghanistan's new government.

A multinational force that initially provided security only in the capital, Kabul, was recently authorized by the United Nations to extend its reach across the country in an effort to crack down on feuding warlords as well as the Taliban.

But governments have not come up with the troops needed to do the job despite repeated U.N. appeals, Annan said.

Brahimi has called for 5,000 more peacekeeping troops, a near doubling of the 5,700-strong International Security Assistance Force now stationed mainly in Kabul.

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