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Years wasted in Afghan effort, U.N. official says

The international community has wasted years in Afghanistan by not coordinating its efforts, a top U.N. official said ahead of a Wednesday meeting of U.S. and European envoys.
/ Source: The Associated Press

The international community has wasted years in Afghanistan by not coordinating its efforts, a top U.N. official said ahead of a Wednesday meeting of U.S. and European envoys to discuss the country's recent election and deteriorating security.

Senior officials from 27 countries — including special U.S. envoy Richard Holbrooke — were to meet in Paris, where officials were expected to urge Afghans to take more responsibility in the almost eight-year international effort to rebuild the country.

Kai Eide, the top U.N. official in Afghanistan, said the international community needs to embrace well-coordinated, big-picture goals that will help Afghanistan in the long term.

"The piecemeal approach is not going to get results," Eide said Tuesday. "Enough is enough with the piecemeal approach."

Small projects favored over major missions
Eide did not elaborate, but he and other critics have complained that foreign governments tend to favor funding small, relatively easy projects without a national impact rather than major missions — such as overhauling the transport network — which would serve as an economic engine for the whole country.

The Paris meeting comes as the country faces mounting security and political challenges. Fighting is increasing; August was the deadliest month of the war for U.S. forces with at least 49 deaths, followed closely by July with 44.

Uncertainty over the outcome of last month's presidential election hang over the political front following delays in the vote count and allegations of widespread fraud.

Vote tallies released Monday from the Aug. 20 balloting showed President Hamid Karzai leading with 45.8 percent. Challenger Abdullah Abdullah trailed with 33.2 percent. Ballots have been counted from almost half of the country's voting stations. Karzai needs 50 percent of the votes to avoid a runoff.

Abdullah, who has also accused Karzai's supporters of intimidating voters and large-scale ballot-stuffing, said Tuesday he would not strike a deal in order to achieve "power or position" in office.

"I would like to assure you that I will not make any deal over your rights and the trust you have in me; I am not ready for any kind of deal," Abdullah told supporters at a meeting in Kabul.

He also said he was ready to challenge any decision he sees as violating the constitution. "We have legal ways, peaceful ways to struggle to win our rights, and we will not ignore our right," he said.

Message likely aimed at Abdullah supporters
Although he didn't mention what legal steps he would take, Abdullah appeared to hope election officials would send the election into a second round.

On the other side of town, a group of about 60 pro-Karzai parliamentarians called on Afghans to let the election commission carry out its work. A written resolution said that the encouragement of Afghans to protest the election results would "disrespect the blood of those countryman who devoted their lives to provide the opportunity to hold this election" — a message likely aimed at Abdullah supporters.

As Abdullah ramps up his accusations that Karzai supporters committed widespread fraud, many fear that Abdullah supporters could take to the streets.

U.S. officials had hoped the presidential election would establish an Afghan government with the legitimacy to combat the Taliban, corruption and the country's huge drug trade. The fraud allegations, however, have raised the specter of more violence.

Taliban attacks spiked this summer, and U.S. military leaders are considering asking for more troops to combat the increasing violence.

President Barack Obama has already committed 21,000 new American forces to Afghanistan this year — an increase that will bring the total U.S. commitment to 68,000 by the end of the year. A record 100,000 U.S. and NATO troops are stationed in Afghanistan.

An American service member died Tuesday of wounds suffered in a bombing the day before in southern Afghanistan, the U.S. command said.