UNITED NATIONS – Taliban insurgents probably won't ease up on attacks in Afghanistan this winter as they have in the past, because their influence has spread beyond traditional strongholds to provinces around Kabul, the U.N. envoy to Afghanistan said Tuesday.
Attacks by insurgents are at a six-year high, Kai Eide, the world body's special representative, told the Security Council.
He said the number of attacks and other "insecurity incidents" were at the highest level since 2002, shortly after a U.S.-led coalition drove the Taliban from power.
"We should be prepared for a situation where the insurgency will not experience the same winter lull, the same reduction in hostilities, we have experienced in past winters," he added.
Eide, however, cautioned against "gloom and doom statements" that create an overly pessimistic outlook. He said there have been positive developments, including changes made by President Hamid Karzai to the Afghan government.
Afghan Ambassador Zahir Tanin concurred. "We should be careful with what we say about Afghanistan," he said. "Media outlets move with astonishing speed in Afghanistan and word of mouth carries any pessimistic news quickly to the Afghan people."
He said the Taliban use such statements to convince Afghans that international support is wavering.
Still, Tanin acknowledged the situation has worsened.
"Despite hard work on the part of international coalition forces and Afghans alike, terrorism appears to be on the rise again," he said. "The Taliban burn down schools, stamp out reconstruction and butcher civilians. They attack roads and regions around Kabul, hampering international humanitarian relief. Ordinary people are increasingly their targets."
Zalmay Khalilzad, the U.S. ambassador to the U.N., said Afghanistan needs international support to resist insurgents and stressed the need for the region's nations to work together.
"The agenda for regional cooperation is clear: No sanctuaries for hostile forces; no use of extremists and terrorists to advance national interests," Khalilzad said.
British Ambassador John Sawers said military efforts remain a crucial element, but pointed to the need for international support for Afghan efforts "to deliver effective governance, encourage economic growth and build an inclusive democratic process."
With U.N. help, the Afghan government began registering voters last week for next year's presidential election, which is likely to be the most dangerous and challenging ballot since a U.S.-led offensive ousted a Taliban regime in late 2001.