UNITED NATIONS – International leaders will hold a conference later this month to introduce a new blueprint for bringing peace to Afghanistan and providing a better life for its people, the top U.N. envoy to Afghanistan said.
The "Compact for Afghanistan" will establish key benchmarks and timelines to meet the major challenges confronting the country over the next five years — security, good government, human rights, the rule of law and combatting the drug trade, Jean Arnault told the U.N. Security Council on Tuesday.
Arnault said the compact will also provide a framework for the international community's future dealings with Afghanistan and seek to improve the delivery of aid to the Afghan people.
"It emphasizes the leadership that the Afghan state — strengthened by the democratic process that has unfolded in the past four years — can and must take," he said.
The plan will be unveiled at a Jan. 31-Feb. 1 conference in London to be co-chaired by U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, British Prime Minister Tony Blair and Afghan President Hamid Karzai.
The gathering will be a follow-up to the December 2001 conference in Bonn, Germany that established a political process for Afghanistan after U.S. and allied Afghan forces drove out the Taliban for harboring Usama bin Laden.
That process culminated in last month's inauguration of the new Afghan National Assembly — the final formal step toward bringing a representative government to Afghanistan after a quarter century of war that claimed more than 1 million lives.
In September, the country adopted a new constitution and held national elections.
U.S. Ambassador John Bolton said the compact will make it easier to address security issues in the country. "The United States will be making a major pledge in support of Afghan development at that point. I think other governments will make substantial pledges, as well," he said.
Arnault said the recent surge in attacks in southern Afghanistan serves as a reminder of the magnitude of the tasks that remain to bring peace to the country.
On Monday, a homicide bomber killed 21 civilians at a wrestling match in an Afghan border town — the deadliest homicide attack since U.S.-led forces ousted the Taliban in 2001. The assault came shortly after a bomb targeted a truck convoy of Afghan soldiers in Kandahar city, killing four people and wounding 16.
On Sunday, a homicide car bomber in the southern provincial capital killed a senior Canadian diplomat and two Afghan civilians.
The string of more than 20 suicide bombings in the past three months represents a relatively new tactic for militants in Afghanistan and has stoked fears of an escalating siege of bloody attacks like those in Iraq.
Karzai has ordered an inquiry into the most recent bombing to focus on "where the militants are getting their resources, their support and where they are coming from," spokesman Khaleeq Ahmed said Tuesday.
Afghan officials repeatedly claim that the Taliban and other militant groups have training bases in Pakistan and are receiving support from there — an accusation Islamabad denies. On Wednesday, about 1,000 Afghans protested against Pakistan in the border town where the attack occurred, chanting "Death to Pakistan."
No one has claimed responsibility, and a purported spokesman for the Taliban rebels denied involvement.
The Security Council has also condemned the recent spate of attacks.
"The members reiterated that no terrorist acts can reverse the path toward peace and reconstruction in Afghanistan, which is supported by the people and government of Afghanistan and the international community," it said in a statement.
Arnault said the attacks should not distract Afghans from the democratic process.
The Afghan people "deserve our confidence that, with undiminished assistance by the international community, they will be equally successful in the realization of the vision contained in the 'Compact of Afghanistan,"' he said.