By DEB RIECHMANN, Associated Press
KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — The international community will continue supporting Afghanistan after U.S. and NATO combat forces leave the war-wracked nation by the end of 2014, a top U.N. envoy said Tuesday.
Jan Kubis said he heard strong commitment for Afghanistan at a recent U.N. Security Council meeting and dismissed predictions that the nation was headed for collapse after the foreign troops withdraw.
"That commitment is based not on the expectation of seeing Afghanistan collapsing after 2014," Kubis told reporters at a news conference in Kabul. "On the contrary, there is an expectation that Afghanistan will work, will develop with problems, with challenges, with difficulties — maybe more than now — but still will develop."
Fears have been looming that Afghanistan, which remains bitterly divided and where ethnic tensions still simmer, could again fracture along ethnic lines once the foreigners leave — as it did after the Soviet exit from Afghanistan in the 1990s.
"The international community is ready to do everything possible to support Afghanistan and frankly, to help Afghanistan not lapse into these kind of doom-and-gloom scenarios that are coming from different places," said Kubis, the U.N. envoy to Afghanistan.
His remarks contrast those of other experts and envoys, such as Reto Stocker, the outgoing head of the International Red Cross mission in the country, who said Monday that civilians remain in greater danger and with less hope for peace than when he arrived seven years ago.
Also on Monday, the Brussels-based International Crisis Group's senior Afghan analyst Candace Rondeaux warned of a "real risk that the regime in Kabul could collapse" after the NATO pullout.
She said the Afghan army and police are overwhelmed and underprepared for the transition and that if the upcoming presidential election is tainted by corruption, the unrest that could follow would push Afghanistan to a "breaking point.'
However, Kubis said he was encouraged by the work being done by the Afghan government, the election commission, civil society institutions and political forces to ensure the 2014 presidential election is free and fair.
The constitution bars Afghan President Hamid Karzai from running for a third term.
"We have no other intention but to support a good, democratic election in this country, including financial support," Kubis said, adding that it's still unclear how much money the international community will pledge to support the election.
Elsewhere in Afghanistan, clashes broke out between Taliban fighters and Afghan policemen in Archi district of Kunduz province in the north. Four policemen were killed, said provincial police spokesman Sarwar Hussaini.
The number of casualties among Afghan security forces has been on the rise as international forces draw down in numbers and the Afghan troops shift into a more frontline role in the war against the Taliban and other insurgent groups.
Civilians have also continued to suffer heavy casualties from bombings and targeted killings.
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