Aiming to fully harness United Nations efforts in support of political stability and recovery in Afghanistan, Secretary-General Kofi Annan has proposed setting up a new UN mission for the country, according to a report released today in New York. “Afghanistan is a shattered society,” the Secretary-General writes in his report to the General Assembly and the Security Council, noting that it will take “much more than 36 months to heal the wounds left by 23 years of war.” He calls for sustained international efforts to help Afghanistan, which “now has the chance at least to be a country at peace with its neighbours and itself.” If established by the Security Council, the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) would fulfil all tasks – including those related to human rights, the rule of law, and gender issues – that were entrusted to the UN under last year’s Bonn Agreement, which paved the way for the country’s political transition. The mission would also promote national reconciliation throughout the country, while managing all UN humanitarian activities there in coordination with the Afghan Interim Authority and successor administrations. In an effort to ensure that Afghans themselves benefit most from the international presence, the Secretary-General stresses that UNAMA should employ as many local staff as possible, “thereby leaving a light expatriate ‘footprint.’” The proposed mission, to be headed by Lakhdar Brahimi, Mr. Annan’s Special Representative for Afghanistan, would be comprised of two “pillars:” one for political affairs, and the other for relief, recovery and reconstruction. Both pillars will coordinate their work to ensure it is mutually reinforcing, according to the report. Concerning political developments in the country, the Secretary-General notes the importance of the upcoming Emergency Loya Jirga, and urges Afghan leaders to recognize that dialogue and compromise with political rivals depends not on international financial assistance, but on the will and courage to transcend ethnic and regional parochialism in favour of national unity and lasting peace.Stressing the importance of security in protecting the peace process, the Secretary-General says “speed is of the essence” in deciding what form of security assistance the Security Council and Member States will provide to Afghanistan in its hour of need. The Council is scheduled to hold a public meeting on Afghanistan next Tuesday, and its members will discuss the Secretary-General’s report in closed consultations on Wednesday.