Geneva, Sept.15 : A Spanish diplomat with eight years experience in Afghanistan has claimed that conditions there are far worse now than they were in 2001.
Appealing for a concerted American and foreign response, even before a new American administration took office, to avoid "a very hot winter for all of us", diplomat Francesc Vendrell said the growing number of civilian deaths in attacks by American and international forces was particularly worrisome.
"Those deaths have created "a great deal of antipathy" and widened the distance between the Afghan government and citizens," the New York Times quoted him as saying here at an annual review of global strategy organized by the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies.
Vendrell recently stepped down as the European Union envoy in Kabul.
Vendrell warned that the situation was precarious among the Pashtun tribes who live mainly in southern Afghanistan, bordering Pakistan. He also said that the Taliban-led insurgency had spread not only to the east but also close to Kabul and, in pockets, to the north and west, hitherto relatively peaceful.
He charged the international community' with failure to engage either the Taliban or regional powers like Pakistan, Iran and India in the search for solutions
"Afghanistan could be facing "a very cold winter" that threatened to become "a very hot winter for all of us," he warned.
He urged that Afghan authorities and foreign agencies follow up any military successes against the Taliban with concrete assistance to convince local citizens that Westerners and the Kabul government can deliver security and at least some well-being.
Vendrell's audience included dozens of security and foreign policy specialists, as well as a smattering of American military officers and some government ministers, including Hoshyar Zebari, the Iraqi foreign minister.
His alarm about Afghanistan and Pakistan was echoed in conversations at the conference, and he also said that this would be the wrong time for international forces to abandon Afghanistan.