28 February 2002
Afghanistan Political Progress Faster Than Expected; Security Threats Remain, Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs Tells Security Council
NEW YORK, 27 February (UN Headquarters) -- Political progress in Afghanistan had occurred at a rate faster than expected, the Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, Kieran Prendergast, told the Security Council this morning, during a briefing on the situation in that country.
The next landmark on the road to stability mapped out in the Bonn process would be the convening of an emergency Loya Jirga on 22 June, he continued. The Commission for Convening the Emergency Loya Jirga, established by the Bonn process, had made progress in formulating rules and procedures, which would be announced on 21 March, the New Year in Afghanistan. Commission members visiting the provinces had met with overwhelming support for the Loya Jirga, including support for participation of women.
A second priority task, namely, re-establishing of the civil service, was also progressing, he said. The Interim Authority and the Office of Lakhdar Brahimi, the Secretary-General's Special Representative, had turned their attention to the establishment of the Judicial Commission and the Human Rights Commission, which would provide for the foundations of the rule of law.
Regarding security, he said the authority of the Interim Administration had been sufficiently respected to prevent a widespread return to warlordism during two recent security threats in Mazar-i-Sharif and Gardez. At the same time, it was being increasingly challenged in other areas. The International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), which had reached its full capacity on 18 February with 4,500 troops, remained limited to Kabul, while main threats to the Interim Authority emanated from the provinces. There was a continuing danger, therefore, that the existing security apparatus, both Afghan and international, might not adequately address the security threats that were currently discernable.
The meeting started at 10:35 a.m. and adjourned at 11 a.m.
KIERAN PRENDERGAST, Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, said the resilience of the emerging embryonic political institutions in Afghanistan was being tested and the nature of the challenges faced was coming into focus. Political progress had occurred at a rate faster than expected by most people. The next landmark on the road to stability mapped out in the Bonn process would be the convening of an emergency Loya Jirga on 22 June. Whether or not that Loya Jirga was held in a climate free of intimidation would depend on whether or not Afghanistan's nascent institutions were able to impose themselves now against threats of disorder.
The Commission for Convening the Emergency Loya Jirga, established by the Bonn process, had made progress in formulating rules and procedures, which would be announced on 21 March, the New Year in Afghanistan. Commission members had been visiting provinces of the country to solicit advice from Afghans about how to make the Loya Jirga as representative and fair as possible. They had met with overwhelming support for the Loya Jirga, including support for participation of women. The Commission had been able to operate without interference from outside parties, but there had been
reports of lobbying and distribution of money by powerful figures. Mr. Brahimi's Office was monitoring the progress closely. Thanks to $500,000 from the United Kingdom's Government, the Commission had been allowed to start its work immediately.
A second priority task, namely, re-establishing the civil service, was also progressing, he said. The Interim Administration had been able to pay salaries in January and February, thus sending a signal about the reliability of the Authority. He reminded delegates that Lakhdar Brahimi had urged immediate delivery of millions of additional dollars. Without those millions available today, the billions pledged in Tokyo might be of much less use.
The Interim Authority and Mr. Brahimi's Office had turned their attention to the establishment of the Judicial Commission and the Human Rights Commission, which would provide for the foundations of the rule of law. The diplomacy of Chairman Hamid Karzai and his Administration had also been important. Most heartening had been the positive reaction to the Bonn process by the Afghans themselves, expressed, among other things, through the number of Afghan refugees voluntarily returning to the country.
Regarding security, he said, despite progress, the Interim Authority had recently been faced with two major security threats in Mazar-i-Sharif and Gardez. In both situations, however, the authority of the Interim Administration had been sufficiently respected by political and military players outside of Kabul to prevent a widespread return to warlordism. At the same time, the Interim Authority was being increasingly challenged in other areas.
In Kabul, the crime rate had fallen, he continued. That improvement was in no small part due to the performance of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), which had reached its full capacity on 18 February and had 4,500 troops. The ISAF had also begun the training of the first battalion of the new Afghan army. Creation of a police force had been advanced by a meeting on international support for the Afghan police force in Berlin, Germany, on 13 February.
At the same time, ISAF remained limited to Kabul, while the main threats to the Interim Authority emanated from the provinces. There was a continuing danger, therefore, that the existing security apparatus, both Afghan and international, might not adequately address the security threats that were currently discernable. He reiterated that the question of security continued to be foremost concern, and the manner in which it was addressed by the international community and the Afghans together might well determine in the near future the success or not of the Bonn process.
Turning to the humanitarian situation, he said the United Nations and non-governmental organizations were continuing to solidify their presence throughout the country, increasing their ability to reach the most vulnerable. The arrival of a third Hercules aircraft was bolstering the ability of aid agencies to deliver non-food items. Tajikistan had confirmed that an additional five border crossings would be opened up to speed the delivery of humanitarian assistance. Aid agencies, in collaboration with the Interim Administration, would start a programme to help those displaced within Afghanistan and refugees in foreign countries return to their homes.
Following the launch of a pilot programme, he said, the main refugee return programme was tentatively scheduled to start in early April. However, a new wave of refugees from Afghanistan to Pakistan highlighted a chronic lack of stability in the region. Hundreds continued to arrive everyday, many of them, according to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), ethnic Pashtuns fleeing human rights abuses.
He then outlined the World Food Programme efforts to distribute food throughout the country - noting that it had delivered more than 325,000 metric tons of food aid into Afghanistan since last October. Tomorrow, the updated financial requirements for the International Transitional Assistance Programme would become available and would highlight the immediate humanitarian needs in Afghanistan for 2002. He called on the international community to continue to support the Interim Authority and the people of Afghanistan.
Discussing developments related to the United Nations mission, he said the new Deputy Special Representative, Nigel Fisher, had arrived in Kabul on 14 February and would lead the United Nations effort for relief, recovery and reconstruction. It was hoped that the deputy for the political side would be appointed soon. A human rights adviser had arrived in the country, he noted, adding that an Afghan human rights workshop would be held in conjunction with a visit to Kabul by High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson. Concluding, he recognized and praised the Council's efforts in helping Afghanistan return to stability.
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