12 November 2003


NEW YORK, 11 November (UN Headquarters) -- The leader of the recent Security Council mission to Afghanistan reported this morning that progress was being made in a wide variety of areas, including on preparations for the constitutional Loya Jirga, but added that insecurity posed a challenge to full implementation of the peace agreement.

Gunter Pleuger (Germany) briefed the Council on the results of the mission, which took place from 31 October to 7 November. The mission’s terms of reference (document S/2003/930) included:  underscoring the international community’s unwavering commitment to the peace and reconstruction process in the country; reviewing progress achieved in implementation of the Bonn Agreement; reviewing the humanitarian and human rights situation; and conveying a strong message to regional and factional leaders about the need to reject all violence, condemn extremist, terrorist and illegal drug activities, and promote inter-ethnic reconciliation.

Mr. Pleuger said the mission came at a critical juncture of the two-year-old Bonn peace process, as it coincided with the release of the draft constitution. Despite continuing ethnic divisions and factional fighting, there did not appear to be any separatist tendency in Afghanistan.  But, Afghan interlocutors had voiced an increasing frustration about the lack of a peace dividend, particularly in the provinces.

He said the mission had noted progress made in many areas, including the launch of a new national currency, ongoing reconstruction of roads, start of a national disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programme, and preparations for the constitutional Loya Jirga.  Notwithstanding those gains, insecurity caused by terrorist activities, factional fighting and drug-related crime remained the major concern of Afghans today.

In too many areas of Afghanistan, individuals and communities suffered from abuses of their basic rights by local commanders and factional leaders, he continued.  Judicial institutions remained weak and the narcotics economy was largely unchecked.  Successfully addressing those challenges would ultimately depend upon the further expansion of the authority of the central Government.  Recent expansion of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) mandate was unanimously welcomed.  However, the envisioned deployment of a German Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) to Kunduz was considered insufficient, and interlocutors called for ISAF deployment throughout Afghanistan.

In the south, south-east and east provinces, insecurity was greatly exacerbated by terrorist attacks from suspected Taliban, Al Qaeda and supporters of Gubudeen Kematyar, Mr. Pleuger continued.  Those elements posed a threat to the Afghan National Army and had significantly slowed reconstruction.  That, in turn, increased the risk that the predominantly Pashtun population would become marginalized.  Many Afghans had spoken of instability caused by Taliban, and Al Qaeda believed to be crossing the border into Afghanistan.  However, Pakistani authorities had assured the mission that Pakistan was doing its utmost to control its border and emphasized the need for further international assistance in that regard.

In too many areas of the country, the arbitrary control exercised by local commanders and factional armies had resulted in heavy casualties, he said.  In meetings with provincial officials and factional leaders in Herat and Mazar-i-Sharif, the mission had emphasized cooperation between the provinces and the central Government, as well as the need for respect of human rights.  In a meeting with Atta Mohammad and Abdulrashid Dostum, the mission had underlined the need to implement reforms, including integration of local forces into a national force and demilitarization of Mazar-i-Sharif.

He said drug production and trafficking fed terrorism, criminality and corruption, according to President Hamid Karzai and others, Mr. Pleuger said.  The magnitude of the problem could lead to Afghanistan becoming a “narco-State”.  Finance Minister Ghani had urged the international community to provide prosecutable evidence that would contribute to the isolation of the perpetrators.  There was also a need for increased cooperation from neighbouring States, and drug-control efforts had to be extended beyond Afghanistan.

The mission was impressed by the positive contribution of ISAF to security in Kabul and the role of the United Kingdom PRT in Mazar-I-Sharif.  He said initiatives to accelerate security sector reform and the development of the national police, which had received additional assistance from the United States, were of particular importance in providing the environment for further political progress.  In that context, the Minister of the Interior highlighted the importance of providing regular funding to the Law and Order Trust Fund (LOFTA), to provide salaries of police officers.

With the appointment of 22 new senior level officials, the first step in the reform of the Ministry of Defence had been taken.  That progress allowed the pilot phase of the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration process (DDR) to commence in Kunduz.  The mission invited the Afghan Transitional Administration to complete the reform process and extend it to other key institutions, starting with the Ministry of the Interior and intelligence services.

To date, he said, the benchmarks of the Bonn peace process had been attained broadly on schedule.  However, for the critical constitutional Loya Jirga and elections, the conditions were not yet in place, awaiting reconciliation, developed political parties, reformed institutions, the diminution of the power of factional leaders, security and funding.  A time gap before parliamentary elections were conducted had, therefore, been welcomed, though the mission underscored the need to hold such elections as soon as possible after presidential elections.

The mission, he said, also met with representatives of civil society and the Afghan Human Rights Commission, who described pervasive abuse of a broad range of basic human rights.  Non-governmental organization and civil society leaders called for the establishment of a mechanism for transitional justice and the deployment of human rights monitors, saying it was unacceptable that perpetrators of grave human rights violations continued to hold high public office.  Senior Afghan Transitional Administration officials suggested, however, that the country was at present too weak to face “the challenges of the past”.

In discussions with the Minister of Women’s Affairs and civil society, the mission, he said, learned that the rights of women, particularly their active participation in social, political and economic spheres, continued to be seriously hampered by culture and the lack of security.

Summing up the mission’s recommendations, he said that all factional forces must be withdrawn from Kabul as a matter of urgency.  In addition, more money should be committed to the LOTFA and institutional reform should be extended.  He also supported a follow-up conference to the Bonn process early next year, and the initiation of a process of national reconciliation.  It should ensure broad and universal participation in the peace process, in particular, with regard to the role of women.  Finally, he thanked the Afghan Transitional Administration and the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) for their hospitality.

The meeting, which started at 10:17 a.m., was adjourned at 10:50 a.m.

* *** *