7 May 2003
Unstable, Insufficient Security in Afghanistan Casts Long Shadow over Peace Process, Special Representative Tells Security Council
Says Next Steps Require Security Throughout Country; Advocates Expansion of International Assistance Force Beyond Kabul
NEW YORK, 6 May (UN Headquarters) -- The issue of security in Afghanistan cast a long shadow over the whole peace process there and, indeed, over the whole future of the country, Secretary-General's Special Representative Lakhdar Brahimi said this morning, as he briefed the Security Council.
Amplifying concerns he had raised in January about the peace process facing a critical test this year against the backdrop of increasing security problems, Mr. Brahimi described the situation as still "unstable and insufficient". The deterioration stemmed from daily harassment and intimidation, inter-ethnic and inter-factional strife, increases in the activity of elements linked to the Taliban and Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, and the drug economy. Almost daily, attacks were occurring by elements hostile to the central Government and those who supported it, he said.
Forces believed to be associated with the Taliban, Al Qaeda, and Hekmatyar, he added, had been stepping up operations against the coalition, as well as against Afghan military and non-military targets in the south, south-east, and east of the country. The peace process was also being challenged by the fact that national security institutions were perceived by perhaps the majority of Afghans as not serving the broad national interests of all Afghans.
The International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) had provided security in Kabul, but now the rest of the country must experience increased security lest support for the Government and the process erode dangerously, he said. The electoral registration this year and the elections in 2004, the consultative process and the national debate on a new constitution would require sufficient security across the whole country.
He asked the Security Council, once again, to carefully consider what international measures were available to help ensure the security needed for the peace process to effectively proceed. Expanding ISAF beyond Kabul, as he and the Secretary-General had advocated, was part of a potential response.
No one expected the Bonn process to be easy, he said. The progress made thus far had been considerable, given the state of the country after three decades of instability, with more than two decades of brutal civil war. But, the international community must now be careful not to let the current threats to the peace process, and the growth in the number of Afghans who were becoming disaffected with the state of their nation, to undermine that progress. The benefits of peace were still largely centred on Kabul and a peace dividend still eluded the vast majority of Afghans, he said.
Mr. Brahimi outlined for the Council the main activities being conducted in Afghanistan, emphasizing that "security arises at every turn". Those included the drafting process for a constitution, the electoral process, drugs control, refugee return, census taking, returns to school, health, the functioning of a formal justice system, administrative reform, reconstruction, human rights, and security.
He recalled that, in January, given the need to safeguard the success of the Bonn process, the Government would have to register, with the support of the international community, significant progress in key areas, such as national reconciliation, the building of national security structures, and national reconstruction.
Although specific aspects of Bonn were proceeding, he said that the process as a whole had been challenged by the deterioration in the security environment, which stemmed from daily harassment and intimidation, inter-ethnic and inter-factional strife, increases in the activity of elements linked to the Taliban and Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, and the drug economy.
Turning to the question of a constitution, he said that an important step forward towards meeting the time frame set out in Bonn for convening the Constitutional Loya Jirga had been the inauguration of the Constitutional Commission by the former King on 26 April. That had represented the full ethnic, regional and religious diversity of the Afghan people. Over the summer months, the Commission would consult the public on their views related to the constitution. The United Nations would support and participate in those activities, which required a minimum of security on the roads and in the cities and villages. The Commission would finalize a draft constitution and present it to the Constitutional Loya Jirga for its consideration and ratification in October.
The elections called for under Bonn would be another major undertaking, he said. He was in the process of establishing electoral unit of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), and early planning for the national voter registration had begun. The elections would require substantial resources, since the registration and polling must reach every eligible Afghan across the country and in major refugee areas in a timely and equitable manner. A very substantial budget of about $80 million would be required. He urged donors and Member States to provide the necessary support for that fundamental exercise. Security would be even more vital for the preparation and organization of elections. Elections everywhere divided people and created tension; Afghanistan would not be an exception.
Concerning drug control, he said the Government had taken a step forward in what would be a long effort to control the poppy cultivation, which made Afghanistan the world's leading supplier of poppy. It was in the final stages of completing a 10-year National Drug Control Strategy, with the assistance of the United Kingdom as the lead nation. Clearly, Afghanistan would continue to be the largest opium producer in the world, despite the Government's dedication to eradicating the crop. It went without saying that opium production and the drug economy was a contributing factor to insecurity and, if unchecked, that had the potential to undermine much of the institution-building effort and the rule of law in Afghanistan.
Though not at the levels recorded during last year's massive return of refugees, the rate of assisted refugee returns had increased significantly in April, he said. That rise marked the beginning of the summer repatriation "season". The numbers returning from Pakistan had increased from under 3,000 in March to more than 26,000 in April. From Iran, more than 3,000 returnees in March had increased to a total of almost 13,000 in April. The Government and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) estimated that 600,000 Afghans would return this year from Pakistan, with 500,000 from Iran, and 100,000 from other countries. Also, there had been progress towards the national census, he noted.
In a moving display of determination and hope, the opening of schools on 22 March saw a record 4 million to 5 million children return to school, up from 3 million last year, he said. In 2003, the back-to-school campaign would focus on improving education quality and gender balance by undertaking a national reform exercise of the primary level curriculum and teacher training, and supporting the Ministry of Education to realize its goal of increasing girls' enrolment. Regarding health, the prospects for Afghan children should also be improved by the National Immunization Days vaccination campaign taking place in April and May.
He said that the Judicial Reform Commission had completed a survey of the state of the judiciary in 10 provinces and major urban centres. Its survey team had been focusing on the infrastructure and the functioning of the formal justice system. The final report of the survey would be available by the end of June and would provide a basis for projects in the judicial reform effort, which Italy had been assisting as a lead nation. Recently, the Commission inaugurated a training programme for 150 newly recruited judges and other graduates of the faculties of law and Shariat, which was an important step towards creating a permanent system of training for the justice system.
Progress towards reforming public administration, although slow to date, was now picking up speed, owing in large part to the growing role of the Civil Service Commission, he said. Draft decrees currently before the President covered guidelines for intra-ministerial administrative reforms and salary levels and allowances for public servants. United Nations support to provincial and district administrative bodies was being defined by the ongoing administrative reform reviews. The World Bank was currently supporting a review of administrative systems and capacity at the provincial level, while bilateral donors were also supporting a review of the structure and functions of the organizations within the Office of the President.
He noted that the level of pledges to the Afghanistan Reconstruction Trust Fund (ARTF), which channelled donor funding to the national budget, was currently not high enough to meet "urgent recurrent" budget needs. The Government had sought pledges of $600 million for the Fund for the current fiscal year, with a view to allocating approximately $250 million to the recurrent cost component and up to $350 million for investment projects. He urged donors to come forward early with the commitments, in order to meet urgent cash flow requirements and to help support the increasing role of the Government in budget and national priority setting.
Regarding the human rights situation, Mr. Brahimi said the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission had taken encouraging steps to expand its work programme and was actively investigating reports of human rights violations throughout the country. Afghanistan had also recently ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women -- which had sent an encouraging sign for greater promotion and protection of the rights of women -- and the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.
Despite gradual progress in some areas, however, the human rights situation remained serious throughout the country, he said. Continued insecurity and the absence of effective judicial institutions remained the rule, rather than the exception. Those conditions not only enabled local commanders and government officials to act with impunity, but also threatened to undermine the still fragile peace process. The correct route to follow was to help Afghanistan build the instruments and institutions necessary to end human rights violations, including creation of a national police and army, ensuring the rule of law and reviving the judicial system, and help the Independent Human Rights Commission to become a respected and effective watchdog.
Turning to the security situation, he said that rivalries between factions and local commanders, impunity for human rights violations and the daily harassment of ordinary citizens by commanders and local security forces were all too common. Forces believed to be associated with the Taliban, al Qaeda and Hekmatyar had been stepping up operations against the coalition. Also, no country in the world was as contaminated by landmines as Afghanistan. Every month, some 120 people fell victim to those "silent killers". Mr. Brahimi went on to cite examples of armed clashes and assassinations, including the murder in cold blood of an International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) worker in late March.
As attacks on non-governmental organizations and international organizations became more threatening, he continued, the pressure to suspend or withdraw operations increased. The United Nations would continue operations in all areas to the maximum extent possible, but it could not be guaranteed that United Nations and other civilian aid organizations would maintain current operational levels if the security of their personnel could not be assured. He expected a better exchange of information between the United Nations, coalition and government authorities and strengthened measures to improve security where civilian aid workers were operating.
Afghanistan's neighbours played a crucial role in helping to ensure security. There were worrying reports of hostile elements crossing into Afghanistan over eastern and southern borders. He said he had met with President Musharraf of Pakistan in March, who had reaffirmed his strong support to President Karzai. President Karzai had visited Islamabad, Pakistan, on 22 April. Insecurity was also exacerbated by the continuing occurrence of factional clashes. The ultimate solution to such problems lay in creating Afghan security forces capable of ensuring peace.
On 22 June, a disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programme would be started, but before that programme could start, the letter and spirit of the presidential decree of 1 December 2002 on the formation of the National Army needed to be implemented with respect to the reform of the Ministries of Defence and Interior and intelligence structures. The disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programme would only be successful if there was confidence among all Afghans that the new security structures would have room for them. There was also a heavy onus on the senior leaders of the Afghan military to ensure that the new army would be under civilian control. Factional leaders had to give up private armies, private jails, arbitrary arrests, brutality, corruption and discrimination.
Nascent security institutions could not be expected any time soon to provide desperately needed security, Mr. Brahimi said. The presence of ISAF had provided the stability in Kabul during the last 16 months, but now the rest of the country must experience increased security, lest support for the Government and the process erode dangerously. The electoral registration this year and the elections in 2004, the consultation process and the national debate on a new constitution are undertakings that require sufficient security across the whole of the country. The disarmament and demobilization, which are prerequisites for free and fair elections, could not succeed if local confidence was eroded by insecurity.
As shown from the recent incidents, insecurity outside Kabul "will creep into the capital", he said. Thus, he asked the Council, once again, to consider what international measures were available to help ensure security for the Bonn process to effectively proceed. In that regard, he advocated expansion of ISAF beyond Kabul.
The insecurity in the provinces could be better addressed by a strengthened Afghan police presence. A new structure for the Ministry of Interior, approved by the President, would streamline the institution and create a more efficient and clear line of command and control between Kabul and the provinces, separating provincial administration functions from those of the police. A to-be-created highway patrol would provide security along strategic and economically important roles. The Interior Minister also hoped to put together a rapid reaction police force.
No one expected the Bonn process to be easy, he said. The progress made thus far had been considerable, given the state of the country after three decades of instability, with more than two decades of brutal civil war. But, the international community must now be careful not to let the current threats to the peace process, and the growth in the number of Afghans who were becoming disaffected with the state of their nation, to undermine that progress. The benefits of peace were still largely centred on Kabul and a peace dividend still eluded the vast majority of Afghans, he said. Further progress in the Bonn process would stall if security was not extended to the regions, resulting in growing dissatisfaction. Reconstruction and recovery were also hampered by insecurity. That would contribute to a vicious cycle of further disaffection, increased crime and, in turn, further insecurity.
Those who did not oppose the peace process and who were committed to non-violent means must be provided with political space and equal opportunities, regardless of their political or ethnic affiliation to help the peace process along. President Karzai last week had reminded the country that there must be room in the political process for everyone, including people who might have served the Taliban regime. The Government had to act now. He hoped the Council, Afghanistan's neighbours, the international community and all who were engaged in the field would fully contribute their respective shares in supporting that major effort at a critical time.
* *** *