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Afghanistan: NATO Envoy Urges Donors To Pledge Generously

  • Ahto Lobjakas --> Hikmet Cetin, the top civilian NATO representative for Afghanistan, yesterday joined calls for generosity at the Berlin donors conference, which begins tomorrow. Speaking in Brussels last night, Cetin -- a former Turkish foreign minister -- said allowing the Afghan administration to have ample resources at its disposal is the best guarantee that the country will not devolve into fundamentalism and extremism.

Brussels, 30 March 2004 (RFE/RL) -- The message sent by NATO's top civilian envoy for Afghanistan to the alliance's members and the international community at large is simple -- the more you spend, the quicker you can leave.

Speaking in Brussels last night, Hikmet Cetin said he hopes the international community takes the opportunity at the Berlin donors conference this week to repeat its political commitments to Afghanistan. But just as importantly, Cetin said, participants should offer generous economic support.

Cetin cited figures compiled by the Afghan Transitional Administration, according to which the country needs $28 billion in the next seven years. He said that while the amount might appear excessive, that should not be so if put in the right perspective. "In my view, this amount is not too high when compared to the huge amount of military spending in Afghanistan. The arguments for [$28 billion] are the improvement of stability; and peace at national, regional, and global levels; the progressive lowering of defense spending of the international community in Afghanistan; the reduction of the risk of terrorist attacks; and the eradication of poppy cultivation," Cetin said.

Cetin said "Afghan ownership" of the stabilization and reconstruction effort is pivotal.

"Just to give you an example now -- the national military of Afghanistan is now around 8,000 and is planned to be 70,000 in 2011. But at the same time, there is an estimated 100,000 militia at the regional level, with heavy weapons, with rockets, with tanks, with everything."
Speaking of NATO's role in the country, Cetin said he has three demands. First, as NATO's stakes in Afghanistan are high, their preservation requires continuous political and military engagement. Second, although NATO does not lead the international effort in Afghanistan, it can foster greater coherence. Third, NATO must play a role in developing a comprehensive strategy for dealing with regional leaders and local warlords. This requires a strong government presence in the provinces, as well as strategies for their integration into the political mainstream.

Cetin said efforts in this direction are already under way under the heading of what are known as "security-sector reforms." "One of the [most] important of [those] is what we call DDR -- disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration," he said. "That means, of course, first, to ban all the military units of militia all over the country. [Their] number is about 100,000. Just to give you an example now -- the national military of Afghanistan is now around 8,000 and is planned to be 70,000 in 2011. But at the same time, there is an estimated 100,000 militia at the regional level, with heavy weapons, with rockets, with tanks, with everything."

Cetin said the key problem is to rid the country of warlords. He said he has in recent weeks and months held a series of meetings with Afghan authorities and representatives of the international community. As a result, an ambitious timetable has been laid out.

"We have agreed that that process will be accelerated. For example, until June this year, 40 percent of this militia -- or warlords -- will be decommissioned, completely decommissioned. That is the first phase. The second phase will be between June and the September elections. And the third and last phase, elections in September [through to] June 2005," Cetin said.

Cetin went on to note that the process could not work any faster because that would risk creating a power vacuum. He said the Afghan National Army needs to be present to take over from the militias. Cetin observed that the recent violence in Herat had set a good example for the central administration, which sent government troops to the region in response.

Cetin said breaking the grip of the warlords is very important if free and fair presidential and legislative elections are to be held in September. He appeared optimistic on winning greater "force generation" commitments from the NATO allies. Acknowledging persistent difficulties in delivering on promises, Cetin said he is "sure they will do better in the future."

He said that NATO and the U.S.-led Operation Enduring Freedom have agreed to a geographical division of labor in providing security for voter registration and the elections. The alliance will be in charge of the northern and northwestern provinces, while the coalition will secure the southern and southeastern areas.

Cetin also appealed to Afghanistan's neighbors not to undermine the country's stability. "I think the neighboring countries now, I think, understand that a secure and stable Afghanistan is also in their benefit in the future," he said. "I think now -- of course, mainly I talk with the ambassadors of Iran and Pakistan, several times in Kabul, with other ambassadors as well, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, China, and they have many, many neighbors of course, and Turkmenistan -- and we need their support. Because, as I have said, an independent, sovereign, democratic Afghanistan is important not only for Afghanistan, but also for the whole region and for the whole world."

Cetin said NATO itself needs to develop "cautious political parameters" for dialogue with Afghanistan's neighbors.