With the continuing collapse of Taliban authority, the UN Security Council last night swiftly endorsed a blueprint for a political settlement in Afghanistan. The council also encouraged other nations to contribute to security measures inside Afghanistan but does not foresee any immediate mandate for an international force.
United Nations, 15 November 2001 (RFE/RL) -- The UN Security Council unanimously adopted a resolution last night that affirms support for an Afghan political reform process outlined recently by UN envoy Lakhdar Brahimi, but it stops short of authorizing a multinational force.
The adopted resolution -- submitted by Britain and France --- calls on Afghans, both within their country and in the Afghan diaspora, to cooperate with Brahimi in helping to set up a transitional government and to refrain from acts of reprisal.
The resolution also encourages UN member states to support efforts to ensure the safety and security of the areas of Afghanistan no longer under Taliban control.
Britain and France pledged to contribute troops, if needed. But London's ambassador to the United Nations, Jeremy Greenstock, told reporters yesterday there will be no mandated security arrangements for Afghanistan in the near future: "I don't think you should think of an early mandate to authorize an international coalition of the kind that we put into East Timor or the kind that we put into the Balkans, let alone the Gulf War. I think it will be a more evolving, inter-changing, inter-playing provision of security from outside that works alongside with the Afghan forces that are already making gains there."
The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, John Negroponte, said the resolution provides enough authority for coalition troops already in Afghanistan to help maintain law and order in Kabul and in areas vacated by fleeing Taliban forces: "The importance is that it welcomes efforts by those members of the coalition who either are in Afghanistan at the moment or are prepared to do so to help ensure security in that country, especially the capital of Kabul."
Brahimi had recommended an international force for Afghanistan in an address to the council on 13 November. He said such a force is needed to maintain stability during what he said could be intensive political deliberations by parties representing all of Afghanistan's main ethnic and regional groups.
The UN envoy -- after consultations with a wide range of Afghans -- is proposing that a conference of major Afghan groups be held immediately. The conference should set in motion the selection of a transitional administration. At the same time, a Loya Jirga -- or assembly of tribal elders -- would be held to make security arrangements and draw up a constitution.
Brahimi's offer to play the lead role in guiding this process has been backed by Afghanistan's neighbors under the "Six-plus-Two" grouping, as well as by Security Council members. But Brahimi stresses that he does not believe UN peacekeepers have a role at this point.
UN spokesman Fred Eckhard yesterday stressed that any international force deployed in Afghanistan would be based on arrangements made among member states: "The UN isn't doing the recruiting, and the UN is not going to be paying the troops. This would be an effort that would have to be led by one or more member states."
Diplomats at the United Nations have said a possible multinational force, which would eventually be approved by the Security Council, could include soldiers from Turkey, Jordan, Bangladesh, and European nations.
To keep pace with events on the ground, UN officials are planning to send political envoy Francesc Vendrell and regional humanitarian coordinator Michael Sackett to Kabul on 16 November.
They have also arranged for a meeting on the same day in New York of the Group of 21, which last met three years ago, and representatives of the Organization of the Islamic Conference. The Group of 21 was first convened in 1996 by former UN Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali. It includes members of the "Six-plus-Two" group, as well as countries seen as having an influence in Afghan affairs, including India, Turkey, Kyrgyzstan, and Kazakhstan.
Meanwhile, official media in the United Arab Emirates say the government there has offered to host the first meeting of Afghan representatives, but UN officials say the site of the meeting has not yet been confirmed.
The resolution adopted by the Security Council last night also urges the 189 UN member states to provide urgent humanitarian assistance to alleviate the suffering of the Afghan people.
Ravan Farhadi, an envoy for the Afghan opposition, reiterated the need for such assistance in comments to the United Nations General Assembly last night: "Today, Afghanistan finds itself in a major humanitarian crisis, a crisis that the world has not witnessed in recent times. With winter approaching, our people are facing famine and our people will die, because they do not have enough food to sustain them through the winter. Many aid agencies began leaving Afghanistan after it became evident that the bombing campaign would begin."
Farhadi also expressed "deep regret" for any acts of reprisal that may have been committed by opposition forces against Taliban supporters. He called such incidents "isolated" cases.
Farhadi said the Northern Alliance is committed to building a broad-based post-Taliban government and has no intention of monopolizing power. He called for all Afghan ethnic groups to have representation in a new political framework developed under UN supervision.