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Afghanistan: Group Urges Muslim Representation In Postwar Force

By Nataliya Khyzhnyak

A group of foreign policy specialists is urging the United States to make certain that Muslim nations are represented in a multinational force that might be assembled in Afghanistan. The group made its recommendation in a report made public at a seminar in Washington.

Washington, 5 December 2001 (RFE/RL) -- Foreign policy specialists say the U.S. should make sure that Muslim nations are well represented in any multinational security force that is assembled in Afghanistan once the current war ends.

The analysts -- members of the International Crisis Group (ICG), a private multinational research institution -- are making this recommendation in presenting a report on how they expect the U.S. will help conduct the political, social, and economic reconstruction of the country. They presented their report on 4 December at a seminar in Washington.

While the report says the security forces should include troops from Muslim countries, it stresses that these soldiers should not come from countries that are Afghanistan's neighbors for fear that the conflict there could spread. The document also recommends that this international force should be carefully regulated by the United Nations.

The report also discussed other aspects of reconstructing Afghanistan.

One of the ICG analysts is Michael O'Hanlon, who also studies foreign affairs at the Brookings Institution, a Washington think tank. O'Hanlon said the U.S. should adopt a regional approach to postwar Afghanistan because there has never been an effective central government in the country, and because there are so many distinct ethnic groups there: "I do believe there should be an integrated aid plan that provides a fair amount of assistance to the central government, and allows the central government to be involved in dispersing it, but also a quite a bit of assistance at the regional level. And the level of regional aid could be conditioned on the behavior of these regional governments."

Another ICG analyst at the seminar, Steven Cohen, also of the Brookings Institution, agreed. He said Afghanistan is well armed, but has historically lacked a central military authority. He suggested modeling Afghanistan's postwar security forces on those in South Africa -- a country that recently underwent a complete and successful shift in its power structure.

"There are some important lessons to be learned from around the world," he said. "The way in which the South Africans manage to bring together white South Africans, black South Africans and create a very tough professional army might be a model for Afghanistan."

Otherwise, he said, Afghanistan would revert to its old system under which each province would be ruled by a warlord whose military activities would be financed by the narcotics trade. This, Cohen said, would be unacceptable both for the Afghan people and for the rest of the world.

Besides security, the ICG report also addresses how the organization believes the U.S. should give humanitarian aid to Afghanistan and help to reconstruct the nation's civil infrastructure.

On humanitarian aid, the ICG report said Washington should focus on improving the country's educational system as well as its media and communications, and should focus in particular helping to solve Afghanistan's drug problem.

The group said it expects the U.S. will spend about $6 billion on Afghan reconstruction during the next five years.