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UN: Special Envoy Recommends Expansion Of Force Beyond Kabul

  • Robert McMahon

United Nations, 7 February 2002 (RFE/RL) -- UN special envoy Lakhdar Brahimi has asked the United Nations Security Council to urgently consider expanding the international security force for Afghanistan.

Brahimi told the council yesterday that recent clashes between armed Afghan groups in the cities of Gardez and Mazar-i-Sharif demonstrate how fragile the situation remains in the country.

He said humanitarian agencies do not have access to a number of areas, especially in the east and north, because of security concerns. The huge refugee population has begun moving back into Afghanistan, Brahimi said, further demonstrating the need for security nationwide.

He said the security situation in Kabul has improved in large part due to the presence of the International Security Assistance Force, known as ISAF.

"This has led to increasingly vocal demands by ordinary Afghans as well as by members of the interim administration and even warlords for the expansion of ISAF to the rest of the country. We tend to agree with these demands and hope that this will receive favorable and urgent consideration by the Security Council."

Brahimi did not estimate how many troops would be needed and later told reporters the scale of any further deployment would have to be decided by experts.

The Security Council has authorized up to 5,000 troops for the international force in the Kabul region and it is expected to reach full strength by the end of this month.

Western experts on the situation in Afghanistan have said from 20,000 to 35,000 international troops would be needed for any nationwide security mission. But reaching such levels could prove difficult if the council expanded ISAF's mandate.

European nations, which form the core of the British-led international force, have indicated they cannot contribute many more troops. The United States, which continues to pursue separate operations against Taliban and Al-Qaeda forces in Afghanistan, has said it will not contribute to the force.

In his comments to the Security Council, Brahimi also spoke of the need for international help in creating a national police and army for Afghanistan. He said Britain and Germany are engaged in helping with the development of a police force and that ISAF troops later this month will begin training a national guard battalion of 600 soldiers.

Brahimi said the Afghan people are preoccupied with the issue of security and know they will depend heavily on the international community for help in the foreseeable future.

"The Afghan people are tired, indeed exhausted, by conflicts that have destroyed their country and threatened the very existence of their nation. They want peace and they know that they still need the support of their friends and neighbors as well as the support of the international community as a whole."

Addressing the council earlier, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan also stressed the need for international donors to follow through quickly with their financial pledges. Annan said the $4.5 billion pledged at the recent Tokyo aid conference was a signal of strong support for the political process so far begun by the interim administration under Chairman Hamid Karzai.

But Annan said Karzai's administration needs money immediately to be able to pay public servants, a key element in building a stable government.

"Without resources, the administration will quickly lose credibility and will be unable to extend its authority elsewhere in the country, thereby undermining the chances of success for the longer-term peace process."

Security and stability in the interim administration are crucial for the planning of an emergency Loya Jirga, or traditional grand council. Under the terms of the UN-brokered peace agreement, Karzai is to serve as interim head until June when the Loya Jirga is to be held to select a replacement government that will serve for 18 months until elections are held.

Brahimi says the 21-member special commission formed to organize the Loya Jirga has begun meeting already and so far has been well received by Afghans.

Brahimi says UN officials will now focus on helping Karzai's administration form a judicial commission and a human rights commission, as called for in the Bonn peace agreement.