United Nations, 26 April 2002 (RFE/RL) -- Afghanistan's minister for women's affairs, Sima Samar, has appealed to the international community to bolster the security presence in her country to support the interim government as it seeks to carry out sweeping reforms.
Samar told the UN Security Council yesterday that Afghan security forces are not adequate to respond to threats throughout the country. She urged an expansion of the International Security Assistance Force, which the council authorized solely for the Kabul area.
"Without the immediate expansion of international peacekeeping forces, peace, democracy, reconstruction, and the restoration of women's rights and human rights will not be possible in our country."
Samar said women are particularly at risk in the absence of security, and continue to face violence. Afghan women were severely repressed under the rule of the fundamentalist Islamic Taliban regime and Samar said they still have fears of new imposition of what she called "Taliban-like restrictions."
Samar said the participation of women in the emergency Loya Jirga planned for June could also be undermined without a proper security presence.
"Women in Afghanistan are finally beginning to see a little light after a very long darkness but the gains that have been made in the last four months could easily be lost unless security is greatly improved."
The Loya Jirga is to consist of about 1,500 people, of whom about 1,000 will be elected indirectly by citizens. At least 160 women are assured of serving on the council and the figure could be higher, marking a sharp rise in the representation of women in Afghan political affairs.
But Samar repeatedly warned of instability jeopardizing the country's move toward democracy. She urged states to overcome their reluctance to send troops to an expanded security force, saying the benefits would far outweigh the risks in terms of regional stability.
Samar also called for donor countries to follow through on aid commitments to Afghanistan. Financial resources for the interim government, she said, would demonstrate to Afghans that peace can lead to a change in their living conditions.
"The international community must renew its commitment to come together collectively and decisively to root out the elements of instability and give sustained support to rebuilding the peace in Afghanistan and stabilizing the region."
The 5,000-member international security force currently deployed in the Afghan area is composed of troops from 18 countries. The United States, which has forces deployed elsewhere in Afghanistan, has pledged to support the international troops in the event of emergencies.
U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has said he has no objection to expanding the international force beyond Kabul. But he says other nations need to contribute the troops and pay the expenses for deploying them.
In yesterday's Security Council session, the UN Undersecretary-General for Political Affairs Kieran Prendergast also raised concerns about security. He cited a series of violent incidents throughout the country in the past month and said international aid flows have slowed, in part, because of donors' concerns about security.
"After so many years of war and civil war in Afghanistan, the political and humanitarian progress of the past several months is very encouraging. However, this progress is by no means assured. Security remains a major challenge in many parts of the country and substantial financial assistance is going to be required."
Prendergast said there are signs that the Afghan economy has begun to recover and that this recovery is reaching many civilians. He said the international community remains focused on meeting basic humanitarian needs but the country now requires increased reconstruction aid.