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Afghanistan: U.S. Envoy Says Washington Satisfied With Preparations For Loya Jirga

  • Charles Recknagel

U.S. Special Envoy for Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad said in Kabul today that Washington is satisfied with preparations for the Loya Jirga, despite the likelihood that some known warlords will be among the delegates. Khalilzad said the elections for delegates to the assembly had to balance Afghanistan's need for peace with its need for justice if the country is to move ahead toward forming a new government.

Kabul, 4 June 2002 (RFE/RL) -- Washington's special envoy to Afghanistan said today that the U.S. government views the likely presence of several key warlords in the emergency Loya Jirga as something that may have to be tolerated if the country is to move ahead with forming a new government.

Zalmay Khalilzad, who spoke to reporters in Kabul today, said that in the past weeks of local elections to choose delegates to the assembly, Afghans have had to weigh their desire for peace against their desire for justice. And, for now, that could mean accepting that some notorious figures will participate in the gathering, which starts on 10 June.

"You have to remember that there are two things with regards to issues of participation and involvement of people. One is the requirement of peace and the other is the requirement of justice. The Afghans have to find the right balance -- the timing of things -- in terms of their national interest, which I think includes both peace and justice," Khalilzad said.

Khalilzad's statement comes as several leaders of Afghanistan's many armed factions look set to become delegates to the Loya Jirga from areas they control. The best-known is ethnic Uzbek General Abdul Rashid Dostum, held responsible by many Afghans for the deaths of civilians during the country's last decades of warfare.

Dostum won in a district poll and is expected to be on the final list of delegates that has yet to be released by the United Nations-assisted Special Independent Commission for Convening of the Emergency Loya Jirga. The list will contain the names of delegates chosen in a second round of voting that is due to be completed nationwide by the middle of this week.

Khalilzad called the likely presence of some commanders a reflection of Afghanistan's fragmentation and the difficulty that poses for moving from "the rule of the gun" to a democratic future. He said that seeking justice must be part of Afghanistan's reconciliation process, but that it may depend on the country's rebuilding its state institutions first, including a national army and police force.

The U.S. envoy said he is encouraged that Afghanistan is making progress toward developing national structures and that the process will accelerate with the holding of next week's assembly. The emergency Loya Jirga is to approve the head of state and government for a transitional authority to lead the country to national elections within two years. The assembly also will agree on the structure for a legislative branch and approve a chief justice for the Supreme Court.

Turning to the issue of a national army, the U.S. envoy said that efforts to train a first core group of 600 soldiers have been successful. The unit will deploy for one of its first missions as it helps assure security for the emergency Loya Jirga along with members of the more than 4,000-strong International Security Assistance Force.

But Khalilzad said that the process of developing a full-scale national Afghan army will be lengthy and challenging because it requires creating a force that is both reliable and acceptable to all of the country's many peoples. He said that Washington supports Afghanistan's next government's -- due to take power on 22 June -- creating a special defense commission to assure that the army is representative.

The U.S. envoy also said that establishing the national army and police force will pose tough questions as to when they should take over security functions that are now in the hands of the country's various regional and factional leaders. "This is going to be a difficult process because as the new armed forces gets built up, which will take time. There are activities of security and in terms of law and order that have to be performed in the meantime. In Afghanistan and some of the cities in particular, these functions are being performed by the local armed forces," Khalilzad said.

As the U.S. envoy looked ahead to some of the challenges facing Afghanistan's next administration, he also called for international donors to speed the delivery of economic aid the country needs for reconstruction and the creation of jobs.

He said that international economic aid currently is focused on revitalizing the country's agriculture and its health and education systems, and that it is showing good results in these sectors. But he expressed concern over funding shortfalls now being experienced by UN and associated humanitarian agencies.

"I would like to use this opportunity to call on countries around the world who have made pledges of support both on the humanitarian front as well as on the reconstruction front to honor those pledges -- in other words, to transfer the money as soon as possible," Khalilzad said.

Early this week, a top UN official said that international donors so far have provided UN organizations less than 50 percent of what the agencies requested for Afghanistan at January's Tokyo aid conference.

Nigel Fisher, the deputy special representative of the secretary-general, said on 2 June that the UN agencies' budgets are being severely strained by the high numbers of Afghan refugees and internally displaced people returning home since the start of the year.

Fisher called the flood of returnees a positive sign that Afghans are optimistic for the future. But he warned that humanitarian agencies will have to cut back on services to the returnees unless additional funds are received rapidly.

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