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UN: Envoy Warns Council On Afghan Security, Rights, Drugs

Afghanistan's Transitional Authority continues to struggle with security threats, especially in the north and southeastern regions, and progress to form a national army has been slow. These were the points raised yesterday at the UN Security Council by the UN's chief envoy in Afghanistan, Lakhdar Brahimi.

United Nations, 31 October 2002 (RFE/RL) -- The United Nations' chief envoy in Afghanistan, Lakhdar Brahimi, has called for more international support to provide security until training is complete for a national police and army.

Brahimi told the UN Security Council yesterday that the country's interim government continues to struggle with security threats, especially in the north and southeastern regions.

He said progress has been made in training a national police force, which has been led by German experts. But training for a national army has been slow. Brahimi cited the shortcomings of the National Defense Commission, which is composed of factional and regional leaders.

Brahimi said the Defense Ministry needs to be reformed and the various members of the defense commission need to integrate their armies within the national army. He said the training of a national army, started by the United States and France, should be integrated within a national training program, in cooperation with the Defense Ministry.

Brahimi appealed for resources from the international community to continue the training effort. "There will be no long-term solution to the security problems of Afghanistan unless, and until, a well-trained, well-equipped, and regularly paid national police and national army are in place," Brahimi said.

The Security Council has so far authorized a security force only for the Kabul region despite repeated requests by UN and Afghan officials for an expansion of the force. The council met in private after hearing Brahimi's address.

Brahimi also urged an impartial forensic investigation as soon as possible into the mass graves uncovered in the north of Afghanistan. He said UN officials are negotiating with forensic teams to carry out the investigation but that the experts are saying they will not be able to start until next spring because of adverse weather conditions in winter.

The UN envoy also expressed concern about human rights problems. He cited abuses against ethnic Pashtuns that have prevented them from returning to the northern provinces of Faryab, Sar-I Pul, and Jawzjan. "It is imperative for the transitional government and other forces committed to the reconstruction of the country to strengthen the idea that Afghanistan belongs to all of its citizens regardless of their ethnic origin or political affiliation," Brahimi said.

And he said despite the progress women have made, there are still frequent cases of forced marriages and a lack of response by law-enforcement authorities to reports of domestic violence and other abuses.

Brahimi attributed the ongoing human rights violations to the lack of security, a weak central government, warlordism, and a dysfunctional justice system.

The weak central government, Brahimi said, is also unable to restrict cultivation of opium poppies. The UN's Office for Drugs and Crime Prevention said last week that opium output in Afghanistan is expected to surge to about 3,400 tons this year.

Brahimi cited the Afghan government's formation of a new counternarcotics department, within the National Security Council, but said it will be years before opium is wiped out as a cash crop. "Expectations are that it will take the best part of a decade before opium production is eradicated, as strengthened legal and security measures and the creation of alternative livelihoods become effective realities," Brahimi said.

Tajikistan's UN ambassador, Rashid Alimov, told RFE/RL after Brahimi's briefing that containing neighboring Afghanistan's opium production is a major concern of his government. He referred to the nearly tenfold increase in border seizures of heroin in the past two years. "This is a very important and sensitive issue for all Central Asian republics, particularly for Tajikistan because, for example, two years ago, we stopped only 600 kilograms of heroin, but last year, 8 tons," Alimov said.

Alimov said containment of Afghanistan's opium production was discussed at length by UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan during his visit to Tajikistan last week. The Tajik ambassador said there was a need for the formation of an antidrug coalition consisting of Afghanistan's neighbors, the United States, the European Union, and Russia.