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Afghanistan: Foreign Ministers Urge Intensified Support For Reconstruction

In contrast to lingering divisions over Iraq, key Security Council members are showing a united front in support of reconstruction and stability efforts in Afghanistan. A high-level meeting on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly has reaffirmed this support with a call for greater international backing for Afghanistan's political reform efforts, including increased security.

United Nations, 25 September 2003 (RFE/RL) -- Foreign ministers from UN Security Council powers and Central Asia states have called for greater support for Afghanistan's reconstruction efforts and welcomed moves to expand security outside Kabul.

The ministers issued a communique yesterday expressing their support for the reform efforts of Afghan Transitional Administration Chairman Hamid Karzai. They called on his government to intensify efforts to achieve national reconciliation and national unity and to move forward on the drafting of a constitution.

The communique said the lack of security outside Kabul threatened the reform process and it welcomed NATO's discussions on expanding the UN-mandated security force beyond the capital. NATO currently leads the international force deployed in the capital.

The ministers also expressed concern over the continuing rule of factional commanders in some regions and the need for quick reforms to security services.

The statement followed a two-hour meeting attended by the top diplomats of nearly 20 states, including the five permanent Security Council members, leading donor nations, and Afghanistan's neighbors.

Karzai afterward called it a "wonderful" meeting and recounted the encouraging signals.

"In terms of the support for the expansion of ISAF, in terms of the announcement of support from countries, in terms of the support announced yesterday by [U.S.] President [George W.] Bush for us, in terms of other countries supporting that and pledging more help for Afghanistan. It was good."

Bush told the UN General Assembly on 23 September that he had asked the U.S. Congress for an extra $1.2 billion for Afghan reconstruction aid. Afghanistan also received pledges of support from Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, whose country holds the rotating European Union presidency, and Canada, among others.

German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder yesterday told the General Assembly that Afghanistan's political reform effort needs sustained international support.

Germany is training a new Afghan national police force. Schroeder indicated that his country might contribute troops to an expanded force there.

"Our top priority is our commitment to peace in Afghanistan," he said. "Germany is willing to maintain its commitment there in the long term and to increase it."

Germany has drafted, but not yet circulated, a Security Council resolution that would authorize an expansion of the International Security Assistance Force. It is expected to aim for such a move at the end of the year, when the ISAF mandate is up for renewal. Council members have been generally supportive of the idea of expanding the force under NATO's direction.

In the meantime, countries have begun contributing to provincial reconstruction teams, which are civil-military projects designed to aid in reconstruction, boost security, and extend the influence of the central government.

UN and Afghan officials have welcomed the teams but have repeatedly said a more robust security presence is needed outside Kabul.

The United States leads a separate coalition of about 10,000 forces concentrating on pursuing Al-Qaeda and Taliban fighters.

Karzai told the General Assembly's opening-day session that Afghanistan continues to face a threat from cross-border terrorism and extremism. There have been reports of Taliban forces massing in Pakistan for a new offensive, but Pakistan's President Pervez Musharraf dismissed the reports.

He told a press conference yesterday that Pakistan's forces control their borders with Afghanistan. But he stressed the difficulties in pursuing Al-Qaeda and Taliban fighters: "There are Taliban and there are Al-Qaeda -- probably on our side of the border -- but they are not in the form of holding lines, holding defenses where an army can launch an offensive and eliminate them or arrest them and take them into custody."

Musharraf said there is a mistaken impression that Pakistan could end the threat by taking conventional security measures. But he said the region in question, Pakistan's Northwest Frontier Province, is still largely without roads and inaccessible.

"There is no military operation here," he said. "The operation that is being conducted or required is an intelligence operation. Through an effective intelligence network you locate targets. Once you have located and confirmed them, you act with a quick reaction force, attack them, and get back."

Musharraf said his government needs to improve its aerial operations but that it is becoming increasingly effective in dealing with armed groups in the region.

Yesterday's ministerial meeting at the UN, while stressing security, also urged countries to renew funding for Afghanistan's vast reconstruction needs. The communique said it would be useful to hold an international reconstruction meeting early next year to review Afghanistan's reconstruction progress.