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AFGHANISTAN: NATO takes over ISAF command

KABUL , 11 August 2003 (IRIN) - As NATO took over command of international peacekeeping forces from Germany and The Netherlands in Kabul on Monday, locals and aid agencies expressed disappointment on learning that the operations of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) would not be extended beyond the Afghan capital.

"People will be frustrated and will not believe in rehabilitation and development if ISAF is not expanded to other cities of Afghanistan," Zalmai Nejrabi, told IRIN following NATO's takeover of the ISAF.

The 40-year-old businessman said Kabul was already secure enough, noting that with a 5,000-strong trained national army and police force, law and order in the city was satisfactory. "Kabul is much better than last year, while there is a deteriorating security situation in many provinces," he said, urging the government to bring pressure to bear on NATO to extend its mandate to other key cities.

Prior to taking over ISAF, NATO announced that the new command would continue to observe the UN mandate limiting its operations to the confines of Kabul and surrounding areas. "There has been no formal discussion in NATO about expanding its mandate," Mark Laity, a NATO special adviser and spokesman, told IRIN in Kabul, noting that ISAF's role would also remain unchanged. "What changes is the means by which the international community meets its commitment to ensure greater stability," he said.

Meanwhile, aid agencies have again called on ISAF to expand its mandate as a matter of urgency. "We continue to hope that the international community will address the deteriorating security outside Kabul," Sally Austin, an assistant country director for the US-based CARE international aid agency, told IRIN on Monday.

To date, the only show of support for building up security outside Kabul was represented by the US-led-coalition's Provincial Reconstruction Teams, she added, noting, however, that these teams lacked both the resources and the mandate needed to enable them contribute effectively to either reconstruction or security.

According to a joint statement issued by the Agency Coordinating Body for Afghan Relief (ACBAR), the takeover of the ISAF command by NATO had been an ideal opportunity to review and expand the ISAF mandate beyond Kabul. "Can the international community and Afghanistan afford to lose this opportunity?" asked ACBAR, which represents many Afghan and international organisations in Afghanistan.

ACBAR maintained that NATO had the command structure, resources, ability and personnel to allow for a strategic expansion to key urban areas and to secure transport networks until such time as a professional and adequately paid Afghan national police and army were in place. "Even if the mandate is expanded immediately, an expanded ISAF will take an estimated six months to put [itself] in place [beyond Kabul]; if further delayed, any impact on security will not take place until next year," the statement said.

But NATO’S spokesman said such discussion was premature. "I can't imagine that we will want to debate this issue until we are very confident that we are settled in fulfilling the existing mandate," he said, conceding, however, that if people kept raising this question, then it would become inevitable at some stage that an answer would have to be found.

Themes: (IRIN) Conflict

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