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06 February 2002

U.N. Envoy Says Afghanistan Needs Aid Now

(Lakhdar Brahimi says fragile situation needs bolstering) (980)
By Judy Aita
Washington File United Nations Correspondent
United Nations -- U.N. special envoy Lakhdar Brahimi said February 6
that "time is really of the essence" in increasing international aid
contributions to Afghanistan and enlarging the International Security
Assistance Force (ISAF) in the country.
In a speech to the Security Council, Brahimi said that "Afghanistan
has gone some way on the road toward peace and stability" since the
agreement between Afghan's factions was reached in Bonn two months ago
and the Interim Administration was inaugurated "a mere 6 or 7 weeks
ago."
"But the road is still very long and fraught with danger. The Afghan
people are tired -- indeed exhausted -- by the conflicts that have
destroyed and threatened the very existence of their country," he
said. "They want peace. And they know that they still need the support
of their friends and neighbors, as well as the support of the
international community as a whole."
"They know -- even the most modest amongst them -- that in mobilizing
and channeling that help, the United Nations has a central role to
play," Brahimi said.
Brahimi said he could not over-emphasize the need for the pledges made
at the Tokyo conference to be followed up with actual cash now. "The
Interim Administration can count only on the generosity of the
international community to help it find the means with which to begin
the reconstruction of the country as soon as possible," he said.
It is important, Brahimi said, "to avoid a situation in which a large
number of funds are to be available in the future, but very little is
actually in hand for the urgent work that needs to be done now."
At the Tokyo conference donors pledged more than $4,500 million for
five years.
In his remarks to the council, Secretary General Kofi Annan said that
in analyzing the pledges the United Nations saw "critical gaps" and
stressed that "the international community must rise to the challenge
today and then stay engaged for the long haul."
"The conference focused on long-term needs, but the Afghan Interim
Administration needs money today, for example, to pay the salaries of
public servants," the secretary general said. "Indeed, help is
desperately needed right now."
"Without resources, the administration will quickly lose credibility
and will be unable to extend its authority elsewhere in the country,
thereby undermining the chances of success of the longer-term peace
process," Annan said.
Brahimi said that the contribution made by the UN Development Program
to help pay civil servants' salaries in January "went a long way
toward enhancing the Interim Administration's credibility."
"But a great deal more money will be required in order to ensure that
the Interim Administration can continue to pay salaries in the coming
months and provide the bare minimum that people everywhere routinely
expect of their governments," he said.
Brahimi asked the Security Council to give "urgent consideration" to
expanding the ISAF to the rest of the country.
Security is the main preoccupation of the population, both Brahimi and
Annan reported.
While some parts of the country remain calm, "flashpoints still exist
throughout the country and tensions flare up periodically instilling
fear in the population that peace will not last," Brahimi said.
The visible presence of ISAF troops in Kabul has improved the security
situation leading to "increasingly vocal demands by ordinary Afghans,
members of the Interim Administration, and even warlords for the
expansion of ISAF to the rest of the country. We tend to agree," he
said.
Citing the tensions that erupted in Mazar-e-Sharif at the end of
January and the still smoldering situation in Gardez, the U.N. envoy
said that the clashes "demonstrate that the peace in Afghanistan is
still fragile."
In Gardez the conflict has not been settled, he said. "There are
indications that the forces of one of the factions are currently
deployed outside the town with heavy weapons and are threatening to
attack again."
A national police and army will be crucial to bringing security to the
country, Brahimi noted. The German government is discussing with the
Interim Administration the needs of the police and how different
governments can assist. The international community will be called
upon to provide training, assistance with salaries, and other needs
for the national army as well.
The international community "cannot afford to react slowly" in
providing assistance to the police and army, Brahimi said. "Time is
really of the essence."
The unstable security situation is affecting the U.N.'s ability to get
aid to various parts of the country, Brahimi also said. Three entire
provinces -- Pakhtia, Khost, and Paktika -- and numerous districts in
southwestern Afghanistan "remain practically off-limits for
humanitarian workers." And even in areas considered relatively safe --
such as Herat and Kabul -- the security for relief workers is
"fragile."
More than 105,000 people have returned to Afghanistan in January,
moving to urban areas they consider safe such as Kabul and Herat
instead of their homes in the countryside putting pressure on the
meager services of those cities, the special envoy said. Meanwhile,
Afghans seeking refuge in Pakistan are still arriving at the Chaman
border crossing.
Brahimi said that a major preoccupation of the current U.N. officials
and agencies in Afghanistan has been to design the future U.N. mission
to Afghanistan.
"We are now close to a consensus on the structure, which is an
integrated mission that will operate with a 'light footprint,' keeping
the international UN presence to the minimum required, while our
Afghan colleagues are given as much of a role as possible," he said.
The secretary general also told the council that during his recent
visit to Pakistan and Iran the leaders of both countries assured him
that they would not tolerate the presence of Taliban or al-Qaeda
personnel in their territories.
(The Washington File is a product of the Office of International
Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site:
http://usinfo.state.gov)



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