Waging peace in Afghanistan
Christian Science Monitor, USA,
February 27, 2002
THE bipartisan support for the
war in Afghanistan
is fraying at the edges over how to keep the peace in that country. Criticism
is mounting among some Democrats that President Bush has not done enough
to prevent a return of chaos among rival warlords, thus possibly destabilizing
a foothold in Afghanistan,
or allowing terrorist groups to once again use the country as a base.
While such criticisms make juicy TV sound bites and campaign fodder, they
ignore a few on-the-ground realities.
For one, the war still is going
on in Afghanistan.
American forces are combing mountains and villages for remnants of the
Taliban and Al Qaeda. That could take many months.
These forces are in combat mode against a specific enemy, and cannot be
diverted to keep the peace between rival ethnic factions.
special forces already are deployed with local
military commanders in a joint, continuing search for terrorists or their
supporters. Their presence alone supports the fledgling government in
Kabul as it builds a national
army, with US help, that can eventually unify
the country within a year or two.
In the meantime, a peacekeeping
force of 4,000 soldiers, led by the British and known as the International
Security Assistance Force, has secured the capital. It both protects the
new central government and sends a signal to the warlords that the world
doesn't intend to let Afghanistan
fall back into chaos.
The immediate question is whether
that force should be expanded to other major cities and act as a local
police force. The likelihood, though, of foreign soldiers competing well
for authority in those fiefdoms appears slim. The circumstances are far
different from the United Nation's deployment of foreign troops in Bosnia-Herzegovina,
Kosovo, and Macedonia,
places that have had central rule for a long time. Two decades of war
has left Afghanistan
in pieces that can only be stitched back together piece by piece.
What will help bind Afghans
is their own renewed nationalism and the lure of billions in foreign aid
to rebuild the country under civilian rule. Foreign troops can only do
And using Americans as peacekeepers
is dangerous, since they could be high-profile targets for glory-seeking
The possibility of the Taliban
or its like rising again is remote. Afghans themselves should see to that.
All the US
can do is support them in building a secure, united nation.
A major U-turn in U.S.
policy on peacekeeping Afghanistan
By Mike Jendrzejczyk
International Herald Tribune,
September 7, 2002
Pentagon officials recently
signaled a shift in U.S.
policy on Afghanistan,
admitting that an expansion of international peacekeeping operations beyond
Kabul is necessary. The unsuccessful
attempt to assassinate President Hamid Karzai on Thursday in Kandahar is intensifying calls for
such a move. Some in the Bush administration called it a "mid-course
correction," but the United States
appears to be on the verge of a major U-turn.
For months, Defense Secretary
Donald Rumsfeld and Deputy Secretary Paul Wolfowitz have resisted calls for an expansion of ISAF, the
International Security Assistance Force, composed of 4,500 troops from
19 states and headed by Turkey.
But as insecurity, factional fighting among warlords, and lawlessness
have continued, it has become clear that waiting years for the formation
of a credible national Afghan army and police force is not the answer.
"We do not oppose ISAF
expansion" beyond Kabul,
Wolfowitz said Thursday, while calling on the international
community to take a greater role. General Tommy Franks, head of the U.S.
command in Afghanistan,
said there were "a number of places that would indicate the desirability
of expanding the ISAF." Karzai himself,
the United Nations secretary-general Kofi Annan,
and members of the U.S. Congress in both parties have been urging expansion
of the peacekeeping force.
As long as security outside
of Kabul is in the hands of
warlords, Afghans will not be secure. And as long as the Kabul
government is dependent on regional warlords, its legitimacy will be open
to question. Greater security throughout the country is a prerequisite
for rebuilding devastated infrastructure, encouraging the re- emergence
of Afghan civil society, and establishing legal and administrative institutions
to protect the rights of all Afghans. A field presence of international
peacekeepers will encourage compliance with disarmament and demilitarization
Factional rivalry in northern
has led to a rise in attacks on humanitarian aid workers and Afghan civilians,
threatening the delivery of urgently needed aid and resettlement assistance.
Ethnic Pashtuns, a minority in the north, have
been subject to targeted violence including rape, seizure of farmland,
and demands for money by local commanders.
visited Mazar-i-Sharif in July and expressed
alarm over the violence as an obstacle to development, but gave backing
to the local warlords whose forces are responsible for many of the abuses
in the north. Ironically, by relying on warlords and opposing an expansion
of the peacekeeping force, the United States has allowed the situation
to become more, not less, unstable.
Other parts of the country are
also plagued by violence, affecting Afghan women, ethnic minorities, and
returning refugees. In several areas around Herat
in the west, and Kandahar
in the south, minorities have been harassed by local forces. On most roads
between major cities, armed groups regularly extort money from farmers,
traders and anyone not under the "protection" of a regional
agreement provided for an international peacekeeping force in Kabul,
but also indicated that such a force "could, as appropriate, be progressively
expanded to other urban centers and other areas." The UN Security
Council, which renewed the peacekeepers' mandate in May, will need to
vote to redefine its mandate, while seeking contributions troops, funding,
and logistical support from member states to gradually increase its scope.
States should immediately take the lead
in drafting a Security Council resolution, seeking support from European
governments and others on the Council. President George W. Bush, when
he speaks at the United Nations on Sept. 12, should publicly endorse expansion
of the peacekeeping force. Secretary of State Colin Powell should consult
closely with Afghan leaders and UN officials to devise a workable strategy
for increasing security.
Certainly, the U.S. Congress
can also help. The administration should support legislation adopted by
the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Aug.1, authorizing $1 billion
over two years for more peacekeepers, then work with Congress to get the
necessary funds appropriated. During his visit to Afghanistan,
Wolfowitz said that Washington
is committed to Afghanistan's
reconstruction, declaring that the U.S.
had learned a lesson from 10 years of benign neglect.
It's now up to the Bush administration
to make good on that promise, not only by giving aid, but also by doing
more to create the security conditions needed for a peaceful, stable Afghanistan
The writer, Washington
director for Asia at Human Right Watch, contributed
this comment to the International Herald Tribune.
Crisis in Afghanistan
Foreign Policy in Focus, September 24, 2001
Not a shot has been fired--yet--at
Afghanistan's Taliban, but the country's beleaguered population already
is paying a heavy price for the ruling militia's pariah status as host
to alleged terrorist mastermind Osama bin Laden.
Neighbors have closed their
borders, trapping refugees and, in the case of Pakistan, cutting off the
main source of food purchases. Inside Afghanistan, many shops have closed,
and the price of wheat, the country's staple, has soared.
[northern Afghanistan], the price of wheat has increased by 35% over the
last two days," World Food Program (WFP) spokesman Khaled
Mansour told the UN Integrated Regional Information
on September 21. "Other areas have also seen sharp increases. These
prices are beyond the means of the poorest, such as widows."
To some extent, the hyperinflation
is the result of stockpiling by traders, Mansour
said. But, he explained, "Trucks are now being used to ferry people
instead of commodities, and the cost of what transport is available has
UN and other aid agencies have
evacuated their international staff, handing over operations to local
employees. The Taliban reportedly has told these staffers--including some
700 on the UN payroll--they face imprisonment or death if they communicate
with the outside world.
Coupled with Taliban-imposed
restrictions, closure of the Afghan-Pakistan border in particular has
effectively isolated local aid workers and destroyed the UN's ability
to deliver relief food to more than five million Afghans at risk of famine.
In some parts of Afghanistan, locals reportedly have resorted to eating
a mix of locusts and animal fodder; some are believed to have fallen ill
and possibly died after eating poisoned grass.
Large numbers of Afghans continue
to flee their homes for the countryside, or toward Pakistan and other
neighboring countries amid fears of U.S. strikes. Aid agencies are urging
Washington and its allies to adopt special measures to ensure the safety
of the civilian population.
Human rights groups, however,
are exhorting Afghanistan's neighbors to open their borders to refugees.
Human Rights Watch (HRW, www.hrw.org)
has rejected the idea of setting up "safe haven" camps within
"Past experience from Bosnia,
Rwanda, and Northern Iraq tells us that safe havens have proved to be
anything but safe," said Rachael Reilly, HRW's
refugee policy director. "Instead, any refugee camps established
should be outside the territory of Afghanistan."
The nongovernmental U.S. Committee
for Refugees, in a September 18 statement, said the Afghan civilians trapped
in what soon could become a war zone are "ordinary men, women, and
children who cannot be held responsible for the actions of those who rule
Tens of thousands of Afghan
civilians have fled toward Pakistan, Tajikistan, and Iran, HRW said, only
to be penned in at the border. Afghanistan's three other neighbors, Uzbekistan,
Turkmenistan, and China, also have closed their borders with Afghanistan.
Some 3.7 million Afghan refugees
who fled the conflict in Afghanistan over the past two decades now live
in neighboring countries--1.5 million in Iran and more than 2 million
Some 1.1 million people are
internally displaced within Afghanistan. Fear of U.S. retaliation has
prompted the flight of as many as 100,000 more from Qandahar
alone, the Taliban's seat, according to Amnesty International (AI, www.amnesty.org). The total
Afghan population is estimated at around 24 million people.
Frustrated by the large scale
and protracted nature of the refugee crisis and the lack of international
attention to their plight, both Iran and Pakistan have officially closed
their borders to refugees for the past year. In the past week, however,
Pakistani security forces have sealed the border with barbed wire in a
number of places, despite appeals from the office of the UN High Commissioner
for Refugees (UNHCR) not to turn back refugees. Only those with valid
visas are allowed to enter, but Pakistani authorities have ceased issuing
permits altogether, AI said. Pakistan's decision to shut down the border
was in direct response to a U.S. request to strengthen security.
Despite border restrictions,
some 15,000 Afghan refugees managed to enter Pakistan last week, most
of them arriving in Baluchistan province on
the southwest border. A further 5,000 refugees, who were massed for several
days at the Chaman border crossing near the Baluchistan
city of Quetta, finally entered the country
and are now encamped on the Pakistan side, HRW said.
government, while reiterating that it is unable to admit any new refugees,
has offered to assist Afghans through cross-border assistance operations.
An estimated 10,000 Afghan refugees
have been camped on several islands in the Pyanj
River at the Tajikistan border since the Tajik government closed its borders
a year ago and stationed 10,000 Russian troops to prevent refugees from
entering, according to HRW.
face real security concerns at this time," said Reilly. "But
these countries have international obligations to meet their security
concerns by screening out armed elements so that borders remain open for
Her organization noted further
that ''Western governments, including the U.S., Australia, and European
Union member states, are also tightening immigration controls in a way
that could further deny protection to Afghan refugees.''
As a result, ''Afghans with
a valid fear of persecution seeking asylum overseas, particularly in Western
countries, may face prolonged immigration detention or deportation,''
Instead, the group called on
Western and other wealthy states to ''explore emergency resettlement possibilities
for Afghan refugees'' and to ensure that tougher immigration controls
do not infringe upon the rights of all asylum seekers to access ''fair
and efficient asylum determination procedures.''
AI also called on rich nations
to chip in money, saying Afghanistan's
neighbors ''should not bear a disproportionate cost'' of caring for refugees.
"The people of Afghanistan
have suffered conflict and famine for decades. The international community
must offer protection and relief immediately and provide adequate resources
to the UNHCR for it to carry out its mandate in an effective manner,"
HRW noted that ''the right of
refugees not to be returned to a country where their lives or freedom
are threatened is a fundamental principle of international customary law
and is enshrined in the 1951 Refugee Convention, to which Iran, Tajikistan,
Turkmenistan, and China are all parties.''
is a contributing editor at Foreign Policy In
Focus and the North America and Caribbean
editor of Inter Press Service, an international news agency.)
Recovery Strong, but Still at Risk, Envoy Says
31 October 2002
Asst. Secy. Dewey Assesses
Progress in Afghanistan
By Charlene Porter
Washington File Staff Writer
Washington - The U.S. Secretary of State's special envoy assessing recovery
and reconstruction in Afghanistan has returned from a month long journey
to the country using words like "remarkable," "encouraging"
and "gratifying" to describe what he has seen in a country attempting
to lift itself from the wreckage left by 22 years of occupation, war and
"There's just been a lot of progress in a very short time ... coming
from a failed state - one of the most failed of states - to a state that
has a chance," Assistant Secretary of State for Population, Refugees
and Migration Arthur "Gene" Dewey said in a Washington File
Dewey first traveled to Afghanistan
in August, then returned to conduct a more extensive
assessment in mid-September. He said the Central Asian state is advancing
down the road to recovery at such a rapid pace that he saw that circumstances
had improved between his first and second visits.
Having visited bustling, urban markets, the homes of returning refugees,
newly reopened classrooms, and fledgling government ministries, Dewey
said he got a sense of a people and a country ready to confront the challenges
"It really is a new birth of freedom," he said.
The progress the country has made since the fall of the Taliban in December
2001 is evident in many sectors, but to Dewey the most remarkable change
is the return of Afghanistan's "human capital." He said the
return of some 2.5 million refugees and internally displaced persons has
been the largest repatriation to occur any where in the world over the
last 30 years. The tide of returning Afghans has far exceeded the 800,000
returnees anticipated in the first year by the U.N. High Commissioner
for Refugees (UNHCR). Dewey praises UNHCR for its capability and professionalism
in meeting the demands of a return far beyond its expectations.
The greatest message to be extracted from the repatriation, however, is
in what it says about the tremendous coping power of the Afghan people,
facing difficult and uncertain conditions as they return to their homes
and villages, Dewey said.
"They're betting on improved freedoms and the presence of freedom
after the Taliban and al Qaeda were displaced,"
Dewey said. "It's like a new world in Afghanistan
if you can imagine the oppression that existed while the Taliban ruled
the country, as compared to now."
Despite his optimism and excitement about what has transpired so far,
Dewey remains cautious. U.S.
policymakers and humanitarian aid officials are still concerned about
meeting the needs of the returnees. Without a continued focus on immediate
humanitarian issues, the continuing drought, food shortages or persistent
insecurity could force those returnees to flee again, a possibility that
Dewey calls "the nightmare scenario."
That prospect looms larger as the days grow colder and Afghan winter sets
in. Though agriculture production has increased dramatically in some areas
that have received rain, the country is still unable to feed itself and
will be dependent upon international food aid to survive the winter. The
U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) estimates that more
than six million Afghans still need food assistance.
The World Food Program (WFP), the principal coordinating agency for international
food assistance, reports that its supplies of commodities are running
short. Interruptions in the flow of grain into Afghanistan
are anticipated in the final months of 2002.
Assistant Secretary Dewey said international donors must not lose sight
of that problem. "So this is why we keep pressing the other donors,
and reminding the other donors that the United
States can not continue to do 80 percent
of the food through the WFP. We have to have more help from the Europeans,
and the other donors to share that burden, to give some margin of safety
that we really will make it through the winter."
Dewey said that if donors fulfill their promises, WFP will have adequate
food supplies to last through the winter, but he's concerned about Afghanistan's
need for further aid from March until July 2003 when the first harvest
The United States is the world leader in the provision of aid for Afghanistan.
Since October 1, 2001,
the United States
has provided more than $350 million in assistance, and pledged almost
$300 million in reconstruction aid at a conference of donors last January.
Some Afghan officials have been placing greater emphasis on the need for
reconstruction aid than humanitarian assistance in recent statements.
Dewey characterizes that position as a "miscalculation."
He emphasized that the investment in humanitarian aid - providing food,
shelter and medical care for returnees - is an investment in the long-term
reconstruction of the country. "It's building on that human capital
base. These are people with all the energy and all the confidence that
they can make it back in Afghanistan," Dewey said. "They are
the base of reconstruction. You have to make that investment before you
can really start to realize the benefits and see the progress of reconstruction."
Dewey said the gains realized from the humanitarian investment so far
are easily quantifiable: 2.5 million returnees, three million children
in reopened schools, eight million children vaccinated against measles.
"You can count the numbers, you can see what you've bought, what
the international community has bought with this investment," Dewey
On his travels through Afghanistan, Dewey visited cramped, makeshift schools,
where children attended in shifts to make use of the limited space and
supplies available to them. Despite those hardships, the students were
excited to be there, Dewey said, especially the girls. "It's almost
as if they found a new lease on life by being able to get back to school
and prepare for their future, however uncertain it might be. They're excited
about getting ready for it."
The enthusiasm of the children also helps to motivate the teachers who
are paid neither well nor consistently, Dewey said. "What is surprising
to me and gratifying is that so many of the teachers have kept teaching.
They're betting that the pay is going to come through eventually, and
then they see the kids so eager to learn, and those two things keep them
Dewey said not only the children, but also the government is in a learning
mode. He said he noted significant progress in some ministries that are
working to organize themselves and develop the capacity to govern. The
international agencies and non-governmental organizations have been providing
significant services in response to the nation's emergency, but now the
agencies are beginning to transfer those responsibilities to government
ministries which are becoming increasingly engaged in planning and priority-setting
in the U.N. programs.
"The ownership of the program is really fixed by their being able
to make the policy, do the planning, own the plan, and set the priorities
in the plan," Dewey said. "This is a remarkable way to transition
from ...(the) U.N. structure to a longer term sustainable local
government structure to deal with both emergency humanitarian needs and
For all the progress he has seen in a short time, Dewey still counsels
patience. The recovery of a failed state "doesn't happen overnight,"
he said. He said the United States is committed to maintaining the progress
in Afghanistan. "The momentum is still there, and we have to keep
it there," Dewey said. "The investment must be protected. The
consequences of not protecting it are unthinkable."