A Major U-turn in U.S.
Policy on Peacekeeping Afghanistan
International Herald Tribune
September 07, 2002
By Mike Jendrzejczyk
Washington director for
Asia at Human Right Watch, contributed this comment
to the International Herald Tribune.)
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