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Briefing to the UN Security Council On Afghanistan

Briefing to the Security Council
Lakhdar Brahimi
Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Afghanistan
Tuesday, 13 November 2001

Mr. President, Mr. Secretary-General, distinguished Ministers and Representatives,

I am deeply grateful to the Secretary General for the opportunity of working again on Afghanistan. The challenge, as all of you are aware, is enormous. But I will do my utmost to support the Secretary-General's efforts to implement the decisions made by you, the Member States of the United Nations in general, and the Members of this august body in particular.

The 11 September terrorist attacks on the United States of America reminded the world of the reality that a collapsed and destitute state - such as Afghanistan -- provides fertile ground for armed groups and individuals to plan and prepare unspeakable acts of terror, at home and abroad. The united international reaction to those attacks has, as a result, transformed the conditions for international action on Afghanistan.

Within this new context, I resumed my duties on Afghanistan just a short few weeks ago. Before embarking on my first mission to the region on 26 October, I had the opportunity to listen to the views of the members of the Security Council, on two occasions.

During this first visit to the region, I conducted intensive consultations with the Governments of Iran and Pakistan, and I express my sincere appreciation to them for their hospitality and warm welcome. On my way to the region, I stopped in Riyadh, where I met Foreign Minister Prince Saud al Faysal. On my way back, I stopped in Rome, where I met the former-King of Afghanistan and the Foreign Minister of Italy, Mr Renato Ruggiero, and then in Paris for an audience with President Jacques Chirac.

While in Pakistan and Iran, I spoke with a wide range of Afghan groups and individuals, including women, students, and people still living inside Afghanistan. These conversations reconfirmed the urgency of finding a viable and durable solution to the Afghan crisis. Afghans representing diverse walks of life and shades of opinion repeatedly emphasized a common theme: they categorically condemn the terrorist attacks on the United States, and that Afghan territory has been used as a staging ground for terrorist activity. At the same time, they understandably express deep concern about the impact of the military operations on ordinary Afghan men, women and children. They are united in the belief that only a legitimate Afghan government, representing the aspirations and interests of all the people of Afghanistan, can muster sufficient resolve and legitimacy to free Afghanistan from the grip of international terrorist groups. Realizing the challenge involved in the establishment of such a legitimate authority, all the Afghans that we met welcomed the current global focus on Afghanistan and hoped that the international community would remain engaged in finding a lasting solution to the Afghan crisis and in helping them with the reconstruction of their country.

Mr. President,

Iran and Pakistan have a special role in Afghanistan. Geography, history, language and religion make for deep connections between each of these two countries and Afghanistan. They also have legitimate interests in the emergence of a stable Afghanistan and up until now have had ties with particular movements in the country. The governments of Iran and Pakistan expressed a clear commitment to finding a political solution that would preserve the unity and territorial integrity of Afghanistan and would enable Afghans to choose a broad-based government that would enjoy domestic and international legitimacy. The Presidents of the two countries, General Pervez Musharraf and President Mohammad Khatami, assured me in no uncertain terms that because they see the establishment of a stable and representative government accountable to all Afghans to be in their own national interest, they would like the UN to play a pivotal role in the process of finding a political solution. The two Presidents maintained that it was not a good idea for any outsiders to impose a solution on the Afghans. They shared the view that the international community should help the Afghans to find a political solution on their own because only such a home-grown solution would be credible, legitimate and sustainable. On terrorism, both Presidents emphasized the need for finding political solutions that would prevent Afghanistan from being used as a breeding and staging ground for acts of terror in the future. They expressed regret that Afghanistan has been used for too long by people who have no interest in the well-being of the Afghan nation.

Both Pakistan and Iran also emphasized the need for the sustained engagement of the international community in providing the resources necessary for the reconstruction of Afghanistan and the repatriation of Afghan refugees to their country. The two governments asserted that the international community should not again walk away from the Afghan people as it did in the early 1990s. Both governments viewed drug production in Afghanistan as a threat to their national security.

My intention was to visit all the immediate neighbours of Afghanistan. But I had to suspend my consultations in the region last week to come back to New York. The reason was to avail myself of the opportunity afforded by the opening of the General Debate, today's meeting of this Council, and the presence of so many high-level representatives from Member States. I was planning to return to the region directly, but rapidly changing conditions in Afghanistan require a change of plan as will be made clear in a moment.

Mr President,

Yesterday the Secretary-General chaired a meeting of the Six-Plus-Two Group at the level of Foreign Ministers. A declaration was adopted by the Group which reaffirmed their support for the sovereignty, political independence and territorial integrity of Afghanistan and pledged their continued support to efforts of its people to find a political solution to the Afghan crisis. They confirmed agreement that there should be the establishment in Afghanistan of a broad based, multi-ethnic, politically balanced, freely-chosen Afghan administration representative of their aspirations and at peace with its neighbours. Given rapidly changing conditions on the ground, the Group stressed the need for speed.

Consensus between Afghanistan's neighbours is essential. Without it, Afghans themselves will find it extremely difficult to achieve a durable solution free from undue interference in their own affairs.

Of course, Afghanistan's neighbours alone cannot help the Afghans achieve national reconciliation and rebuild their country. Here, the international community at large will need to make a massive commitment, politically and financially, to the long-term stability of Afghanistan. It is therefore necessary to strengthen other mechanisms for multi-lateral cooperation and coordination on Afghanistan. At this juncture, serious consideration should be given to ways to better utilize a rich pool of skilled Afghans in the planning and implementation of rehabilitation and reconstruction projects.

With respect to Afghanistan, the United Nations has over the years convened several groups of interested countries, in addition to the Six Plus Two, such as the G-21, which is comprised of a broader group of interested countries, who also have either influence or interests, or both, or who have been directly or indirectly affected by the Afghan crisis, and who could either directly or indirectly help contribute to its resolution. I share the view of those of its members who believe that this group should be reactivated and reinvigorated, and we have suggested that it reconvene on Friday. The United Nations also participates in the Afghanistan Support Group, convened by donor countries, the Geneva Initiative, in support of peace efforts seeking to legitimate a transition through a Loya Jirga, and other initiatives. It is essential that all these groups -- and any other groups that Member States may wish to form on their own -- develop a common, constructive position with regard to Afghanistan's political future.

The Security Council will naturally be at the forefront of forging this international consensus and resolve, not only through the resolutions it adopts, but even more importantly, by the actions its Members will take.

Mr President,

Things are changing fast on the ground, as we saw over the last few days, especially last night and this morning with the Northern Alliance expanding its control over territory and entering Kabul. The Secretary-General has, this morning asked me to relay his instructions to Francesc Vandrell, the Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General, to go to Kabul immediately security conditions permit, and I have done so. The Secretary-General has also asked that security assessments be made as soon as possible to allow the return of our international into Afghanistan. Such an assessment has already been done earlier for Faizabad and UN personnel are expected to go there in a day or two.

However, for the longer term, the fundamentals do not change, and the strategic objective of our common efforts remain the same: it consists of the need to help the people of Afghanistan establish a responsible, representative, accountable and stable government which enjoys internal and external legitimacy, is committed to respecting and promoting the rights of all its men, women and children, enjoys peaceful and friendly relations with all its neighbours, and is able to ensure that Afghanistan never again is used as a breeding and staging ground for terrorism or for traffic in drugs.

Next Steps

Political Transition

Mr. President,

There is agreement amongst Afghan factions as well as at the level of the international community on the goal of creating a broad-based government that would be representative of all groups in the country, accountable to its citizens, friendly to its neighbours and enjoying internal and external legitimacy. The difficulty is securing agreement among interested parties to design a series of concrete steps for reaching that goal. The bitter experience of the last ten years shows that the solution must be carefully put together and be home-grown, so that it enjoys the support of all the internal and external players, and so that there are no spoilers from the inside or outside who would disrupt its implementation.

Afghans themselves have been talking widely about how to achieve these objectives. The discussions in Rome between the former king of Afghanistan and the representatives of the United Front for the Salvation of Afghanistan (commonly known as the Northern Alliance), have raised these discussions to a new level. Discussions are also taking place in many other fora inside and outside of Afghanistan, including within the Cyprus process and the Peshawar Convention. In these fora Afghans have been proposing a series of steps and mechanisms for establishing a transitional administration that would pave the way for a stable government. It is time to bring these existing initiatives into a common framework and to broaden the process in a manner that would pave the way for a stable government. A common theme in these proposals has been the emphasis on the convening role of the United Nations to bring the parties together.

The United Nations has been trying to help build a national consensus for many years now. But as was agreed at the Ministerial meeting of the Six-Plus-Two Group yesterday, time is now of the essence and it is indispensable and urgent that the efforts of the various Afghan groups be brought together into a single process.

Consequently, the Secretary General thinks that instead of continuing with the shuttle diplomacy from one group to the other in the various capitals, the need for nimbleness in finding a political solution now requires that the Northern Alliance and representatives of the existing initiatives should meet with the United Nations as early as humanly possible in order that a common framework is created and enlarged to allow for a fair representation of all Afghan communities. This suggestion was favourably received by the Six-Plus-Two Ministers. I hope that those members who are in a position to do so will encourage the leaders of the Northern Alliance, the Rome and Cyprus processes and the Peshawar Convention to meet with us at a convenient venue.

Based on the ideas widely discussed by the Afghans themselves within these various processes and other fora, the approach might follow the following sequence:

1) The UN would convene a meeting as soon as possible, at a venue still to be determined, of representatives of the Northern Alliance and existing processes, later complemented with representatives of other groups to ensure a fair representation of all Afghan society, to agree on a framework for the process of political transition.

2) This meeting would then suggest concrete steps to be followed, to convene a Provisional Council, which would be composed of a fairly large and representative group of Afghans, drawn from all ethnic and regional communities. The Provisional Council could be chaired by an individual recognized as a symbol of national unity around whom all ethnic, religious and regional groups could rally and could have several deputy chairmen who would conduct its day-to-day proceedings. The credibility and legitimacy of the Provisional Council would be enhanced, if particular attention were to be given to the participation of individuals and groups, including women, who have not been engaged in armed conflict;

3) This Provisional Council would propose the composition of a transitional administration and a programme of action for the period of political transition, to last no more than two years, as well as arrangements for security;

4) An Emergency Loya Jirga would then be convened to approve the transitional administration, its programme of action, its proposals for security, as well as to authorize the transitional administration to prepare a constitution;

5) The transitional phase would result in the convening of a second Loya Jirga, which would approve the constitution and create a government.

The challenge in Afghanistan is going to be the creation of good governance. And that depends on the formulation of clear and fair rules of the game and adherence to those rules. To be sustainable, Afghans themselves must be engaged in the creation of institutions of good governance. Working with UN agencies and international and local NGOs has given a large number of Afghans a wide experience in managing accountable organizations. There is also significant capacity among a new generation of Afghans in the diaspora, particularly in Iran and Pakistan. It is these Afghans who can help constitute a transitional administration, which would be far more credible, acceptable and legitimate in the eyes of the population, than a transitional administration run by the UN or another constellation of foreigners. Parachuting a large number of international experts into Afghanistan could overwhelm the nascent transitional administration and interfere with the building of local capacity.

Security options

Mr. President,

Without genuine and lasting security in Afghanistan, nothing will be possible, let alone the establishment of a new government. Even a political settlement among all Afghan parties cannot on its own ensure security. The pervasive presence of non-Afghan armed and terrorist groups with no interest in a lasting peace will necessitate the introduction of a robust security force able to deter and, if necessary, defeat challenges to its authority.

There are three options for such a force, presented in the order of desirability: 1) an all-Afghan security force; 2). a multi-national force (MNF); or, 3). a UN peacekeeping force (e.g., "Blue Helmets"). The preferred option is an all-Afghan force, provided it can be fielded in a speedy, robust and credible manner, and enjoy the broad support of the Afghan people.

Work to establish the All-Afghan force should start as early as possible. It is, however, unlikely that it can be constituted in the near term, suggesting that serious consideration will need to be given to the deployment of an international security presence. Such a presence, provided that it includes adequately trained and armed units ready to defend themselves and their mandate, could ensure security in the major cities, and preserve the political space in which negotiations toward the resolution of the many problems ahead could proceed.

An armed UN peacekeeping force is not recommended. The Secretary-General would require several months to obtain from Member States sufficient numbers of troops to pose a credible military deterrent, and to subsequently deploy them. Furthermore, UN peacekeepers have proven most successful when deployed to implement an existing political settlement among willing parties - not to serve as a substitute for one. Any security force established in the absence of a credible cease-fire agreement or political settlement, whether constituted by Afghans, international personnel, or both, could quickly find itself in the role of combatant. This is not a role for "Blue Helmets."

The need for such security arrangements is even more urgent for Kabul. The control of the capital of the country has immense symbolic value. In the wake of the collapse of the Soviet-backed regime in 1992, the Islamic resistance groups could not reach agreement over the nature of political authority and engaged in a devastating and long-drawn out civil war which destroyed the city. Many Afghans have expressed a determination to avoid another round of such fighting and hence are calling for Kabul to be demilitarised and not be controlled by a single faction or party. Without a credible security arrangement, however, no political settlement can be implemented.

Humanitarian action

Mr. President,

It must be recognized, that under any political or security scenario, a grave humanitarian crisis looms, and the suffering of the civilian population is of an immense magnitude. We have already informed you of the six million people at risk, and our anticipated difficulties in providing food, clothing, clean water, non-food items and shelter against the winter, which, in many parts of Afghanistan, is already there.

Our challenge is clear. We must ship and distribute at least 52,000 metric tons of food per month into the country over the next months, provide or support health care for 7.5 million people and shelter for over one million IDPs around the country, and attempt to provide assistance and protection for those at risk from conflict or persecution, including those who become refugees. We must advocate for adherence to international humanitarian and Human Rights law by all parties. With this in mind, the United Nations is engaged in an extremely detailed operational coordination exercise to identify and concentrate on the most vulnerable populations.

In October, we were not able to meet many of our benchmarks, due to extensive insecurity, and the absence of international staff. We shipped and distributed less than half of the food required, and were frustrated at every turn by our inability to communicate with our staff. Since the biggest problem we faced was in distributing the aid shipped into the country to the districts and communities, we have taken aggressive steps to put in place new distribution mechanisms that should allow us to mitigate the humanitarian crisis to a certain degree.

During the first week of November, the United Nations and its partners have substantially improved the delivery of humanitarian aid into Afghanistan. WFP and its partners succeeded in distributing over 12,000 metric tons of food per day. Contracts have been signed with NGO partners that will allow us to concentrate on the highest priority caseloads of around 3.5 million people that must be served before winter. We have also succeeded in shipping medical supplies equivalent to 28% of requirements into the country, and have planned in detail to reach 100% coverage in all areas except those inaccessible owing to security. Winterization has been continuing in IDP camps. The events of the last few days in Mazar-E-Sharif and other parts of northern Afghanistan open up new opportunities. New fears are also raised. We hope that the pipeline from Uzbekistan should soon be activated and that Mazar can become a hub from which many seriously affected areas of the north and centre of the country can be reached. For areas that will remain inaccessible because of weather, terrain and insecurity- in particular parts of Ghor and Badghis- we are making plans for airlifts of food.

Mr President,

While there have been some improvements, the challenges are immense. It will be difficult to maintain this progress as winter intensifies. Even if progress is maintained, there will still be a humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan. Especially of concern is the almost complete lack of information on new internal displacement. We have no accurate picture of the current numbers, locations or conditions of the displaced, who have left urban centres or conflict areas especially in the south and east of the country. The situation on the ground is fast changing and there is going to continue to be the basic problem of access and insecurity that will hamper our ability to deliver assistance. There is also a protection crisis in Afghanistan. People are forced to flee persecution and conflict, but have nowhere to go. The United Nations continues to urge all neighbouring countries to open their borders to those in need of protection, and also urges the international community to share the burden of such protection, including the financing of aid for refugees, and the provision of asylum in third countries.

The United Nations will continue to render desperately needed humanitarian assistance to vulnerable groups; continue with de-mining operations; and monitor adherence to international humanitarian and human rights law. In carrying out these tasks the UN will work alongside other relief and humanitarian agencies and organizations. It will also rely heavily on Afghan nationals who are capable and willing to participate in implementation.

UN humanitarian agencies for Afghanistan have made extensive contingency plans throughout the region. These approaches will be summarized in a Plan of Action for the reintroduction of international staff to resume and expand their activities once security conditions are satisfied. In order to fulfil their roles in the humanitarian operation, the United Nations staff will return to Afghanistan as soon as possible, wherever security conditions permit, without waiting for conducive conditions in the entire country.

The complexity of the issues and multiplicity of actors engaged in responding to the Afghanistan crisis necessitate that a fully coordinated and integrated approach be pursued within the UN system. It is for this reason that an Integrated Mission Task Force (IMTF) for Afghanistan has been established at United Nations Headquarters. The IMTF functions in close association with the Special Representative and serves as the primary vehicle for the formulation of internal UN policy, as well as for contingency planning for an expanded UN role and presence in Afghanistan.

Recovery and reconstruction

The reconstruction of Afghanistan is going to be key to bringing peace and stability to that country. It is not something to be undertaken once a government is in place, but is at the heart of the political transition. Participation in reconstruction will provide Afghans with an incentive to move from war to peace and will give them a stake in their society. Reconstruction will provide opportunities for the absorption of large numbers of men engaged in war and opportunities for Afghan women who have been deprived of voice and participation in society.

World leaders have indicated that this time, the international community will have the will and the staying power to help Afghans to reconstruct their country. Reconstruction will not only focus on the physical infrastructure that has been destroyed, but will also focus on the creation of institutions of good governance, the promotion of reconciliation among individuals and groups and the creation of human capital issues that have been so neglected during these years of war and violence.

Reconstruction efforts will require significant financial commitments and technical assistance from the international community. Given the toll suffered by Afghan society, the reconstruction effort will require imagination, flexibility and coordination from Afghans, and those willing to assist them rebuild their country. International experience has shown that coordination among actors in the aid system has been a challenge. Reconstruction in Afghanistan will require a clear strategy and subordination of the interest of individual agencies or donors to the overall agenda of peace and stability.

This requires agreement on clear lines of authority and responsibility among the donors and within the UN system. It will be important to consider the creation of a single system for the delivery of flows of money, perhaps through a trust fund, that allows for speedy disbursement, provides simplicity for donors, is consistent with the political priorities determined by the transitional administration, and makes flows of money dependent on accountability and transparency in use of those funds. All actors must accept the principle that Afghans will be in charge and must have ownership of the process, as long as they adhere to rules of transparency and accountability.


Mr. President,

Before concluding my statement, allow me to say the following:

The men and women of Afghanistan have suffered much and have been disappointed often. They refuse interference, yet they call for help. They expect much from the UN and they are not sure it will deliver. They do not understand why their country is being attacked, why what little infrastructure is there is being destroyed and civilians, including children are being killed by stray bombs.

The processes being proposed are not perfect. The provisional institutions whose creation is suggested will not include every one who should be there and it may include some whose credentials many in Afghanistan may have doubt about. PLEASE REMEMBER THAT WHAT IS HOPEFULLY TO BE ACHIEVED IS THE ELUSIVE PEACE the people of Afghanistan have been longing for so long. The provisional institutions being discussed, including the broad based interim administration are the beginning, not the end of the road. They are not going to be there for very long and their BASIC AIMS are precisely to restore to the people of Afghanistan their freedom to speak freely and to participate, on equal footing in the management of the affairs of their country.

If it is fair to call on the people of Afghanistan to be patient and tolerant, I am sure you will agree with me, Mr. President, that the people of Afghanistan have the right to expect much from the international community. This Council, the General Assembly, Member States, other international institutions, NGOs and the public at large must also show the patience and determination required to see this process through to its full conclusion. The people of Afghanistan have endured over 23 years of war and misery, and the conflict has spilled over to neighbouring countries. It has threatened their internal stability and placed a tremendous burden on their already limited means. I appeal to all to show the people of Afghanistan that we are not going to give up on them this time and that we are going to show genuine solidarity and real generosity. Thank you.


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