To: Progressive Community
From: Center for American Progress
Re: Status of Afghanistan
We would like to draw your attention to the remarks made by Ambassador Lakhdar Brahimi yesterday at the National Press Club. Mr. Brahimi recently left Afghanistan where he served as the United Nations Special Representative of the Secretary-General responsible for helping guide the country toward independence. He now serves as the United Nation's point-person on Iraq as the Secretary-General's Special Advisor on Peace and Security. His comments came on the same day the Senate Foreign Relations Committee held a hearing on the future of Afghanistan . That hearing brought to light some alarming facts that tie well with the concerns raised by Mr. Brahimi in his speech. These include:
- A fraction of the estimated 10.5 million eligible voters in the country have been registered for presidential elections slated for June 2004.
- Progress on expansion of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force, crucial for increasing security in the country, remains stalled.
Some highlights from Mr. Brahimi's speech are given below. The full text is available here . For more on the security situation in Afghanistan and U.S. policy, see the Center for American Progress' special reports, "Afghanistan: Urgent and Unresolved ."
- Security: "Security, I think, is really the key issue for the people of Afghanistan , and I think Karzai used to say that when he goes somewhere, people don't ask him for food, not even for schools. They ask him first and foremost for security… The problem – the security problem is really particularly troublesome in the south, southeast and in the east, and there I think the situation is really of concern. Anti-government forces there conduct regular attacks against government, administration, police and military forces. Civilians often bear the burden of this violence."
- Narcotics: "In the long term, I think the threat to Afghan stability that comes from drugs is really no less dangerous than that that comes from Taliban and factional forces. There are indications that the government, including the newly trained anti – counter-narcotic police, and in cooperation with the U.S., U.K. and other coalition forces, are finally prepared to use police and military resources against the traffickers. It wasn't the case until now. These operations will need to be conducted in a sensitive manner that differentiates between the farmers and the criminals who profit from the drug trade."
- Elections: "In August in the Security Council I outlined a number of electoral, political and security benchmarks that needed to be attained for elections to be successfully held. A number of these have been met. Many more have not, including some of the most fundamental ones like disarmament, creating conditions for the emergence of political parties and greater freedom of expression and organization."
- Constitution: "The difficult task of implementation now lies ahead. Indeed, the new constitutional framework will only have meaning for the average Afghan — man and woman — if it translates into better security, better government and improved welfare. Ordinary people expect their government and the international — and its international partners to deliver at last on their promise of peace and stability."