Kabul Press, World Media Home, Associated with RAHA in exile

 World - Afghanistan - Cultural - Social - Economic - Politic - Publication - Human rights - About us - Work with us

Top global newspapers: Asia  Latin America  Africa  Europe  USA  Canada  Australia  Links  Home

Associated with RAHA - World Independent Writers' Home in exile




NATOs Shame in Afghanistan

Absent Security, Elections are at Risk

NATO should immediately expand its forces in Afghanistan to provide security for elections scheduled there this fall, Human Rights Watch said today. U.S. President George W. Bush and other top NATO leaders will discuss Afghan security at the major NATO summit that opens in Istanbul on June 28.

Human Rights Watch said that with three months to go before what could be Afghanistans first-ever democratic election, the country remains plagued by insecurity and political repression and urgently needs more NATO support to allow for registration of voters and protection of vulnerable political actors and voting sites.  
If the elections dont take place because of insecurity, or if they are conducted but are not free and fair, the blame will rest squarely on the heads of the U.S. and its NATO allies, said Sam Zarifi, Deputy Director for the Asia Division of Human Rights Watch. Contrary to what was promised to the Afghan people, NATOs foot-dragging has contributed to a worsening security situation and major shortcomings with reconstruction.  
Human Rights Watch said that journalists and independent candidates in the upcoming Afghan elections face serious threats from local warlords who control much of Afghanistan. In most provinces outside of Kabul, local military strongmen control the security forces and use them to maintain political power. Human Rights Watch has issued numerous reports in the last two years about political repression by military strongmen across Afghanistan.  

NATO officially took over the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in August 2003, the organizations first mission outside the European/Atlantic area. Before that, individual NATO members had provided troops for ISAF, beginning with the United Kingdom, and followed by Turkey and a joint German/Dutch mission.  
Recent experience in Afghanistan shows that the warlords will take power when there is a security vacuum, said Zarifi. For the elections scheduled later this year to come off, NATO will need both to provide additional security for vulnerable candidates and voting sites, and to help to disarm militias.  
NATO currently has only some 6,500 troops in Afghanistan, compared with the 40,000 strong force that provided security in Kosovo, a region a tenth of the size of Afghanistan. Of NATOs small contingent in Afghanistan, 6,200 are limited to the confines of the city of Kabul, with a significant portion dedicated to protecting European embassies. Some 200 German troops are stationed in the northern provincial city of Kunduz, generally considered one of the safest areas in the country, although eleven Chinese construction workers were recently murdered there by Taliban sympathizers.  
At this point, the outcome of Afghanistans elections and NATOs credibility are totally intertwined, said Zarifi. But so far NATO countries have done little to establish credibility in Afghanistan.  
Human Rights Watch pointed out that the Istanbul Summit gives NATO the opportunity to remedy several commitments it has failed to keep in Afghanistan:  
NATO should provide the security necessary to create an atmosphere conducive to free and fair elections. Despite estimates by the U.N. and the Afghan government that they will need at least an additional 5,000 NATO troops to provide security for the elections, NATO countries have not yet committed extra troops. Canada, which has fielded one of the largest troop contingents in Afghanistan, is pulling out about half of its 1,900 troops from Afghanistan in August, weeks before the scheduled elections. Canadian Foreign Affairs sources told Human Rights Watch in mid-June 2004 that NATO had not asked Canada to maintain its troop strength in Afghanistan.  
NATO should assist the Afghan government to provide general security around the country, pursuant to U.N. Security Council Resolution 1510. Except for the small contingent now placed in Kunduz, NATO has utterly failed in this regard. As recently as the end of April, NATO had promised to assume responsibility for five additional provincial reconstruction teams (PRTs, small missions with a combined military and reconstruction mandate) by the Istanbul Summit. As of this writing, this has not occurred. Requests by NATO commanders in Kabul for basic logistical support necessary for expanding and protecting troops outside Kabul, specifically, ten helicopters and one C-130 transport airplane, have not yet been fully met by NATO countries.  
NATO should assist and accelerate the process of disarmament of militias. Afghan warlords still command tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of armed men, as well as heavy weaponry, artillery, missiles, and armored vehicles. Even in Kabul, where ISAF has been operating for over two years, less than half of these forces have been decommissioned. Outside of Kabul, disarmament has proceeded at an even more anemic pace.  
On June 23, NATO officials in Brussels said publicly that NATO would deploy in coming weeks in several northern provinces in Afghanistan, but no specifics were given on troop levels or areas of deployment.  
Human Rights Watch noted that over fifty humanitarian and human rights organizations working in Afghanistan called on NATO members last week to increase their troop commitments to ISAF. (The text of the letter can be found here.)  
On June 21, Jean Arnault, the head of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), which is helping to organize the Afghan elections, also called on NATO to increase its support to ISAF.  
Human Rights Watch emphasized that Afghanistans security problems, although overshadowed by events in Iraq, were still extremely severe and that international actors need to respond quickly to improve the situation.  
The Istanbul summit is NATOs last real chance to show that it takes its responsibility toward the people of Afghanistan seriously, said Zarifi.



RAHA- World Independent Writers' Home, Afghanistan Center, In Exile



KP/26/June/ /2004


From independent writers to independent readers

RAHA- World Independent Writers' Home

Web hosting by: IPowerWeb, Inc

Copyright Kabul Press, World Media Home 2004