International Aid, Advocacy Groups Urge Expanded NATO Role to Stabilize Afghanistan
Deteriorating conditions threaten rehabilitation and preparations for next year's election
(Updated 25 July 2003) - More than 80 humanitarian, human rights and conflict prevention groups, including the International Rescue Committee, are calling for an expanded stabilization and security role for NATO, as it prepares to take over peacekeeping operations in Afghanistan on August 10, 2003.
In a statement issued June 17, "Afghanistan: A Call for Security," the nongovernmental organizations urge the UN and NATO to expand the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) to locations and transport routes beyond Kabul. They also call for NATO to provide support for a comprehensive program of disarmament, demobilization and reintegration of militia forces outside the control of the government and the accelerated recruitment and training of an Afghan national army and police force. As of July 25, 88 organizations have signed onto the statement.
The statement comes amid increasing lawlessness and factional fighting in Afghanistan. Almost daily attacks on civilians, peacekeepers or government targets by insurgent groups, criminal elements and rogue warlords have created a climate of fear and are impeding the country's rehabilitation and development.
"The interim administration of Hamid Karzai needs much more support and resources to bring peace and safety to the Afghan people," says IRC president George Rupp. "Unless there are dramatic security improvements in Afghanistan, reconstruction efforts will be stymied, the Bonn peace process risks collapse, free and fair elections may never be realized and a return to anarchy and civil war becomes increasingly likely."
Much has been accomplished since the fall of the Taliban, the NGO statement notes. Some two million refugees have returned home to rebuild, millions of children are in school, businesses are reviving, greater freedoms are being felt and the transition government is paving the way for a new constitution and national elections.
But all this progress is in jeopardy, the statement says, and the deterioration of security creates an environment unsafe for voter registration and the holding of an election next June.
NATO's agreement to assume control of peacekeeping operations presents a fresh and ideal opportunity to expand security across the country. But Rupp says that if NATO is to be effective in creating conditions for reconstruction and peaceful elections, then the U.N. and donor countries must move quickly to give NATO the mandate and resources it needs to do the job.
The statement was sent by George Rupp and other signatory NGOs to NATO Secretary General Lord Robertson and U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan.
The full text of the statement, "Afghanistan: A Call for Security" is available for download: (English or French), as well as the full list of signatory NGOs. A French version of this IRC press release is also available here.