The United Nations says the four Afghan groups meeting at a secluded mountaintop hotel near the German city of Bonn have committed themselves to the creation of an interim government within the next five days. The Afghan participants in the talks are under pressure to strike a deal soon because of the changing military situation in Afghanistan.
The U.N. says delegations representing the Northern Alliance, former king Mohammad Zahir Shah and two smaller exile groups pledged to seek a power-sharing formula as they began talks under strong international pressure to end more than two decades of fighting in Afghanistan.
Diplomats from the European Union, the United States and several other countries are roaming the corridors of the conference site trying to convince the delegates that reconstruction aid for their war-torn country hinges on their striking a deal.
Whereas the United Nations was saying only days ago that the conference might take one or two weeks to agree on an interim administration and legislative council, U.N. spokesman Ahmad Fawzi said the delegates were unanimous in expressing a desire to create a road map for Afghanistan's political future within the next five days. "The parties agreed that they would like to spend three to five days in Bonn working on these talks, working on these issues. They hope to achieve an agreement within that time period," he said.
The plan the delegates are discussing is based on a draft by U.N. experts and involves a complicated process that could stretch over the next two and a half years. The immediate need is for an interim administration and an interim legislative council in which all major political and ethnic groups would be represented. Within six months, an emergency assembly of tribal chiefs, called a loya jirga, would be convened, and it would approve a transitional authority and a transitional supreme council, which would govern the country for up to two years. During that period, a constitution would be drafted and a formal loya jirga would be convened.
Although the UN says there is good will around the table, the details of the power-sharing formula still have to be filled in. And as Mr. Fawzi put it, the changing military balance in Afghanistan has made a deal urgent. "Time is of the essence. Speed is very important in concluding a deal," he said. "We don't want to rush them, but the situation on the ground is changing so rapidly that we have to bear that in mind. The land needs to be ruled. It needs an authority. It needs an administration. And we need to put it in place as quickly as possible."
There was no discussion Tuesday of a U.N. proposal for a multinational force to enter Afghanistan to ensure the safety of aid deliveries. The militarily powerful Northern Alliance, which controls Kabul and much of the rest of Afghanistan, is opposed to such a force.