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Security Still Top Concern for Afghan Diplomats - 2002-04-27

Afghanistan's top diplomat in the United States says there have only been a few attempts by local leaders to interfere with the choosing of delegates to an electoral council that will select a government. But, he says, security remains a constant concern, especially because much of the reconstruction aid promised by the international community has not yet been delivered.

Afghan charge d'affaires Haron Amin says the nationwide process of choosing delegates to a Loya Jirga, or grand council, has been relatively trouble-free. But he warns that security still remains the paramount concern in the countryside.

The Loya Jirga is to meet June 10 to choose an interim government that will write a constitution.

Mr. Amin says that visiting Women's Affairs Minister Sima Samar had what he termed "very productive" talks this past week with U.S. officials on security and other issues. But there has so far been no movement on getting the international peacekeeping force, known as I-SAF, to expand its role.

Mr. Amin says I-SAF must extend its writ outside of Kabul, or else, Afghanistan risks slipping again into chaos.

"It is important to know that we have flagged the issue of security, and we have mentioned the expansion of I-SAF," he said. "And we have said that the expansion of I-SAF is pivotal on the continuity of the current administration and improvement of the situation in all of Afghanistan. We have also said that, should the international community, or whatever country, not choose to join the I-SAF forces, or expand beyond Kabul, there needs to be an alternate plan for that. And, ultimately, it is a question of going back towards instability, and-or trying to bring stability in Afghanistan."

Interim government chairman Hamid Karzai has been urging that peacekeepers be deployed in the countryside - a call that has been echoed by U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan and U.N. Human Rights Commissioner Mary Robinson. But the international community has so far balked at the suggestion.

Mr. Amin also urges the international community to speed up the disbursal of some $4.5 billion in aid for reconstruction pledged to Afghanistan at a donors' conference in January. He says the whole military effort in Afghanistan will be for nothing, if aid is not speeded up.

"Our argument, and the argument of chairman Karzai, has been, 'well, if you have done the military campaign, and you have put a political process in motion, and, in the end, you do not engage in development and capacity building and institution building in Afghanistan, well, what's going to happen to the campaign? Is it going to be lost and everything?' It's like the surgery having passed, and yet the antibiotics not being there for the entire dosage," Mr. Amin said.

A paper issued this week by the Afghan Embassy here says Afghanistan is caught in a conundrum - donor nations will not give aid, unless there is a secure environment, but a secure environment cannot be achieved without aid.

Mr. Amin says there are other problems in dealing with the aid issue. He says the pace of the military campaign has moved far ahead of structural rehabilitation, so there are as yet not reliable governmental institutions in place to receive and disburse the aid.