Select Committee on Foreign Affairs Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Memorandum from the Afghanistan Studies Forum



  The Afghans welcomed the outcome of the Bonn Conference as a first step, in spite of some serious reservations, as they believe every political process has to start from somewhere. There was another reason for such optimism, as the UN might have been given power to find a just and comprehensive solution to the Afghan problem, keeping in mind that this organisation did not play any constructive role in the past 10 years in the cause of Afghanistan. Due to the circumstances the Afghans expect the UN and the US in particular to help them in the following:

(a)   Security

  The long imposed bloody war resulted in the looting of property, honour and life of most of the Afghans. They desperately need security in their country to resume their normal lives. Moreover, many of them were forced to leave their homes and are dispersed all over the world. They also need conditions in the country to be conducive for their return and to live there without fear of another war. They need the warlords to be disarmed and wish to see Law rule the country. Neither can a government function effectively nor reconstruct a country if there is no security.

(b)   Representative government

  In the last 23 years the Afghans did not have any chance to choose their leaders or have any say in who should rule them. Leaders were imposed upon them one after another. They and their families suffered a great deal in each change of power. Now, the Afghans expect the international community to help them in establishing a system through which they can choose their government and see a peaceful transformation of power.

(c)   Reconstruction

  Nearly all of the infrastructure in the country have been destroyed. People have little choice for their survival other than to join warlords or cultivate poppies. If the international community wants to see the cultivation of poppies eliminated and Afghans not seeking a life in fighting, nor to see Afghanistan a safe haven for extremists/terrorists anymore, then the Afghans must be given opportunity to engage in the reconstruction of their country.


  The UN convened the Bonn meeting on Afghanistan without proper preparation and contrary to all its previous stand of a broad based government for Afghanistan. For two decades the UN cried for a broad based government in Afghanistan and criticised the Taliban and Rabbani governments for not having such a government. Astonishingly, when given the opportunity in Bonn, the UN did worse than the Taliban and Rabbani did. The Bonn conference was composed of four groups. The question as to why only four groups were invited there remains unanswered. It is more probable that the UN might have invited these four groups to represent the interests of the neighbours of Afghanistan, as the UN was used to so doing in the past two decades. All four groups were actually moving around two axis; the Northern Alliance and Rome. The Northern Alliance had much more weight since majority members of the Rome group were also pro-NA.

  A major shortcoming of the conference, which will have long standing negative implications, was virtually no representation of the Pashtuns who constitute a majority of the Afghan population. In Bonn, the Northern Alliance was headed by Younus Qanuni; the Cyprus group by Humayon Jareer; the Rome group by Sattar Sirat and the forth group led by Hamid Gailani. None of these are Pashtun; in addition the first two are of Tajik ethnicity, even coming from the same village. Furthermore, out of 28 members of the conference, only seven were Pashtuns. All major positions such as the ministries for defence, foreign affairs, interior affairs, security, press and culture, education, planning reconstruction, trade, agriculture, etc went to the Northern Alliance and/or its supporters. Six important ministries, including the ministries of defence, foreign affairs, interior affairs and security were all given to people of one party and within the party to one district, namely Panjsher. The Afghans do not want their country to be another Lebanon and thus strongly reject the distribution of governmental positions on the basis of ethnicity and ask that the right people are given the right jobs. It was always the Northern Alliance who protested for the rights of ethnic minorities and therefore one would expect them to respect the rights of others too.

  The Rome group was invited to the Bonn conference on the assumption that the former King of Pashtun descent would represent the Pashtun majority, while the NA claimed to be representing the minorities. By inviting the Rome group, the UN might have wanted to balance the ethnic composition of Afghan society. Ironically, the former King by sending pro-NA non-Pashtuns to the conference not only actively supported the Northern Alliance but also misrepresented the Pashtuns. Thus, the Northern Alliance was given more weight as the Pashtun majority was deprived from their due representation. The Afghans expected the UN envoy, Mr Ibrahimi, to correct this imbalance but instead, while acknowledging these weaknesses he turned a blind eye to it. When asked by the BBC correspondent in Tokyo why so many important key government positions had been given to people from one village, Dr Abdullah, Foreign Minister who himself belong to that group, replied: "yes, there are many such shortcomings that needed correction. We are new to the job and need time to correct them". In spite of the above shortcomings the majority of Afghans accepted the Bonn accord as an emergency step bearing hope that these weaknesses will be corrected in due course. Their main concern is:

(a)   Security

  The Bonn conference brought to power the well-known warlords and criminal gangs whose human rights abuse records are known to the UN and all concerned international human rights organisations. Most of these warlords were to be tried in the International Court of Justice for their crimes against humanity. However, the Afghans accepted the Bonn accord hoping it will serve as medicine for an ill Afghanistan, though it appears more apparently poison. It was decided in Bonn that the new administration will disarm the warlords and set up an Afghan army. The UN force was assigned to replace the warlords and enforce security in Kabul and big cities till the Afghan army comes into being. It will restore the credibility of the Interim Government, allow millions of Afghan refugees to return home and will encourage the technocrats living abroad to go to Afghanistan for reconstruction. The overwhelming majority of Afghan people supported the UN force for this very purpose. Neither security nor refugees will return to Afghanistan and no major reconstruction programmes will take place if warlords control the country. Unfortunately, not only have the warlords not been replaced by the UN force in Kabul and other cities, but they are consolidating their positions. The Northern Alliance is still responsible for the security of Kabul while the UN force on their side acts in a junior role. The NA, with UN support, may soon expand its control over the areas outside Kabul. Also, it is evident that even a group within the NA is working to disarm the whole nation under the name of the "the formation of the Afghan army" and will channel all other groups according to its own long-term agenda. Certainly, other warlords such as Dostum, Kayan, Ismail, Qadeer, Gul Agha, etc will stand against such designs and thus security will not return to Afghanistan.

  Consistent reports are coming out from many parts of Afghanistan that the country is rapidly devolving into the factionalism and warlordism that gripped the country during 1992-96. Repeated factional fighting in Baghlan, Kunduz, Ghazni, Paktya and Kandahar are sketchy. In addition, thousands of Pashtun families have been forced to leave their homes in Ser-i-Pul, Jozjan, Faryab and Herat provinces as part of the ethnic cleansing. It is another serious problem for the US and the UN. The Governor of Kandahar, Gul Agha, and other people in southwest Afghanistan have repeatedly claimed that Ismail of Herat has forced thousands of Pashtun families to leave their homes in order to, first, suppress the remaining Pashtuns and, second, open a corridor for Iran between the Iranian border and Sheite Hazarajat. Ismail is also alleged to have distributed a large amount of money and weapons received from Iran, in western provinces to move against the US presence in Afghanistan and to destabilise the Karzai government. The mulas (priests) in Herat mosques have been told to preach that the Americans are infidels who have invaded Afghanistan and provide slogans against the US such as the Iranians, "death to America", "the USA is the Devil". The local chiefs are fighting in Gardez to oust the Kabul appointed governor, Bacha Khan Zadran. In Kunduz there is a bitter fight between the forces of the Defence Minister (Fahim) and his Deputy (Dostum) over the control of Kala-i-Zal. Similarly, in Baghlan, there is an armed tension between Sayed Kayan, a cabinet minister and Defence Minister forces. In Laghman, the local chiefs warned the Kabul authorities not to interfere in their provincial affairs. The same is true in Kunar. Most of these occurred at the same time that the international donor states met in Tokyo to put together an aid package for Afghanistan.

  Security, law and order are being broken apart in Afghanistan by the very components of the government, faster than the new government is coming together. It is becoming increasingly unlikely that leaders in Kabul will be able to establish a promised degree of authority in the country. This puts extended reconstruction plans at risk and will encourage the industrialised world to step away from its involvement in Afghanistan, especially, if a hot spot is found in another part of the world. Those groups that are represented in the new Interim Government attempt to keep a lid on factional and ethnic infighting only long enough to receive Western aid. Neither has any affection for each other, but all are likely to realise the benefits of keeping open warfare to a minimum in the coming months in order to squeeze more financial assistance out of the international community. They also know that international donors will tolerate a low level of violence between these warlords. But outright warfare will quickly turn off the financial taps. Once it appears that the international aid well has finally run dry, these warlords who are currently pillars of the government will fall back into their old habits. Though the current clashes between warlords may seem relatively unimportant in regard to Afghanistan's future, the cast of characters in the fight and the powers across the borders that support these warlords highlight important trends in the country's politics as well as regional and global rivalries.

  Not only are all these factions who have made the Interim Government enemies amongst each other but also there are bitter rivalries within each group. As an example, the group that with help of the US was given control of 80 per cent of the government is bitterly divided within itself. Mr Rabbani, head of this group and his close supporters, Daoud, Ismail and Sayyaf are opponents of Fahim, Qanoni and Abdullah. Rabbani held the Northern Alliance presidency for most of the last decade but was rather unceremoniously dumped when a new regime was installed by the US after the Taliban's collapse. Rabbani and others in his party and those outside the party who are either not included in the new government or did not receive what they wanted have a vested interest in making the Interim Government look as inept as possible. Still using the Presidential palace (8 February 2002), Mr Rabbani has appointed thousands of his supporters so far in different ministries after he left his office into Karzai while putting under his signature the date prior to 22 December 2001. In addition to Russian support, Iran already supported the Sheite Hezb-i-Wahdat and Rabbani group in kind and cash to destabilise the Kabul administration and prepare for hit-and-run warfare against the Americans in future. As such, sowing dissent between the ethnic groups and spreading insecurity in the country may slow down the influx of aid, rendering the new government ineffective and allowing Rabbani to return to power.

  The Russians still consider Afghanistan in the sphere of her influence and wishes the Americans to acknowledge this. Recently, the Russians went to Afghanistan without even an apology for their invasion of Afghanistan nor an offer to pay compensation. They came to Afghanistan without permission from Afghans and before the Afghan blood that was shed by them has dried up. The Russians have strong allies in the region such as Iran, India and Central Asian states. The Central Asian states may not like the Russians wholeheartedly but since their leaders at home are former communists and brutal dictators they cannot survive without Russian collaboration. They need Russia for many reasons. As in the nineteenth century, the Russians again cannot go forward towards the west in Europe but can push towards east and south without major obstacles. The US is busy in its military campaign against the Taliban and Al-Qaeda and has left the security and political sides of the problem to the UN who never knew where to go. If the situation continues, the Russo-Indo-Iranian camp will gain more ground gradually in Afghanistan when compared to the Western coalition.

  Afghanistan is already on the road to the dark era of 1992-96 in spite of the optimistic speeches, promises and frequent visits to Kabul by Western leaders; as the reality on the ground is no promising peace and no real government in Afghanistan. The strong appeal of Mr Karzai time and again for more UN force in Afghanistan proves there is a serious security problem in the country. Poor Afghans are hopeful that the UN/US may take bold steps to bring peace and security to their war torn country and may pave the way for a representative government.

(b)   Representative government

  Currently all key government positions are at the hands of the warlords of the Northern Alliance; Karzai has little or no power, except the expected UN money. NA warlords could monopolise the situation and they are in a position to force Mr Karzai to do what they like. Currently, they pressurise Karzai to appoint their supporters to important positions in the ministries and government institutions, especially the army and police. They will certainly pressurise him to channel the UN funds to them. Karzai will abide by what he is asked since he has no military power on the ground to give him strength. The rejection of his appointments in Kabul and the provinces is a clear indication of how powerful he really is. However, he has to try to show he is successful in his job and has control over affairs, though unrealistic, and will try his best to convince the donors to be patient and release their funds.

  As we said earlier there is neither security nor properly functioning government institutions. However, the people have accepted these brutal conditions hoping they will return to normal gradually. They are waiting for the coming Loya Jirga, to represent hopefully all segments of Afghan society. They further hope the coming Loya Jirga will appoint a broad based government which in turn will draft a fair constitution to pave the way for a better and democratic Afghanistan. By this, they expect stability to return to Afghanistan and Afghans will be allowed to follow a normal life. But their hopes vanished when Karzai announced on 25 January 2002 the 21 member committee responsible for the calling of the Loya Jirga; nearly all of them supporters of the Northern Alliance and most of them had close co-operation with Russians during their occupation of Afghanistan. He announced that the list was made only by the UN and he had no input in it at all. The list is unrepresentative, biased and worse than that which happened in Bonn. Of course, its outcome is predictable, a bleak future for Afghanistan. It is evident from the list that the future Interim Government is a continuation of the present administration and will draft a constitution for Afghanistan as it wishes to shape the future of the country for generations to come. It seems either the UN has no capability of finding a just solution to the Afghan problem to give Afghans a normal life or is being dictated to. Otherwise, there is no reason to believe why major errors have to be repeated and why the way for a representative government should be intentionally blocked. Everybody asks why the Bonn accord is repeatedly violated by the UN? Serving the interests of the regional powers, it seems the UN is trying hard to give legitimacy to the warlords to rule the country for ever and forces the Afghans to live the way these gangs and war criminals see fit for them. It seems in the eyes of the UN that the hope of the Afghans for having a representative government is simply unrealistic.

  On a regional level, the present situation in Afghanistan, created by the UN, serves mainly the interests of the neighbours of Afghanistan such as Iran, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Turkey, India and Russia, with the exception of Pakistan—even through Pakistan joined the US coalition against Afghanistan and offered its soil and intelligence to topple its allies, the Taliban. Pakistan joined the US in attacking Afghanistan but closed its borders to their fellow Muslims and neighbouring Afghans that were made refugees by the attack. In spite of all these concessions offered to the US, Pakistan is marginalized in Afghanistan. Meanwhile, Iran, which is not part of the coalition and has always considered the USA as "the devil", and has allegedly kept Al-Qaeda leaders got a much bigger say in Afghan affairs. No doubt, the present administration in Kabul is a bitter enemy of Pakistan. If the UN continues its present policy of reluctance towards the formation of a broad based/representative government in Afghanistan that will have good relations with all neighbours, including Pakistan, then, Pakistan in order to end its position of being a sandwich between enemies (India and Afghanistan) may come to terms with those who oppose the US presence in the region. Once the US leave the area, Afghanistan will again be left to its greedy neighbours. Here, Pakistan has the power to bargain as she did in the mid-1990s. If the UN does not adopt a constructive policy towards Afghanistan soon, by correcting its mistakes in the Bonn conference and the committee for Loya Jirga, then Afghanistan will again become a breeding ground for regional rivalries and security will not return to this country for long. The country will again become a safe haven for terrorists and a centre of opium production.

(c)   Reconstruction

  If the warlords are in power for long and there is no representative government in the near future to bring peace and stability to the nation and give clear account to the donors, then, the industrial countries who wish to assist Afghanistan will lose interest.

  The donors must not be considered as milking cows for warlords and cannot pay the money of their tax payers to fatten the gangs. They will be reluctant to feed these warlords for long and make them stronger and to further abuse of human rights. Sentiments cannot rule forever and political priorities often change. Afghanistan will not remain a priority forever. The warlords dismissed nearly all government personnel of the Taliban era accused of being pro-Taliban and filled the vacancies with their supporters. Furthermore, they recruited as many personnel as they could without any need and job description, just to increase their supporters. There is big competition in recruitment among ministers. Not only do most of these personnel not have any work to do but also they are very harmful to the running of a healthy administration. Why and for how long will the donors feed these parasites? The sooner these circumstances change the better. The circumstances can be changed only when there is peace and peace can only come if there is a broad based/representative government. Such a government can launch reconstruction programmes successfully, can attract all those who are currently engaged in fighting under the command of the various warlords and also activate those who are sitting idle in government institutions.

  If peace and security do not return to Afghanistan and there is no opportunity for Afghans to work in the reconstruction of their country, then, they will have no alternative other than to continue working with warlords. Carrying a gun gives them and their families a kind of security in war conditions and is a source of income. Moreover, the more there is no security nor a popular government the more Afghanistan will be a safe haven for extremists. Afghans are not extremists by nature and hate terrorism. They never resorted to terrorism in history. Every Afghan government since 1992 pleaded the international community to help in the reconstruction of Afghanistan. They argued that the creation of jobs would divert Afghan youths from war to a normal and peaceful life. But the international community did not respond. Similarly, in the last 10 years Afghans did not receive any international assistance for the rehabilitation of agriculture and livestock in Afghanistan. Irrigation systems were destroyed and there were little regular water supplies to cultivate traditional crops such as wheat, corn, rice or cotton. The farmers and their families had to survive with decreasing amounts of water. The poppy is the only crop that brings money and needs little water. It can be grown in semi-arid lands and hill-foots without modern irrigation systems or technology given a little rainfall (three to five times a year) is available. The Afghans do not like the poppy; it is bad from the Islamic point of view and has little home consumption. But they have had no other alternative for their survival. They pleaded for years for the world community to help them in abandoning this crop but had no positive response. Finally, the world community has come to realise these important points and is willing to assist but unfortunately the UN does not know how to fulfil this world desire. The way the UN is working in Afghanistan is against the wishes of the Afghans and the international community. Its illusive stand confused the need for a broad based government and a more representative administration, that can insure security and reconstruction programmes in the country. Many ask why the UN is doing this? This is the duty of all of us to work together to exploit to the utmost the present favourable international conditions as early as possible to pave the way for a broad based/representative government in Afghanistan. It is good for Afghans, good for their neighbours and good for the international community.

Afghanistan Studies Forum

February 2002

previous page contents next page

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2002
Prepared 20 June 2002