Quotation from 



* Yuji Nakamura colored, lined and gave notes, italic blue words.


Afghanistanfs hopes of peace

Nov 30th 2001
From The Economist Global Agenda

Some progress is being made in talks in Germany between various Afghan factions on the future government of the country. But a durable peace is still a distant prospect




AFTER the sudden and spectacular collapse of Taliban rule over much of Afghanistan over the past three weeks, patching together some form of government to replace them has become an urgent task for the international community. After 20 years of warfare, leaving a bitter legacy of mistrust and resentment among Afghanistanfs various ethnic groups and factions, it is also extraordinarily difficult.

Efforts to find common ground among some of these groups are being tested at a conference convened by the United Nations in an isolated hilltop hotel near Bonn, in Germany. It brings together 28 delegates from four anti-Taliban Afghan groups, in the hope of reaching agreement on the composition of a ruling council that can replace the Taliban and prepare for a traditional Afghan grand council, or loya jirga, to agree a new transitional government.

The biggest of the delegations in Bonn is from the Northern Alliance, the armed opposition to the Taliban, which has won most of the military victories on the ground, and now controls most of northern Afghanistan. Its leader is Burhanuddin Rabbani, who remained the internationally-recognised president of Afghanistan during the five years of Taliban rule. His party, Jamiat-i-Islami, an ethnic-Tajik faction which took control of the capital, Kabul, on November 13th, is one of eight groups making up the Alliance. It is dominated by minority ethnic groups from the north of the country—not just Tajiks but also Uzbeks, Hazaras and others.(What are other ethnic groups?) The Alliance has played down the importance of these talks. Mr Rabbani himself is not attending, and its spokesmen insist that the most important decisions will have to be taken at subsequent meetings, in Afghanistan. (What is the power balance among eight groups? Does Jamiat-I-Islami have absolute power?  Is the power balance changing now? )



The other three delegations all represent different tribes or factions of the largest ethnic group, the Pushtuns. In UN terminology they are known as gthe Rome processh, gthe Cyprus processh and gthe Peshawar conventionh. Rome is the home-in-exile of Zahir Shah, an octogenarian former king who was ousted in a coup in 1973. gThe Cyprus processh refers to a series of meetings held over the past few years between a number of exiled politicians and intellectuals, many of whom are seen to be close to Iran. Peshawar is a Pakistani border town, where other Afghan exiles have made their base.

Already, these disparate groups appear to have reached consensus on the first steps towards setting up a broad-based government: the establishment of an interim council. (Does g these disparate groups g means g The other three delegations or 28 delegates from four anti-Taliban Afghan groups? g)  Ahmad Fawzi, a UN spokesman, has said that there will be an executive of 15-25 people, supported by a national council of up to 200 members. These institutions are expected to govern for four to six months, after which a loya jirga would be held to form a transitional regime to hold power for another two years or so, when general elections would be held.

There also appears to be a consensus that the king should have a role of some sort, as yet undecided. Many Afghans and foreign diplomats, including, most notably, the Americans, hope he can be a symbolic unifying figurehead. There has also been progress on the controversial issue of a foreign peacekeeping force. Many of the Afghan factions, suspicious of the Alliancefs readiness to yield power, welcome this idea, which has been endorsed by the UN Security Council. (Does Afghan factions really welcome a foreign peacekeeping force? Are there any factions which oppose this idea? ) Britain already has 6,000 troops on standby to go to Afghanistan, and a number of Muslim countries, including Turkey, Jordan and Indonesia, have said they are also willing to send soldiers. But until the Bonn talks, the Alliance has insisted peacekeeping should be in the hands of a multi-ethnic Afghan force. On November 29th, however, Yunis Qanuni, the head of its delegation in Bonn, conceded that an international force could be accepted, as gpart of an overall transition planh.




But the delegations still have to do the hard part: agree on an actual division of powers. There is also debate over how representative the conference can claim to be. On November 30th Abdul Qadir, the most senior Pushtun in the Alliance delegation, walked out of the talks. He complained that the Pushtuns were under-represented, and that all discussion was in Persian, not Pushtu. The other, Pushtun-dominated, delegations, are largely composed of exiles. There are no representatives in Bonn from either the Taliban, or from the various tribal leaders and warlords,(What are concrete names of them?) who have taken over from them this month in different areas of the south.

The Westfs governments have huge leverage on the groups taking part in the Bonn talks. They have made it clear to the Afghan factions that they will not receive the massive injections of humanitarian aid that the country clearly needs unless they can agree on a broad-based government.

One wild card, however, is the extent to which the interests of America and Russia—whose leaders have apparently been co-operating very closely—will continue to coincide. Soon after Americafs marines flew in, at least a hundred Russians—not exactly soldiers, but armed men from the shadowy Ministry for Emergency Situations—turned up at an airfield north of Kabul. (What do you think concerning future relationship between America and Russia on this problem?) Russia said they were the harbingers of a ghumanitarianh effort on which it was prepared to spend lavishly.

More probably, this was a bid by Moscow to shore up the position of its favoured proxies in Afghanistan, the Alliance. Although Americafs Pakistani friends want a post-war government to include a large number of grepentanth Taliban figures (who would be Pushtuns), Russia continues to insist that veterans of the Taliban be excluded. Despite the warmth and agreement between America and Russia so far in this war, the great game for influence in this hapless country is not entirely over.