Afghanistan’s Future Debated in Bonn

December 1, 2001

The United Nations convened its first formal talks on a post-Taliban transitional
government in Afghanistan Nov. 27. Much of the world, including the Afghan people, is
focusing its hope on these talks, being held in Bonn, Germany. They provide a stark to
George W. Bushs pledge to widen the war against terrorism.

Many human rights and humanitarian aid organizations are urging the delegates in Bonn
representatives of four Afghan political groups to keep the needs of the Afghan
people foremost in their negotiations. The fate of tens of thousands of ordinary people
rests at the meeting in Bonn, said Oxfam Director Barbara Stocking.

Amnesty International called for the parties to approve the deployment of human rights
monitors throughout Afghanistan as soon as possible.

At this critical moment the human rights of the Afghan people must come first, the
group said. Those entrusted with leadership must be persons of integrity committed to
the human rights protection of all.

Many remain critical of the Northern Alliance, which holds a majority of the seats in
Bonn, as many of the groups in it have been guilty of human rights abuses and
oppression of women.

Many womens rights groups around the world, including in the U.S., have been
lobbying to guarantee that Afghan women are represented both at this weeks talks and
in any future administration. Any government, they say, will not be stable unless
everyone is represented, including women.

The Northern Alliance, supported by the Bush administration and U.S. armed forces,
has military control over much of Afghanistan and has rejected a U.N. proposal
regarding a post-Taliban security force saying, There is security in place.

Though Burhanuddin Rabbani, the leader of the Northern Alliance, said Nov. 25 that he
was willing to hand over power to an agreed-upon interim administration, he expressed
his feeling that he is the leading candidate to be the head of that administration.


This came days after approximately 1,000 U.S. Marines entered Afghanistan. Since the
start of the war in Afghanistan, special forces and military advisors have been sent by
the Pentagon to work with the Northern Alliance. In addition, the CIA is reportedly
running paramilitary units made up chiefly of non-uniformed U.S. veterans (commonly
known as mercenaries).

As of Nov. 28, the Bonn delegates appeared to be nearing an agreement that would
place exiled former King Mohammad Zaher Shah at the head of the interim
administration. The former king is widely seen as a unifying force among the Afghan

Many involved in humanitarian efforts have been skeptical of the current role of the
Northern Alliance and U.S. military in the delivery of humanitarian aid.

The sudden expansion of Northern Alliance territories … actually stopped the food
convoys from Pakistan and Iran for several days because truck drivers are reluctant to
travel into a militarily volatile situation, said Jim Jennings, president of Conscience
International, a humanitarian aid organization.

Meanwhile, the humanitarian effort is losing precious days, a critical factor because of
the onset of winter. For every day lost now, some people will die down the line.

Both Doctors Without Borders and the U.N. High Commissioner on Refugees have
warned that the situation has deteriorated within Afghanistan over the past two months.
This has been evidenced by the increased numbers of malnourished children arriving at
refugee camps. Large parts of the population are dependent on international aid, which
they have not been receiving.

Meanwhile, hundreds of tons of humanitarian aid is piling up on the ground in
Uzbekistan, further complicating the already severe and chaotic humanitarian situation.
Afghanistans food problems wont go away when the fighting stops because the land
mines that riddle the country will plague distribution efforts, international aid officials

Many groups have reported widespread banditry and looting of food convoys and
warehouses. The U.S. military should pressure its allies to allow free movement to
Afghans and to U.N. and private relief agencies, said Sarah Zaidi, Center for Economic
and Social Rights research director, currently in Pakistan.

Ensuring that thousands of Afghans do not starve to death this winter is both a moral
imperative and a human rights obligation for all parties who have contributed to the
crisis including the United States.


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