Geef Afghanistan terug aan de Afghanen!

Van 11 tot 17 juni bezocht een delegatie EP-leden Afghanistan. Het Zweedse groene EP-lid Per Garthon was erbij. Hij brengt verslag uit. De tekst die daarop volgt is een rapport van Sabine Meyer, adviseur Buitenland voor de Europese Groenen. Afghanistan is bepaald geen land zoals alle anderen: "De vrede is er even onbestaand als de vrijheid van vrouwen ..."

Give Afghanistan back to the Afghans!

MEP Per Gahrton (Greens, Sweden) reports from a visit by an ad hoc delegation - led by French MEP/General Philippe Morillon - to Afghanistan in June 2003

Eighteen months after the US led "liberation" of Afghani women from male chauvinist Taliban rule, an unveiled face of a woman is still frowned about in the Streets of Kabul, Kandahar and Mazar-e-Sherif. I can count a maximum of two or three visible pairs of eyes among every hundred that are concealed behind the cloth grid of the blue burkhas. In the villages they are said to be even more scarce but this is hear-say since I am limited to the bird's eye perspective of the military helicopters and UN-aeroplanes outside the bigger cities. The peace is as non-existent in Afghanistan as is the freedom of women and neither foreign troops, governmental troops nor warlord militia dare to take on their responsibility to let guesting EU-politicians move freely on the ground. So whenever we are not flying high over dry plains and snow covered mountains we are constantly surrounded by security guards armed to their teeth.

The US coalition commanding officer, General Vines, certainly insists during his state of affairs-briefing that "the bad guys" are defeated and that the remaining Taliban and al-Qaeda do not number more that a couple of hundred divided and uncoordinated "terrorists". Nevertheless he also insists that they remain a global threat. This is why US troops are in Afghanistan. It is stated that their goal is to destroy terrorism, crush al-Qaeda and not least to ensure that Afghanistan is led by a government that "recognises the right of US-troops to return". Hence, carte blanche for an American re-invasion whenever Washington deems it to be necessary! I cannot understand if it is this information/mission that brings about the signs in the briefing room with the text "secret" upon them or if it rather is the lack of US-objectives concerning the welfare of the Afghani population that one wishes to conceal.


There is not one word about the women's liberation in the mission objective of the US-troops. That "detail" has been left to the Ministry of Women, that has succeeded in getting 30 % of girls back to school, but that regards their own goal to increase this share to 50 % as impossible to attain due to the lukewarm interest from domestic and foreign male power elite. The Minister for Women, Habiba Surabi, without burkha but with covered hair, dreams of quota rules that would guarantee women at least 30 % of the delegates in the constituting "loya jirga" that will decide upon the new constitution of Afghanistan this autumn. But the president of the Constitutional Committee Nematullah Shahrani, in black turban, traditional dresss and full beard that would have passed through a Taliban check-point, sees no reason for a special quota for women. A fifth of the Constitutional Committee's delegates are women, aren't they? "But even if there was not one single woman in the committee us men would have taken women's interests into consideration", Shahrani ensures with a boisterous laugh.

Yes, they all still seem to be there. In Herat, Ismail Khan is still in his place and suppresses, according to a report by Human Rights Watch, women so effectively that Mullah Omar would become green with envy (Repression of Women in Western Afghanistan, vol. 14, nr 11, December 2002). In Kandahar, Gul Agha Shirzai still remains although interim president Karzai recently tried to remove him. But the Americans who need a governor loyal to the US in this Taliban stronghold saved Gul Agha. Strengthened by the US support Gul Agha declared to us without blushing that he had "agreed" with the Kabul government's Minister of Finance that he does not owe the central government even one afghani although it is estimated that he earns 25 million dollars a month in custom duties from the lucrative cross-border trafficking with Pakistan. On the contrary, it is the central government that owes him 3 million dollars! Which he generously remitted.

In Mazar-e-Sherif the Tadjik Atta and the Uzbek Dostum regularly fight each other to keep their troops in good trim. They are the main suspects for filling mass graves with prisoners of war that had been killed as a result of being packed like sardines in containers until they ran out of air. When we asked Atta about this he explained that it was Dostum who "intentionally" killed a great number of defenceless prisoners. But "ask Dostum" about the details! This we did a few hours later. It was like opening a dust gate; an infinite stream of words with thousands of details came out in a speed that didn't give the interpreter a chance. From the little that was translated, it was clear that the most infamous of Afghani warlords considered himself misunderstood by the West's media. He stated that "everybody here" knows that he is an honourable man that never lies, that it is true that 170 Taliban by mistake got too little air in a container but that it was war and that it was concerning terrorists! Invite me to the European Parliament so that I once and for all may tell the truth to the world, he pleaded.


Officially Khan, Shirzai, Atta, Dostum and a number of other warlords of the same calibre, have signed an agreement with the Kabul government. An agreement which states that they will let themselves be disarmed, pay part of their customs duty and tax incomes to the central government and in general begin to act as pillars in the liberated future democracy of Afghanistan. Vice Minister of Defence Baryalai, a young energetic man in camouflage uniform, radiates optimism and faith in the future. To disarm one hundred thousand mercenaries - easy! No need to use violence, the old fighters will get 200 dollars for their weapons and be offered a new job. Where will the money and the jobs come from? That will be solved with the help of UN, Japan and Great Britain, but not of the USA. The American troops are not seen where the new Afghanistan is being built. The relative security and order in the streets of Kabul is not thanks to US-soldiers, but to German, Dutch and other state's troops within the framework of the international peace force ISAF. The efforts to curb the restarted drug trafficking are led by the British. Schools and wells are being built by volunteer organisations, with the Swedish Afghanistan committee as one of the biggest.

The tough American GI's have other things to do, such as to protect their protégé no 1 - interim president Karzai. According to a recent statement by an Afghani officer in Der Spiegel (nr 25/03), Karzai has "sold us out to the Americans". A diplomat in Afghanistan stated that "the US has embraced Karzai so tightly that he has got stuck, he is considered untrustworthy by the people". When we met him we had to pass through three safety rings, the outer one manned by Afghanis, the middle one controlled by a private British security company and an inner ring that is made up of US soldiers. Furthermore, Karzai's Minister of Home affairs, Jalali, highest official responsible for police and safety, has just come home from decades of exile in the USA. In the end it is, paradoxically enough, one of the conservative deputies in the EU-delegation who in the end breaks our polite silence and expresses what we all had been thinking: this is a US occupation!


An American journalist Carlotta Gall, reporter for New York Times, delivers the final proof showing that that characteristic is correct. She told me about her fight with the home editorial office to be allowed to publicise caustic truths about the actions of the US-troops in Afghanistan which makes the reports from Guantanamo sound like tales from Sunday school. When I tell her that we visited the US headquarters in Bagram she quickly asks me: "Did you see the prison?" I become mute. The prison? No we have not even heard of a prison. Then Carlotta tells me about how at least one hundred al-Qaeda prisoners are kept imprisoned in Bagram under conditions that can only be described as torture. They are not beaten but they are forced to stand naked for hours and hours, day in day out, enduring constant interrogations. Eventually two prisoners died. In one of the cases an honest American doctor put down 'Homicide' on the death certificate. It took months for Carlotta to get the truth via relatives in remote villages. But eventually she had overwhelming material, the home editorial office had to give in and the article was published in the beginning of March this year (US Military Investigating Death of Afghan in Custody, March 4, 2003). US-troops in Bagram are undergoing a judicial investigation for homicide. Why was the EU-delegation not told?

Maybe because the USA needs the EU, the UN, NGO's and other "useful fools" to create the impression that the invasion war by the richest country in the world against the poorest country in the world, during the autumn of 2001, had anything to do with freedom, democracy and development. But as Carlotta Gail underlines the American soldiers have but one thing on their minds. Revenging the 11th of September. And for Bush and his funders it is, in Afghanistan as in Iraq, of course about the fight for scarce oil resources that the USA has to win since, with the words of Bush senior, "the American way of life is not negotiable". Finally the American energy giant UNOCOL's plans for gigantic pipelines from the oil and gas sources of Central Asia through Afghanistan can be realised.

It is of course natural that a confused and occupied people in all this chaos seek a sense of security and stability in the old and known. The "shura" of the Pashtuns in Kandahar gave us the same message as the council of the elders in Mazar-e-Sherif. The traditionally dressed, long bearded men from the opposite poles in the north and the south were unanimous: Let us keep Zahir Shah as the father of the nation, let us re-establish the constitutional monarchy!

It is significant that we do not need to pass through American security checks when we are going to meet the old king. He is not the US's man, but rather a man of the people. He symbolises the dream of the "good, old days", before Soviet occupation, communist coup, the freedom fight of the Mujahedin, civil war, Taliban domination and US occupation. Back in 1933 he became King, in 1964 he installed a constitution with democratic elements. But in 1973 he was overthrown and has not returned until now. He receives us in western clothes with a semi-open shirt without a tie. On the walls there are pictures of him greeting Eisenhower and De Gaulle. He has his future behind him. Still it is a message of the future he whispers to us in his 88-year old tired voice: The Afghans have always resisted foreign interference!

That is probably also how it will be this time. Of course Afghanistan needs and wants foreign reconstruction and development aid. But the USA occupation lays the foundation for the next devastating war. If all well-intentioned "fellow travellers" from the UN, the EU and voluntary organisations don't want to be regarded as the henchmen of the occupiers, they must distance themselves from General Vines and his torturers in Bagram. Above all they should not be tempted to reconstruct what the USA has destroyed - at least not before the US-troops have been forced to give Afghanistan back to the Afghans.

Per Gahrton
Member of the European Parliament (Greens, Sweden)



11-17 June 2003

The delegation consisted of 14 members - 8 MEPs and 6 staff:

Philippe Morillon- head of delegation-, Ursula Stenzel, Nirj Deva, Marielle de Sarnez (PPE)
Glyn Ford, Demetrio Volcic (PSE)
André Brie (GUE-NGL)
Per Gahrton (Green/EFA)

It was the first general EP delegation after the invasion of Afghanistan. A smaller assessment delegation of the EP Women's Committee went to Afghanistan earlier this year, with a more limited focus, mainly to look at the situation of women after the toppling of the Taliban.
Considering that the European Parliament together with the Commission are responsible for a financial package of 736 million Euros of humanitarian and reconstruction aid for Afghanistan from 2002 to 2004, this "fact-finding mission" carried considerable practical and symbolical weight. The goal of the delegation, as defined in its press release, was to inquire into "issues of security, human rights and civil society". The attitude of the head of delegation, General Morillon, which was decisive for the choice of program and approach, stands in my eyes in a caricatured contract to the intended mission.

The delegation spent 4 days in Kabul, with one afternoon at Bagram US Air Base outside of Kabul, to where members were flown by helicopter. Delegates additionally flew for one day to Qandahar in the South and one day to Mazar-e-Sharif in the North. My itinerary turned out to be a bit different, in that I spend the Bagram day sick in a bed at the headquarter of the UN troops and had a glimpse at the functioning of an UN camp from the bottom. ISAF and its doctors very hospitably took care of my food poisoning for a whole day, and I shared my room with one of the two female mayors. The next day, instead of the flying to Qandahar with the delegation, I accompanied a veterinarian from the Dutch Committee for Afghanistan and his driver on a tour to the Panshir Valley and its surrounding mountains.

The trip to Afghanistan turned for me out to be an interesting learning experience in a double sense: It offered a small glimpse of what life is like in this deprived country which has been ravaged by 23 years of war. And it was a revealing case study of those mechanisms, which can lead politicians to take decisions on the highest level believing to know what they are talking about.... Politicians, who in reality have never left the cocoon of the power elite in order to make at least an attempt towards finding out what life is like for the ordinary people.
General Morillon is a rather appalling example of this kind. There was hardly any of our interlocutors who was not interrupted only to find himself listening to the general explaining the situation in Afghanistan in his or her behalf. The delegation was more often then not a one-man-show and a certain disgrace. Particularly at the moment when Morillon warmly thanked the mass murderer Dostum for the meeting, wishing him all the best for the future and asking him to pose for a group picture with the delegation, the limit of the acceptable for an official EP delegation was reached in my eyes.

The Parliamentarians were kept busy with so-called high level talks from morning to evening, which -at least for those were I was present - rarely extended beyond uninteresting jargon and small talk - as had to be expected from this choice. The delegation met with President Karzai, Zahir Shah, the Ministers of Foreign Affairs, Defence, the Interior, Women's Affairs as well as the Vice-Presidents in charge of civil service reform and the constitutional process, the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission, UN Special Representative Brahimi, Second-in-command of ISAF (International Security Assistance Force - UN) Brigadier General Bertholee and US forces commander Lt. General Vines. Members also met with the governors of Qandahar and Balkh, the Shuras (Councils) of Elders in both Qandahar and Balkh, as well as the fractional leaders of Mazar-e-Sharif, General Atta and Dostum, the latter together with Hekmattyar the most brutal and renowned war criminal of Afghanistan. One of the more informative meetings was with Francesc Vendrell, EU Special Representative for Afghanistan. We also met the Japanese ambassador. Receptions and dinners took place with various EU heads of mission as well as with NGOs and EC/ ECHO, EU Special Representative Staff.

Even if one could argue that such a delegation has to respect a certain protocol, this is no excuse for passing almost the whole time in noble reception halls and at dinner tables with warlords and other celebrities, while not receiving a minimum of briefings from humanitarian and aid organisations that could have presented assessments of the actual situation.

The whole program was admirably well organised by Karl Harbo, Head of the EC Office and his team, particularly considering that communications is still a huge problem in Afghanistan .All the flights, from and to Kabul, to Qandahar and Mazar-e-Sharif were UN flights for security reasons. Since Afghanistan's road system is largely destroyed, flying was also the only reasonable means of transportation. As a result of the suicide attack on German ISAF soldiers just a few days before our arrival in Kabul, which left 4 dead and 29 wounded, we were heavily protected by a convoy of EC and Afghan security during our whole trip, except the time when I 'dropped out'. Even vehicles of international NGOs have recently been attacked and the security situation seemingly continues to deteriorate. The next EP delegation (of women) to be let by Ulla Sandbaek, who was scheduled for the middle of July had to be cancelled because the UN did not want to take the security risk.


* The mandate of ISAF should be extended outside of Kabul, the number of soldiers increased. PRTs will probably not offer much of a solution.

* Those countries, providing contingents for the 'Enduring Freedom' forces should re-consider the emphasis on 'anti-terror combat' in favour of providing security for reconstruction (in brief: reduction of Coalition forces, increase of ISAF forces, shift from focus on military to more focus on police).

* Give more outright support to the Central Government versus the fractional leaders.

* Increase funding for Afghanistan and keep international interest awake for the country.

(In the words of the EC Delegation: 'Afghans believe that the pledged assistance does not arrive - They are right, not because we are not helping, but because all we are doing is only a drop on a hot stone in comparison with the needs of the country. 'Reconstruction' cannot even be talked about. Our aid barely covers the most urgent humanitarian needs!')


Those, who have been in Afghanistan for more than a year, underlined how much thinks have already improved. Yet the visitor is rather shocked by the amount of destruction of the country. Kabul is in a state of ruins bringing back memories of pictures of German cities after the Second World War. It is admirable, how people try to reconstruct their lives between broken walls and sunken in roofs. Commercial life has picked up again as we could testify ourselves in the Bazaar area. Even restaurants slowly start to reappear. On our brief city tour we looked at the remains of famous buildings such as the destroyed museum of culture, where French archaeologists were trying to gather the hundreds of pieces of a destroyed Buddha sculpture - the whole content of the formerly famous museum has been pillaged. Afghanistan's rich cultural heritage has been almost entirely plundered and destroyed. We saw the remains of the former palace of the King, later ministry of the Defence, of the Palace of the Queen, of the Mausoleum of the Royal family.

Our hotel, the best in Afghanistan - we have been told - had hot water only in the mornings. Air conditioning was not functioning; electricity cuts frequent, telephone and Internet connections barely functioning. Food poisoning because of poor sanitation in that hotel as anywhere else in Afghanistan was at the order of the day. I have been told that at a time one third of the US forces were out of business with digestive problems. There is no central sewage system any more in Kabul, nor central water distribution and it will take at least a decade for them to be reconstructed according to experts. Kabul's citizens are dependent on private wells for their water supply. Energy is also extremely scarce. At the moment Afghanistan produces 400 Megawatts of energy per day (350 of which are for Kabul, which represents 3% of the population). While consumption is 18 kilowatt per person/per year in Afghanistan, Norwegians consume 10.000 kilowatt/annually per person in comparison.

On my trip to the countryside I realised that destruction is not limited to the city. We drove through the very fertile plain North of Kabul, which used to be the centre of Afghan agriculture. Not a single farm house or field has survived the assault of the Taliban. Mudjaheddin and Taliban additionally covered the countryside with mines. Wherever the eyes go, one discovers stones, marked in red or white, which indicate still mined or demined territory and abbreviations in big letters on every single wall bear witness that the deminers have already passed. In the middle of the ruins here and there a tent is popping up -returnees who try to slowly rebuild the remains of former houses.

Wherever the territory was safe, farmers had started the vineyards again. Afghanistan's main exports used to be raisins, pistachios and almonds. The vines are in their second year again, but whether the Afghans will ever be able to regain their old markets is still uncertain. They have in the meantime been filled by exporters from neighbouring countries. Seeing the grapes grow gives some hope for the near future, while the destroyed pistachio and almond trees will take decades to grow back and to carry fruit again. Additionally, Afghanistan is a country whose agricultural capacities have over centuries been based on irrigation. All those traditional systems are destroyed and cannot be reconstructed over night.

Schools have re-opened again and in Kabul at closing hours, hundreds of schoolboys and girls in their uniforms pour into the streets. In the countryside the big white school tents are recognisable from far away. They replace the buildings which have been destroyed. All along our way to the Panshir Valley, I looked in vain for signs of female education. In the morning when passing the open tents, they are stuffed little bodies and 50 to 60 little shorthaired dark heads leaking through the holes. On the way back in the afternoon: the same scenario. I did not discover a single girl with a school map on her back and it has to be concluded that even in this rather accessible part of Afghanistan, girls still do not go to school. According to the statistics we heard, in all of Afghanistan, approximately 30% of the girls are now going to school. Since for Kabul, the statistics document 70% female school enrolment, and my observation that in the countryside apparently girls are not being sent to school could correlate with reality. The only girls to be seen in the streets were either guarding their little siblings or animals or were doing some kind of work. (Afghan children in general - boys and girls - seem to have forgotten how to play. In any case I rarely observed any sign of children's games).
The representatives of the Human Rights Commission explained that one of their tasks is to change the teaching methods in Afghan schools which were completely militarised. In mathematics, f. ex, the first calculations were based on terms like "bullets" and "soldiers".

Not a single woman outside of Kabul was without a burqa! For girls above a certain age, which seems to be a bit flexible, the wearing of a shawl is a must. In Kabul, maybe 10% of those women to be seen in the streets (who are only a minority of 10 to 15 % anyway!) wear shawls instead of a Burqa. In the countryside, such 'liberalism' seems to be out of question. City and countryside combined: we did not meet a single woman on our whole trip who wore her head free. Yet Mr. Vendrell was probably not very much beside the point, when he claimed that the Burqa was the 'least' problem for women in Afghanistan (Had he ever stuck his head under one of these choky, cumbersome ambulant 'prisons' with bars even barring the view - he might have worded his observation in a slidely more sophisticated manner). Especially in the provinces close to the boarder with Pakistan, women continue to be treated worse than animals, utterly neglected, tortured, imprisoned, enslaved, sold, or killed - at random (see attached Economist article). Afghanistan has one of the highest mortality rates for pregnant women and infants in the world, because people have no access to healthcare. As the result of 23 years of civil war and one generation deprived of any education under Tailbone dictatorship, the country suffers under an extreme deficit of knowledge and skilled people. There are no doctors, no nurses to provide healthcare. Even if there were, the hospitals have been destroyed and there are no roads to get to them. 48,1% of men and 78,1% of women over 15 years of age are analphabets, according to the statistics we heard. This estimation is probably rather conservative. There are supposedly whole regions, where one looks in vain for a single literate person. Donors like ECHO invest now into radio broadcasting as the only mass media in Afghanistan, which reaches an estimated max. of 38% of the population, 24% in rural areas.

While meeting with the National Human Rights Commission and later with the regional branch of the Human Rights Commission in Mazar-e-Sharif, our delegation was told that private prisons, private investigations and torture are very widespread in Afghanistan - not surprising in a country where a public justice system is virtually non-existent. Dostum alone still holds 1000 'Pakistani' prisoners in Sheber Khan, who nobody wants to deal with. The cases which are being brought to the attention of the various branches of the human rights commission additionally often concern land occupation, forced marriages, recruitment by force, forced tax collection to fractional leaders, forced labour. We had the chance to talk with the journalist Maria Sesawar, who had been sentenced, to death recently by a local court under the claim to have misrepresented Islam in her critical article about the role of women in the ongoing constitutional process. A printing error in her article had aroused the wrath of the 'Young Islamic Movement of Afghanistan' who campaigned against her. A mother of 8 children, she was forced to leave school at the age of 12. Despite this, she worked as a successful journalist for 25 years to become the Executive Editor-in-Chief of the local newspaper, was chosen to represent the women in the Loya Jirga. But even such a prominent woman, who thanks to her outstanding capacities survived the assaults of Mudjahedins and Taliban, is not safe from deadly persecutions. The good part of the news is that thanks to international pressure and the work of the Afghan Human Rights' Commission she was eventually acquitted.

On our trip to the Panshir Valley, we drove about 150 km outside of Kabul. Yet driving took up most of the day. After the first 50 km the four-lane road ended in a dirt pist for the rest of the way. We had to cross several riverbeds. All the bridges were destroyed and only very provisionally replaced by metal plaques. Cars and especially trucks were waiting for hours to get across. I have been told that those dirt roads were in very good shape in comparison with the rest of the country. So, it can be concluded, Afghanistan's infrastructure must have been bombed back to the Middle Ages.

Along the way to the mountains the road was strewn with remains of past slaughters by and of Russians, Mudjahedins or Taliban: rusty skeletons of tanks and empty bomb shells rotting in the sun, smaller and bigger graveyards everywhere. The graves of the hundreds of thousands of unnamed, only remembered by a plain cobblestone and - for the men, died as "martyrs" - a piece of green rug attached to a stick. In the Panshir valley, still controlled by Northern Alliance roadblocks, we pass the weapon's arsenals of the regional leader tanks and piles of ammunition boxes, ready to be reactivated in case of need. We pass the remains of a destroyed refugee camp. Those were supposedly people who fled the Taliban moving up from the South and who have gone back to their home towns since- the camp being thoroughly destroyed in order to discourage any return. On our way to the driver's mountain village, we pass General Massoud's Mausoleum. It is constructed on a hillside overlooking a river bend and the fertile valley. The landscape with the surrounding mountains looks beautiful and peaceful. It becomes of spectacular beauty, once we turn to the steep dirt path into the mountains. People live in this solitary world of colourful wild flowers, small cascades from the remaining snow, their houses embedded in the rock walls of the narrow valleys, every centimetre of arable land used for a sherry tree or some endurable crop - they live there not much different from how it must have been 200 hundred years ago. After this experience one can imagine where the energy and passion but also the isolation comes from, which has led the Afghans to defend their culture against outside intrusion for centuries.


Even in official analyses, such as Mr. Vendrell's, President Hamid Karzai is still not the 'mayor' of Kabul, not to talk about presiding over the rest of the country. Few weeks before our arrival, Karzai threatened to resign, if the fractional leaders (warlords) would not show some co-operation notably on the transfer of tax revenues to the central government. Our arrival was marked by the beginning of the collection of taxes through the central government in the provinces - with yet unknown result. According to the agreements, the government is supposed to raise 200 million dollars per year. Effectively they managed so far to raise 80 million. Several government members openly complained about the mistrust of the donor community against the central government and that the international aid to Afghanistan is mainly channelled through the NGOs and bypasses the government. What might be the most important achievement of the central government so far as mentioned by quite a few of our counterparts was the introduction of a central currency. Before the warlords had their own.

Civil service reform: The central government is facing a gigantic task to restructure the administration with 250 000 civil servants, about 1% of the population, and a administrative structure that is still leftover form the Russian occupation. According to Vendrell's judgement, President Karzai is in the worst of all possible situations in that he has been so closely "embraced" by the Americans that people are suspicious. On the other hand the Americans have not given him the tools to contain the warlords, on the contrary they have supported them. It is widely accepted that the only achievement of the Taliban, to contain the power of the regional fractional leaders in favour of a central administration, has been completely rolled back with the US invasion. Hedayat Amin Arsalah, Vice-President in charge of civil service reform explained that in the past, Afghans were used to settle their security problems themselves. Therefore central security has always been weak. At the moment there are too many ministries sharing competencies, f. ex. Three different ministries share the competence on energy: on water, on mines and on industry.

The other two hot issues are the necessary reforms of the ministry of defence, so far controlled by Panshiris of the Northern Alliance, and the disarmament of the regional troops of the fractional leaders. In total there are aprox.1 million men under arms. Under the slogan 'DDR' -Demobilisation, Disarmament, Reintegration - lead by the Japanese, those soldiers are supposed to be re-integrated into civil society. Only a fraction is planned to stay on in order to form the core of a new national army (of theoretically 70 000, in practice more an estimated 25 to 35 000). Disarmament is supposed to start in the three northern provinces at the beginning of July with the support of the UN and the coalition forces. 1000 trained officers are supposed to select those soldiers who fulfil the criteria in order to be integrated into the national army. They have to be ready to be stationed outside of their own region. Another measure to cut down the influence of the fractional leaders is the separation which will be imposed between the post of governor and military commander, so far usually in one hand.

Security problems continue, mainly in the South, from remaining Taliban, Hekmattyar (who recently came out with open support of the Taliban) and al Qaida on the one hand, and fractional leaders like Dostum/Atta on the other hand. Because of the security risks, reconstruction is still impossible in several regions. Vendrell considers that there has not been much improvement since last year. The 5200 ISAF troops are limited to Kabul in order to stabilise the situation in the capital. In comparison: 12 000 coalition forces (mainly American) are solely occupied to hunt down Al Qaida and Taliban.
US/France: responsible for the setting up of the new Afghan army
Germany: in lead for new police force (goal: 20 000 new policemen by next year)
The UN Special Representative Lakhdar Brahimi stated that some members in the government started to realise the importance of building up a potent police force versus only concentrating on the army. The Minister of the Interior Ali Ahmad Jalai, complained about the situation of the police force as poorly trained, paid and equipped - the latter in a country full of arms. He pledged for more investments of the donors into the police sector. The plan is to create rapid reaction forces in order to send them to hot spots, because there will not be enough police to cover the whole country. It is being perceived as progress that most recently the competence for prisons has been transferred from the Ministry of the Interior to the Ministry of Defence. Human rights offices are supposed to be created on all levels of the Ministry of the Interior. In response to the issue that Afghanistan has become once again the biggest opium producer world wide, which the PPE members of our delegation advanced at any possible or impossible instant, Brahimi advanced the example of Lebanon: When that state fell to pieces, drug production became a big problem. Nowadays, this is not an issue anymore. As long as Afghanistan has no functioning central administration, drugs will remain a problem.

Concerning alleged massacres such as the one by Dostum's troops against Taliban war prisoners in Mazar-e-Sharif, a letter by de Melo, Foreign Minister Abdullah and Brahimi will go out the governments of the US, UK, NL and Germany, those countries who expressed concern about prosecution in order to ask for additional support to guarantee the necessary security. "There are no jails," (at least no governmental ones) "no police, no judges..." said Brahimi. The representatives of the human rights commission favour a low-key investigation, without media, with proper and professional documentation. They confirmed the rumours that people are trying to eliminate the traces of the mass graves and demanded a forensic team to be put in place. There is an important need, they say to educate people about war crimes.

Extension of ISAF: The UN, President Karzai and warlords like Dostum - all demand an extenuation of the ISAF forces beyond Kabul. So far there are 5200 UN troops stationed in the capital, which control supposedly 2-3% of the territory. On 11 August the German/Dutch command will be taken over by NATO. The main advantage seems to be more continuity in the command structure as opposed to 6 monthly rotations and the eternal search for candidates. Four days before we arrived, a suicide bomber attacked a bus with German ISAF soldiers on their way to be flown home. The troops were still trying to come to grips with the loss of their comrades when I paid my involuntary tribute to the ISAF camp. General nervousness about decreasing security in Afghanistan was tangible. In an Observer article of 25.5.02 Peter Osborne presents comparative figures which don't need commenting: in Bosnia there is 1 peacekeeper for every 113 inhabitants, in East Timor 1 for every 66, in Kosovo 1 for every 48 and in Afghanistan one for every 5,380! However, it has also to be recalled that the nature of the Afghanistan mandate was very different: ISAF's role is to assist the government. In the Balkans UN administration replaced the government.

The Coalition Forces brought another concept into the debate: Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRT). Several of those small military units, in collaboration with Afghan troops, with civil reconstruction tasks (water, health, education) of about one hundred people each have already been put in place, and requests have been extended to the countries providing troops to Afghanistan to join in. Echo representatives stressed the critical attitude of humanitarian NGOs concerning the PRT concept, warning that so far those teams - contrary to the arguments advanced by the military in support of PRTs -have not been stationed in areas, which were really unsafe. The PRT discussed by the German Government exploration mission, who happened to arrive in Kabul at the same moment as our delegation, delivered the proof: the idea they explored was to station a PRT team in Herat. Herat under the sectional leader Ismail Khan, is one of the more secure areas of Afghanistan. So, ECHO and the NGOs argue this would solely discredit the local leaders and push the dangerous blurring of humanitarian and military activities. Especially in the South, the international military forces have a very bad image, which threatens with the PRTs to be projected on the NGOs. In the weeks before our delegation, attacks on NGO vehicles have increased already anyway. On finalising this report, in the middle of July, debates on the PRT are still continuing with pro and con positions displayed in the newspapers every day.

On the visit to the Coalition forces on 'Enduring freedom' mission, I cannot report my personal impressions, since I was sick the day, when the delegation flew to Bagram headquarters by Helicopter. What I have been reported is the very apparent difference in philosophy and approach between ISAF and Coalition forces: the first eager to stress the protecting function, f. ex. By deliberately driving through Kabul in open-non-armoured patrol vehicles, the second are still very much on a combat mission. The estimated numbers of 'enemies' are given with 300-400 Taliban in the South and 300-400 Al Qaida remnants, supported but independent from Hekmattyar troops. Victor Jacovich, ambassador and political adviser to the US troops, explained that the long-term goal of his administration is to install a government in Afghanistan that recognises the right of the United States to re-enter Afghanistan whenever the revival of terrorism has to be prevented. He also stated that the security situation in the boarder region with Pakistan has already improved more than in the last thirty years. While the government Karzai is now openly demanding a military intervention against the warlords, the Americans said they wanted to wait.

An interesting detail about the US forces I learnt from the New York Times Correspondent Carlotta Gall. The US army has a prison at Bagram were they keep about 100 more 'important' prisoners at a time, to be transferred to Guantanamo or elsewhere later. Additionally they have prisons in Kabul for what they suspect to be the more simple Al Qaida/Taliban members. Apparently prisoners are regularly obliged to stand up for days upend, shackled on hands and feet with the arms stretched to the ceiling. One prisoner testified that a doctor only ordered him to be seated after the shackles were about to break the skin of his swollen legs. Rumours and testimonies have been going around for a long time, but Gall recovered for the first time proofs for a case of death in custody due to torture earlier this year (NYT 3 ? March 2003). She recuperated the military doctor's death certificate stating 'homicide' from the victim's family.

The constitutional process for the new constitution, to be adopted in October of this year, has not been very transparent. A 9 member (2 women) drafting commission has finalised a first proposal, which will be reviewed by a 35 member (7 women) review commission. There were many complaints about the fact that this document was still not public. At the time of our arrival the process of consultation in the different provinces had started. For that purpose especially trained students collect the remarks which come from the local/regional shuras as well as from a system of mailboxes. Two information offices each have additionally been opened in Pakistan and Iran to reach out to the millions of Afghans who still remain outside the countries boarders. After integration of the remarks in the draft, it will be made public in September. From what information has leaked, the proposal will go in the direction of a presidential, two-chamber system and a Prime Minister which can only be removed by a two-thirds majority. Members of the first chamber would be elected with proportional representation on the provincial level, and of the second chamber partly elected and partly nominated. Federalism - according to Vendrell - is being viewed as a path to disintegration. The role of the king remains to be defined. At the moment his role is restricted to a purely symbolic role as 'the father of the Nation' and the drafting committee apparently wants to stick to this. The rank of Islam in the future constitution is still a matter of debate, as well, whether the word "Islamic" will figure in the title and whether at the outcome of the process, the international Covenant of Human Rights will be considered superior to national law. Some drew attention to the historical moment for Afghanistan in which one should aim high and warned that this will be the decisive and only chance for the country to make a big leap forward. The majority of our counterparts left a rather pessimistic impression about how much Afghan society is ready to be reformed. Especially in the South, the support for the Taliban seems to be still quite high and the difference between them and war criminals like Dostum are not very obvious. For the president some conditions will be laid down such as that he cannot have been involved in human rights abuses or fraud. There is no special treatment foreseen for ethnic groups or minorities. The two official languages will be Dari and Pashtun, others like Turkmeni or Baluchi will be taught as school subjects and there will be regional emissions on regional TV and radio in minority languages. When asked about the role of women in the future electoral system, the Chairman of the Constitutional Commission, Nematullah Shahrani, answered that women would have active and passive voting rights, but no special treatment like f. ex. a quota system as exists in some countries in order to guarantee a certain female representation. Habiba Surabi, Minister of Women's Affairs, calls for a one third quota for women in the upcoming Constitutional Loya Jirga. The composition of this assembly to decide upon Afghanistan's future constitution is still subject to much debate, because the last Loya Jirga has been criticised by many as not having been very representative.

Elections are programmed to take place in June 2004, though debate continues about whether this date is reasonable or whether proper preparation would need at least an additional 6 months. Since the 1970s there is no experience on election registration. It is still not clear whether the UN or the government will take on the job. Estimates believe that approximately. 120 million dollars are needed for the organisation of elections alone, because there is no infrastructure left in the country, neither roads nor telecommunication. On being asked whether if elections were organised right now, would they be free and fair, Vendrell answered with a clear 'no'. In any case, there will be separate polling stations for men and women in order to allow women to participate.

Reconstruction: According to the rather blatant analysis of the Commission reconstruction is basically not taking place. Despite the fact that the European Union is investing 1 billion Euros in Afghanistan over the next years, Afghans have the perception that aid does not arrive. And they are right because the EU money is only a drop on a hot stone in comparison with the extreme needs of the country. Additionally donors argue that they need more security before reconstruction can start. President Karzai, on the other hand, insists that if reconstruction starts, security will follow. He complains that he is not even informed about the reconstruction activities of the international donors.

Sabine Meyer
Advisor Foreign Affairs for the European Greens

GroenDe enige partij die sociaal én milieuvriendelijk is.


De Groenen/EVAGroenen en Europese Vrije Alliantie in het Europees Parlement.


Samen ijveren voor een beter Europa en klimaat?