UN Afghan Peacekeepers

Islamic Republic News Agency
December 26, 2001

Establishment of peace and security through the rapid deployment of a multinational force in the Afghan capital Kabul is vital to facilitate humanitarian work, and to pave the way for the reconstruction of the country, analysts and UN officials have said.

A United Nations spokesman says UN peacekeepers in Afghanistan would probably have a more robust mandate than a UN force, meaning troops could retaliate if attacked by hostile elements. UN spokesman Eric Flat said in Islamabad that people must make a distinction between UN peacekeepers and a multinational force authorized by the Security Council. "The Security Council endorses creation of a multinational force...it does not make it a UN peacekeeping force. It is a UN mandated force," Falt said.

"In a multinational force, the head of the force does not report to the Secretary General....The rules of engagement of a multinational force are usually more flexible when it comes to encountering armed opposition. Rules of engagement for the UN peacekeeping force have to be negotiated at length with all the countries who are sending in armed elements," Falt added. "Without creating a secure environment, the interim set-up will start losing credibility with the Afghan people," Afghanistan analyst Rahimullah Yusufzai has said.

The new administration, led by Hamed Karzai, has daunting challenges ahead of it. Besides security, Karazai's government needs to stimulate food production, create jobs, launch a new education drive and improve the economy. The political tasks ahead are equally critical for the establishment of a broad-based, multi-ethnic government that could bring peace and stability to the volatile country for the first time in decades.

Last week the UN Security Council in New York authorised an international security force for Afghanistan - led by Britain but with troops from Germany, Italy, Belgium, and some other countries - to assist the interim government in the maintenance of security in Kabul and surrounding areas. Foreign troops could begin arriving in Kabul next week but the bulk of the multinational force are expected to take up to four weeks to deploy.

Yusufzai said it was amazing that Afghans, fiercely independent and opposed to foreign troops on their soil, were welcoming the force, possibly because they did not trust the warlords to maintain peace. Faction fighting between militias loyal to dozens of different warlords has been blamed for the internal displacement of hundreds of thousands of Afghans, as well as the destruction of crops, orchards, water sources and other infrastructure. Infant motality rates in Afghanistan are among the highest in the world and life expectancy is just 43 years.

"All the Afghan people are fed up of war and they are beginning to realise that peace and security is essential," Yusufzai added. He explained that the force should not just confine itself to Kabul, which was relatively peaceful, but should extend to all major roads as well as key towns and cities.

He said several relief convoys had been looted or attacked on the roads linking major Afghan cities and the deployment of troops would help prevent that kind of violence and enable aid agencies to carry out crucial relief work.

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