Global Policy Forum

Annan Accuses 'Peacekeepers' for Afghanistan

September 28, 1999

United Nations - UN Secretary General Kofi Annan sharply criticized on Monday unnamed members of an eight-nation group that is supposedly trying to bring peace to Afghanistan, saying they were actually supporting some Afghan factions. "The unabated external involvement in the Afghan conflict leads me to raise the question of the 'six plus two' group," he said.

He was referring, in a written report to the General Assembly, to a group comprising Afghanistan's six neighbors -- China, Iran, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan -- plus the United States and Russia. The group was originally established "with the intention of adopting a joint strategy towards reaching a peaceful solution of the Afghan conflict," Annan said.

The Islamist Taliban movement, which controls about 90 percent of the country but is recognized only by Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emigrates, is battling an opposition alliance led by Ahmad Shah Masood. Taliban accuses Iran, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan of aiding the opposition, which in turn accuses Pakistan of backing the Taliban. "It appears that, despite the agreements on texts and declarations, the 'six plus two' group has not been able to make real progress on a more unified approach vis a vis the warring parties in Afghanistan," Annan wrote. "Words must be put into political practice. In fact, by their continuous support for certain Afghan factions, some members of the 'six plus two' appear mostly to be paying lip service to their own stated intentions," he declared.

Annan said he shared the concern of his special envoy for Afghanistan, former Algerian Foreign Minister Lakhdar Brahimi, "about the practical usefulness of the 'six plus two' for the United Nations peacemaking efforts in Afghanistan." He therefore supported Brahimi's recommendation to review the U.N. approach. Annan said it was "profoundly disturbing" that only a week after a meeting in July of the "six plus two" in Tashkent, the Uzbek capital, the Taliban forces began a new offensive.

This again raised serious concerns about the intentions of the Taliban leadership, which evidently continued to believe in a military solution, he said. "Peace can only be achieved through negotiations and reconciliation and not by territorial conquest," Annan stated. He also said it was his "sad duty once more to alert the international community to the worsening human rights situation in Afghanistan," referring particularly to the displacement of the civilian population during the recent Taliban offensive in the Shomali plains. "I am deeply distressed over reports indicating the involvement in the fighting, mainly on the side of the Taliban forces, of thousands of non-Afghan nationals, mostly students from religious schools and some as young as 14 years old," the secretary-general said. "It is indeed very disturbing that, not only are external forces continuing to fuel the fighting inside Afghanistan with deliveries of ammunition and other war-making materials, but an increasing number of other nationals are taking part in the actual combat, as well as the planning of military offensives."

If this trend was not halted and reversed, the Afghan conflict would further evolve in the direction of an even more widespread and destructive regional conflict, he said. It was also profoundly troubling that Afghanistan "seems to be setting new records in drug production, which will have negative consequences for global health," Annan said. The increased drug trafficking, particularly stemming from Taliban-controlled areas, must be seen as a vital instrument for fueling the Afghans' war-making capabilities, he added.


In 1996, the ruling government of Afghanistan was displaced by the Taliban movement -- an Islamic fundamentalist group which claims control over about 90 percent of the country. The Taliban is recognized by only a handful of countries as the sovereign government. It has implemented a strict Islamic code of justice which can involve public executions and floggings. One of the poorest countries in the world, Afghanistan has been mired in conflict for generations.

In 1979, the then Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan, but after enduring years of a debilitating war against the Afghan resistance, Moscow withdrew the last of its troops in 1989. Millions of Afghans fled to Pakistan and Iran during the war with the Soviets and many remain outside the country while fighting against the Taliban continues. The Taliban are Sunni Muslims and mostly Pashtun -- the majority ethnic group of Afghanistan, while the opposition alliance comprises religious and ethnic minorities, including Shiites, Tajiks, Hazaras and Uzbeks. The Taliban are fighting the opposition on several fronts to extend their rule over the entire country. The Taliban follow a harsh version of Islam that bars women from work and education, forces men to wear beards and outlaws all light entertainment, including music and television.

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