Next, win the peace

Rebuilding: Starting from less than scratch, Afghanistan will need coordinated aid from many quarters.

November 25, 2001|By Robert Orr | Robert Orr,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

PRESIDENT BUSH and virtually all Western leaders have declared that they won't walk away from Afghanistan this time around, but they have yet to get serious about a coherent program for rebuilding the country.

President Bush's newfound support for "nation building" and embrace of the United Nations is an important first step. Thus far, however, the Bush administration's strategy for postwar Afghanistan has been to try to push the entire job onto the United Nations, which does not have the capacity to administer the whole country by itself. While the U.N. can and should play a key role in major aspects of building post-conflict Afghanistan, it cannot be left alone to undertake the mother of all nation-building projects.

Drawing a blueprint for rebuilding Afghanistan requires a clear understanding not only of what needs to be done, but also of who will do it.

After the war is over, Afghanistan will be starting from less than scratch. To make Afghanistan a real country again, stable and strong enough to resist penetration by terrorist networks, rebuilding efforts will be necessary in five major areas: governance, security, emergency humanitarian needs, economic and social development, and justice and reconciliation.

While virtually everything will need rebuilding, priorities will have to be chosen carefully in each area to make this project manageable.

First, the United States and its allies must put their full weight behind U.N. Special Representative Lakhdar Brahimi's efforts to create a transition government that includes major Pashtun elements (some of whom may have collaborated with the Taliban). This will also involve leaning on the Northern Alliance to ensure cooperation.

Convening a grand council with local representatives from all ethnic and tribal groups -- not just representatives of different warlords -- will then be essential for creating a new long-term government. International efforts to support this government should be coordinated and monitored by a senior representative of the United Nations.

Second, the international community will need to help establish the basic security arrangements necessary to sustain a new political order.

Fundamental security needs will have to be met principally by Afghan forces in a form agreed upon by the key factions in the coming weeks. At the same time, given the power vacuum opening up in many areas due to Taliban withdrawal, a small multinational coalition is needed immediately.

Comprised largely but not exclusively of troops from Muslim countries, including Turkey, Bangladesh, Indonesia and Jordan, this force could help to maintain basic law and order and oversee the transition in and around Kabul and other key cities.

In order to deal with any major contingencies, and to ensure that parties stick to their agreements, this force inside the country will need to be backed by a strong multinational rapid-reaction force led by the United States and stationed outside the country.

Civilian life and land mines

The next step on the security side will be to form a single national army and to demobilize and reintegrate the bulk of current fighters back into civilian life. A "Friends of Afghanistan" group, based largely on the "6+2" formula of the front-line states (Pakistan, Iran, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, and China) plus the United States and Russia, should be formed to support this process, thereby minimizing the chances that neighboring states resume their practice of overt intervention.

Demobilization and reintegration efforts should be implemented by those with the most experience in this area -- the International Office on Migration and the German aid agency GTZ -- with financial and technical support from the World Bank.

The final security challenge will be to design a massive land-mine-removal campaign that would make possible the return of refugees and the resumption of economic activity in key parts of the country, even as it provides employment for former combatants. While this effort might include both nongovernment organizations and bilateral donors, the U.N. Mine Action program should direct it.

Third, the international community must focus immediately on preventing a massive humanitarian crisis.

The United Nations has estimated that 7.5 million people are highly vulnerable to starvation. While helping refugees in Pakistan and Iran is important, the most critical task is to get significant resources into Afghanistan itself before the onset of winter. The U.N. Security Council and the secretary general should immediately authorize the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees and the World Food Program to establish camps and food distribution centers inside Afghanistan, wherever security conditions permit.

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