- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 15, 2001

NEW YORK U.N. Special Envoy Lakhdar Brahimi hopes to leave New York this weekend to convene a gathering where at least 100 of Afghanistan's political and military leaders will begin forming that nation's future government.
But if the early difficulties are any indication, Afghanistan will be as complicated to rebuild as a Swiss watch. So far no decision has been made on who will attend, who will pay for it, or even where it will take place.
The U.N. Security Council met for most of yesterday before passing a resolution that supports the rebuilding process and urges all parties in Afghanistan to attend a meeting on the country's future "without delay, in good faith and without preconditions."
The resolution also urges governments to provide humanitarian support and affirms "that the United Nations should play a central role in supporting the efforts of the Afghan people to establish urgently such a new and transitional government."
But diplomats here say that's easier said than done.
Afghanistan is a nation of regional and religious divisions exacerbated by generations of turmoil, political instability and conflict. It has hurtled from monarchy through civil war and occupation to become what it is today a failed state whose primary exports are refugees, terrorism and narcotics.
In recognition of the Afghan people's fierce independence and suspicion of outsiders, Mr. Brahimi has long said that the international community can only hope to support the Afghans as they make their own decisions.
Such a homegrown government "would be far more credible than one run by U.N. officials parachuted in," he said.
On Tuesday, he laid out a road map for building an inclusive, broad-based government where none has existed for decades.
Mr. Brahimi told the council that a U.N.-assisted provisional administration should be convened as quickly as possible and serve for two years. He suggested the exiled Afghan king could serve as a figurehead, with a core of powerful deputies.
At the same time a traditional council of elders, called a Loya Jirga, should meet in Afghanistan to draft an Afghan constitution that upholds the basic human rights of its citizens and poses no instability to its neighbors, he said.
But Afghanistan's long-term political stability is only one of the pressing problems facing the world community.
Diplomats yesterday continued to discuss how to provide security in a nation that is awash in weapons and riven by decades of hatred and war.
A traditional U.N. peacekeeping force is not under serious consideration, but a still-unidentified coalition of foreign forces or Afghan fighters could be organized to maintain security throughout the country, Mr. Brahimi said on Tuesday.
Pressure to organize a new government has become especially urgent since Taliban forces fled from the capital, Kabul, this week creating the threat of a dangerous power vacuum.
U.N. officials have been traveling through the region, and governments have been canvassing prominent Afghans in diaspora, seeking viable participants in a transitional administration.
The United Arab Emirates, one of only three nations to recognize the Taliban regime, has offered to host the upcoming conference. But the United Nations has ruled that out because of protests from the Northern Alliance, a loose collection of armed factions united by their hatred of the fundamental Islamic militia.
Without the Northern Alliance, which now controls some 80 percent of Afghanistan according to a Pentagon estimate, U.N. officials say there can be no conference.
Other sites under discussion are Doha, the capital of Qatar, which currently holds the chairmanship of the 56-nation Islamic Conference; Turkey, a secular Islamic state home to a number of expatriate Afghans; and Vienna, Austria, and Geneva, where the United Nations has conference facilities.


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