- The Washington Times - Friday, October 19, 2001

NEW YORK Brainstorming has begun on how to rebuild a post-Taliban Afghanistan, but pivotal figures yesterday said it was still too early to know what that nation would look like, or how to pursue it.
"It is too early for people to be presenting plans, though we did discuss various aspects of the evolving situation that would have to be addressed," said Richard Haass, the State Department's director of policy planning and the new point man on Afghanistan, after meeting with U.N. officials and foreign diplomats yesterday.
His U.N. counterpart, Lakhdar Brahimi, will be in Washington today to meet with Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage, and members of the National Security Council.
There is widespread agreement that international assistance will be necessary to help build a stable government in Afghanistan after the Taliban is driven from power. Increasingly, those governments have turned to a reluctant United Nations to play the leading role.
The United States, European Union and Asian-Pacific Economic Cooperation group, whose foreign ministers are meeting in Shanghai this week, have all endorsed a strong U.N. presence in Afghanistan once the bombs stop falling.
But the organization burned by nation-building debacles in Somalia and Bosnia and still struggling with Kosovo and East Timor has been hoping to avoid too prominent a role.
Mr. Brahimi stressed repeatedly that the United Nations could, at best, help give the Afghans what they want, rather than imposing international will.
"Afghanistan is a difficult country, and a very proud people, and they don't like to be ordered around by foreigners," Mr. Brahimi told reporters on Wednesday.
Mr. Brahimi, the United Nations' special envoy on Afghanistan, is a seasoned diplomat known for taking on the hard cases. The former Algerian foreign minister has tried to bring stability there before, but stepped down in exasperation after the Taliban refused to meet U.N. political staff.
Diplomats and political experts say enormous obstacles prevent much serious planning.
For starters, the U.S.-led alliance has been dropping bombs on Afghanistan for nearly two weeks in its quest to smoke out Islamic fundamentalist Osama bin Laden, and destroy the regime that harbors him.
The bombing has destroyed infrastructure that wasn't much to begin with, unsettling populations already plagued by hunger, drought and poverty. Tens of thousands of refugees are believed to be headed for Afghanistan's borders with Pakistan, Iran, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, potentially destabilizing the region.
The United Nations and other aid agencies are trying to drive, drop and deliver more than 1,000 tons of humanitarian assistance every day before the harsh winter arrives next month.
However, the agencies are unable to get the assistance into the country.
Several governments have alluded to some type of peacekeeping force after the bombing stops, but Mr. Brahimi who just completed a suggested overhaul for the peacekeeping department all but rejected a U.N. force.
"It's a difficult situation, and one cannot just get people together and send them hastily," he said.
Ravan Farhadi, a representative of the Northern Alliance government that still holds Afghanistan's U.N. seat, also rejects the blue helmets, saying that the Northern Alliance or United Front, as he prefers will bring peace to his country.
"First, we defeat the Taliban," he said. "Then we demilitarize and establish a police force."
Politically, the parties have little to agree on.
Secretary of State Colin L. Powell and Mr. Brahimi have indicated that moderate members of the Taliban could have a place in a ruling coalition. But Mr. Farhadi says the United Front will not work with the Taliban.
He tried unsuccessfully to meet with Mr. Haass yesterday. However, he did put his concerns into a letter, which he slipped to the U.S. delegation yesterday as they walked past.

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