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Joint Statement by The International Crisis Group, Care International, and the International Rescue Committee on The Expansion of the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan

Our organizations have just completed a round of consultations with NATO in Brussels and Washington on the expansion of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan. The following are the key points we conveyed to NATO:

  1. Our organizations welcome UN Security Council resolution 1510 authorizing ISAF expansion beyond Kabul, as well as recent NATO expressions of its willingness to take on this important additional responsibility.

  2. We believe that an expansion of international peacekeeping beyond Kabul is an essential element of support by the international community to Afghan authorities over the next year in the run-up to the constitutional loya jirga and national elections. Improving security outside Kabul is also vital to reconstruction efforts, which have been hampered by an increase in attacks on aid agencies – from one per month to one every two days – over the past year.

  3. Now that NATO has agreed to lead ISAF expansion, we urge it to move quickly from planning to implementation. While careful planning is important, timely action is also essential to respond to the numerous threats – including extremist elements, powerful warlords and a resurgent drug trade – to continued progress in Afghanistan. It is also imperative that ISAF’s presence outside Kabul be meaningful in scale. The deployment of a handful of additional Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRTs) would simply not be adequate to fulfill its mandate.

  4. While we welcome the willingness of the German government to send an ISAF team to Kunduz, we urge that NATO give priority in subsequent deployments to the most insecure locations in Afghanistan. We also call on all NATO member governments, and other governments interested in the future of Afghanistan, to commit the additional troops, equipment and funds required to support ISAF’s expanded mandate. Without significant additional resources, the recent UN and NATO decisions to expand ISAF will be little more than hollow gestures.

  5. We also urge NATO to focus the activities of all ISAF forces in Afghanistan, including additional teams deployed outside Kabul, on security-related tasks, leaving reconstruction to the Afghan government and civilian aid agencies. In particular, we urge that ISAF focus on: training professional Afghan police and military forces; and assisting in the implementation of a comprehensive program of disarmament, demobilization and reintegration into civilian life of those militia forces that do not qualify for the new police and army. Given ISAF’s mandate as an “assistance” force, building the capacity of the Afghan government to provide for the security of its people should be the central focus of its activities.

In conclusion, our organizations welcome NATO’s decision to take on the challenge of ISAF expansion in Afghanistan. We now urge it to implement this decision quickly, and to do so in a manner that will improve the security of the Afghan people and aid agencies involved in reconstruction, while also creating conditions for the successful completion of the Bonn process. To do less would be to risk the collapse of international efforts to help the Afghan people create a more peaceful, prosperous and democratic Afghanistan.

Brussels, 31 October 2003


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