Afghanistan: Chronology of humanitarian and related developments in 2002

ISLAMABAD, 15 January (IRIN)
DECEMBER 22, 2001: Hamid Karzai, an ethnic Pashtun who leads one of the largest tribes in southern Afghanistan, is sworn in as chairman of a six-month interim government. Karzai faces the task of trying to unite a country wracked by more than two decades of war and poverty.

JANUARY 1: The number of Afghan refugees spontaneously leaving Iran for home increases following a significant decline in the second half of December 2001. Since the start of 2002, over 2,500 have returned to Afghanistan.

JANUARY 2: The first troops of the multinational International Security and Assistance Force (ISAF) are deployed in the Afghan capital, Kabul.

JANUARY 7: A UN Development Programme-sponsored conference brings together Afghan professionals, entrepreneurs, businessmen and academics in the Iranian capital, Tehran, for discussion on the requirements for recovery in Afghanistan.

JANUARY 10: The first Afghan prisoners are airlifted to the US base at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba.

JANUARY 21-22: Donor nations in Tokyo pledge US $4.5 billion in aid to rebuild Afghanistan.

JANUARY 25: During his first visit to Afghanistan, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan calls on Afghans, the interim administration and the international community to help rebuild the country.

FEBRUARY 13: UN Under-Secretary for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator Kenzo Oshima travels to Afghanistan and Pakistan to assess the current crisis, and mobilise donor response.

FEBRUARY 14: Afghan aviation and tourism minister assassinated at Kabul airport. Case remains unsolved.

MARCH 1: A joint campaign coordinated by the office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) for the voluntary repatriation of millions of Afghans launched in Pakistan. A parallel programme from Iran to begin one month later.

MARCH 2: Operation Anaconda, the US-led military Coalition's first massive ground operation against the Taliban and Al-Qaeda begins.

MARCH 25: A severe earthquake kills at least 1,800 and leaves 10,000 homeless in the northern Baghlan Province.

APRIL 17: Repatriation from Iran and Pakistan in full swing and the number of returnees approaches 300,000.

APRIL 18: Former Afghan King Muhammad Zahir Shah, now 87, returns home after living in exile in Rome for 29 years.

MAY 13: Despite serious funding concerns as the number of Afghans wishing to go home from Pakistan intensifies, UNHCR has no choice but to revise this year's original planning figures to an ambitious 850,000. The joint voluntary repatriation programme between Islamabad and the UN refugee agency had originally planned for up to 400,000 returnees this year.

JUNE 4: The number of Afghans who have returned to their homeland from Iran is approaching the 100,000 mark, says the UNHCR. The UNHCR temporarily suspends its use of the secondary southern Iranian border crossing point of Milak, citing security concerns.

JUNE 11-19: First working session of the Loya Jirga, Afghanistan's 1,550-member grand assembly, elects Karzai as interim head of the government. National council completes work on new transitional government.

JUNE 20: Turkey takes over command of the 5,000-strong UN-mandated multinational peacekeeping force - ISAF.

JULY 1: US air raid in Oruzgan Province kills 48 civilians, many of them members of a wedding party.

JULY 6: Vice-President Abdul Qadir assassinated in Kabul. Case remains unsolved.

AUGUST 1: Grenade attack on the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and UNHCR offices in the southern city of Kandahar.

AUGUST 27: Under a government-imposed deadline for undocumented Afghans living in Iran to report to the Office of the Bureau for Foreign Immigrants and Alien Affairs for exit documents, an increasing number of refugees report feeling pressured to go home.

SEPTEMBER 1: UNHCR again suspends repatriation through Milak following a shooting incident involving a border guard. Dogharun remains the primary exit point for Afghans leaving Iran throughout the year.

SEPTEMBER 3: The World Food Programme praises the government of Iran for its significant contribution in providing a major humanitarian aid corridor into Afghanistan.

SEPTEMBER 5: Gunman fails to assassinate Karzai and is killed by presidential guards in Kandahar. Car bombing in Kabul kills 26 people.

SEPTEMBER 12: Karzai, speaking at the United Nations, appeals to world powers to fulfil their aid pledges.

SEPTEMBER 17: Two rockets hit the office of the UN Children's Fund in the eastern city of Jalalabad.

OCTOBER 7: New banknotes introduced to replace the old afghani currency within three months.

OCTOBER 16: After three years of delay, the Afghan government restores the flow of water from the Helmand river into Iran from the Khajaki dam in the southern Afghan province of Helmand. The Lake Hamun region is facing an ecological disaster after the blocking of the River Helmand - resulting in the widespread displacement and destruction of wildlife - during the severe drought in Afghanistan.

OCTOBER 29: More than 300,000 Afghans have returned home from Iran, three-quarters of them with assistance from UNHCR.

DECEMBER 5: The UNHCR reports that despite the onset of winter and a clear and predictable drop in numbers of refugees returning during the Ramadan fasting month, which ends this week, some 35,000 families have returned to Afghanistan from Iran since the UNHCR joint voluntary repatriation programme was launched on 9 April.

DECEMBER 18: Donors pledge $1.24 billion in aid to Afghanistan in 2003, at a major conference in Oslo.

DECEMBER 22: Afghanistan's six neighbouring countries pledge non-interference and respect for the country's independence and territorial integrity. Foreign ministers and delegates from Pakistan, Iran, China, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan sign the document.

DECEMBER 31: As the year ends, more than two million Afghan refugees and displaced people have gone home from neighbouring states and camps inside Afghanistan in one of the largest repatriation efforts in modern times.


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