Afghanistan + 2 more

Press briefing by Manoel de Almeida e Silva Spokesman for the SRSG for Afghanistan 19 May 2002

News and Press Release
Originally published
Update on the Loya Jirga Process

212 district Shuras were conducted so far. In them some 9,361 people were selected of which 79 were women and they will go to the second phase. At the last briefing someone asked me about the second phase and so far, 16 districts have conducted their second phase elections and there there are 46 people elected of which one is a woman. That was in district of Injeel, Herat.

This process is very much decentralized so the decisions are made locally as to when they conduct the Shuras. We have at the back a tentative schedule of Shuras that will be taking place in the southwest region, western region and the eastern region. Some provinces have already concluded their district Shuras and we should be starting very soon the second phase of the Loya Jirga which is likely to start in Mazar where in fact, the whole region is where the district Shuras first started on 15 April. I am not in a position right now to give you the exact schedule for that, however, it may well be that phase two starts in the Mazar region this coming Tuesday. We will confirm that for you at a later time.

Geneva Meeting

For the record but also for information of those who have not been able to follow the Geneva meeting which took place this last Friday. As you will recall, Mr Brahimi said at his press conference on Wednesday that he was leaving for Geneva in order to participate in the meeting on the new Afghan national police and national army and on the demobilization and reintegration of armed elements.

[That meeting took place in Geneva, it was a one-day meeting on Friday.] At a joint press conference Mr. Brahimi, the Foreign Minister of Afghanistan, Abdullah Abdullah and Ambassador David Johnson, the US Coordinator for Afghanistan, said that many countries indicated they were ready to support these processes. Mr. Brahimi said "we have enough now to start all these programmes, formation of national police, formation of national army, demobilization, narcotics program." "We are very optimistic that we can go ahead," he concluded.

As you may know, the plans are for the Afghan national armed forces to be composed of an army of 60,000, an air force of 8,000 and 12,000 border guards. The police force is planned to be 70,000 strong. The exact number of combatants in Afghanistan is unknown, however it is estimated that some 75,000 men are currently uniformed and/or under clear command and control structures. In addition there are another 100,000 irregular militia combatants and war veterans who are thought to be dispersed throughout the country. These are the target groups for demobilization.

Flying Locusts & an estimated 5% damage to crops

In the main area of Baghlan and Samangan fledging is complete, as predicted, flying adults have emerged from undetected breeding grounds in the hills and it is believed that the situation is similar in parts of Kunduz.

15,000 litres of pesticides are expected this week in Mazar. The amount of pesticides is sufficient to deal with the current situation and expected that there will be an excess.

The NGO GOAL has completed a survey in Samangan and found that, up to 1st May, out of some 219,000 hectares of wheat planted, around 5,800 have been destroyed. This is less than 3% and FAO expect this figure to rise, perhaps to 5%. The FAO locust control specialist based in Mazar-i-Shariff, believes that this is representative of the other two most affected provinces: Baghlan and Kunduz.

DSRG Nigel Fisher in Tehran - Ministerial Meeting on Cooperation for Development

Today the Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Relief, Recovery and Reconstruction, Nigel Fisher addresses the Ministerial Meeting on Cooperation for Development, convened by the Government of Iran and the United Nations Development Programme. The aim is to pursue a joint partnership for development, economic cooperation and trade between the Islamic Republic of Iran, Pakistan and Afghanistan.

The meeting brings together representatives from the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank (ADB), the Islamic Development Bank, as well as representatives from the United Nations, and private and public sector enterprises from the three countries.

The Meeting is expected to agree to establish a 'Tripartite Commission for Cooperation and Reconstruction' together with a 'Memorandum of Understanding' which will set out the composition, terms of reference and procedures of the Commission.

Mr. Fisher's speech will be available later today. Please contact our office.

UNHCR Update on Returnees

Last Thursday (16 May), the number of Afghans repatriating in the space of a single day topped 20,000 for the first time since the assisted return operation began. The 20,053 registered that day in encashment centers and distribution points included 3,118 individuals from Iran and 16,935 from Pakistan.

Through Friday, May 17, the total number of Afghans who have returned home under the Interim Administration/UNHCR program stood at 625,215.

UNHCR continues to receive requests for assistance from refugee groups living outside the main refugee hosting areas, or who are unable to travel easily through the principal crossing points.

Today, teams of UNHCR Pakistan staff will travel to North Waziristan to register approximately 175 families who have communicated their wish to repatriate. The group will travel through Kurram on Monday or Tuesday through Logar to destinations in the central and northern areas of Afghanistan.

The group's return is expected to have a positive impact on refugees in Kurram Agency, southern NWFP, who have not repatriated in large numbers so far. UNHCR has similar requests from Waziristan, D.I. Khan, and Chitral, farther north in Pakistan.

Work to help returnees is also gathering pace. Last Thursday we reported here that UNHCR had signed agreements with three NGOs to build the first 7,400 houses for the neediest returnees. That number now stands at more than 13,200 family shelters, through five different NGOs. These agreements are for projects in Shomali, Khak-i-Jabar, Badghis, Faryab, Jawzjan, Sar-e-Pul, Kunduz and Baghlan provinces.

More agreements involving some of these same partners and another 10 NGOs are being prepared for an additional 15,800 units. The majority of these - 9,400 - will be in the central region, specifically Kabul, Logar, Ghazni, Kapisa, Parwan, and Bamyan provinces.

Through 16 May, SO Jalalabad had assisted 14,790 individuals (2,888 families) to return home from Hesar Shahi IDP camp, and since beginning movements on 14 May, SO Kandahar had transported 866 volunteers (208 families) home from Spin Boldak IDP sites.

UNESCO - New Computer/Internet Center for Education Ministry in Kabul

An Internet equipped computer training center established within the Ministry of education in Kabul is to be officially opened on Monday, 20 May 2002.

The center, put in place by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) with funds from the government of Japan, is equipped with 19 Compaq Pentium 4 computers and a Compaq Proliant server. It also includes overhead projection equipment for training purposes and a high-speed Internet connection.

The Senior Vice-Minister of Education for Japan, Mr. Fumio Kishida will be present at this event tomorrow.

UNICEF - High Level Japanese Delegation to Witness Afghan Thirst for Learning

Japan's Senior Vice Minister of Education, Mr. Fumio Kishida, will be visiting a Kabul girls' school on Monday 20 May to see first hand how financial contributions from the Government and people of Japan have been used to assist the development of education in Afghanistan. The engagement is part of a three-day visit to Kabul by the Vice-Minister.

Mr. Kishida will be accompanied by His Excellency Mr. Kimichi Komano, Japan's Ambassador to Afghanistan, representatives of the Afghan Interim Administration and of the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF,) during the fifty-minute visit to Zarghuna High School.

Over 4,000 girls aged between 7 and 18 years old are enrolled at the school, which was closed by the Taliban during their control of the capital. It reopened for lessons on 24 March 2002. There are some 200 women teachers on the staff, many of whom have participated in orientation programmes, organized by the Afghan Ministry of Education and UNICEF, to help prepare them for the new school year. In addition all pupils in Grades 1 to 6 have received stationery materials, and teachers have been provided with teaching resources including textbooks through the UNICEF-supported Back to School initiative.

The school has also benefited from physical rehabilitation work, including repairs to windows, roofs, doors and the installation of sanitation facilities.

This work is typical of the rebuilding of education that has been supported by funds contributed by the Government and people of Japan to the Interim Administration and UNICEF. Japan provided over 60% of funding -- just over US$50 million - for the first phase of the Back to School campaign

The Senior Vice Minister and the Ambassador of Japan will arrive at Zarghuna School at 8.30 am on Monday 20 May, and will meet pupils and teachers, and inspect repair work undertaken at the school.

IOM -- Afghans stranded in Indonesia return home

A second group of 64 Afghan irregular migrants stranded in Indonesia left the country on Thursday night with IOM to return home to Afghanistan. They arrived at Kabul airport on 18 May.

They were joined on the charter flight at Dubai by 3 candidates under the Return of Qualified Afghans (RQA) programme. 2 Candidates returned from the USA and will work in the Ministry of Defence and the Ministry of Interior, the third will be working for an international organisation.

WFP -- Afghans stranded in Indonesia return home

Resource Update

0n the resources front a couple of donations just got in from the European Community (Europeaid) and Germany rising our resources figure to 105 million US$. Last week the Government of USA confirmed a new donation of US$ 19 million dollars towards the WFP Afghanistan Emergency Operation, bringing USA total contribution up to 82,6 Million US$. This makes the Government and the people of the USA the largest donor for our operation in Afghanistan providing with more than 29% of the total amount appealed. However, the operation is still 48 percent under funded.

Pipeline update

Since the end of September last year till May 17th 2002 WFP, has sent more than 455,000 tons of food to more than nine million impoverished Afghans, who are dependent on food aid until the harvest in July. To give you an idea of this amount, if you put all this food in a single convoy you will have a column of 45,560 trucks with a length of 410 km.

From May 1st to May 17th WFP has dispatched from the neighbor WFP countries offices of Iran, Pakistan, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Uzbekistan, a total of 16,707 MT of food into Afghanistan. Due to insufficient supply WFP has not been able to maintain the required level of distributions during April and the first half of May. In fact, deliveries during this period fell short by an approximate 80,000 MT.

Under difficult conditions, WFP is trying to meet the struggle and reach our targeted beneficiaries, in what is perhaps one of our greatest challenges in 40 yeas of operations. This is not a small achievement given the conditions were are operating under, and its a testament to the dedicated efforts of WFP's outstanding national and international staff. However, during the last week we have faced several supply breaks. WFP is very concern this situation may continue for the next months, preventing us to meet our monthly target of beneficiaries.

Present stocks and confirmed contributions with expected deliveries into Afghanistan through end July amount to approximately 171,000 MT. WFP operations are now looking at a shortfall of approximately 30,000 MT of cereals against requirements though July.

Consequently Area Offices continue to reprioritize activities resulting sometimes in the stop of Food for Assets Creation and Food For Work projects. Kabul and Herat have ceased issuing Food Release Notes. Kandahar suspended 12 projects in 24 locations because of the food shortage. Immediate cash donations for regional purchases are necessary to restore the pipeline. Donors are encouraged to respond now, with cash contributions where possible. If not several feeding programmes will therefore continue to be suspended or disrupted.

Floods and WFP assistance

In Waras district, WFP helicopters have been assessing 18 villages believed to be seriously affected after last week heavy rains. On Friday a Joint UN team with officials from WFP, UNICEF UNAMA, UNHCR were able to assess the area thanks that the helicopter-assisted missions were in progress in the region. Data analysis and report is underway.

On the other hand, Helicopter-assisted field assessments have begun in Ghor Province. By current projections, the Area Rapid Emergency Food Need Assessment from Bamyan should be completed by 24 May.

Questions and Answers

Q: [Inaudible] Question on the commitment to the composition of a multi-ethnic national armed force for Afghanistan.

Spokesman: Everyone says that they are committed to not only a multi-ethnic army but also to other institutions in Afghanistan. I think we also have to understand that we are not going to change anything, we have a transition process. Nothing will be changed from one day to another. There is a process which has started which requires commitment from the Afghan leaders and parties but also the support of the international community and that is what we see at this time.

Q: [Inaudible] Question confirming the number of proposed Afghan border guards.

Spokesman: 12,000

Q: [Inaudible] Question on the conclusions of the Geneva meeting.

Spokesman: A lot of commitment and indications of contributions, either cash or in kind, from many countries. Some 35 countries or so participated in this meeting and the indications of contributions needs to be compiled, however, as I said, there were indications of pledges of cash and pledges of services ranging from equipment, uniforms, information technology, computers, video equipment for the army and the police and also in the previous meeting in April, five main sectors were agreed and focal points were appointed for regional sectors. For the police it is Germany, army training is the USA, anti drug is the UK, reform of the justice system is Italy and demobilisation is UNAMA. At this meeting held on Friday, Japan is now joining as a focal point for demobilisation.

Q: [Inaudible] Question on types of armament to the Army.

Spokesman: Frankly, I am not the right person to give you details on that and I am not sure that these types of details have yet been discussed.

Q: [Inaudible] Question on ISAF's announcement of Japan's willingness to train the local police.

Spokesman: Germany has presented two papers at the meeting on the plan for the training and establishment of the new police force and they indicated that the support of other donor nations was very much in need. A number of countries indicated, indeed Japan for instance indicated their willingness, their motivation and commitment to participate in that effort regarding the police, with vehicles and other equipment.

Q: [Inaudible] Question on the planned future responsibilities of the Afghan national army as discussed at the meeting in Geneva.

Spokesman: No I don't have that. What I do have is that the new Afghan armed forces will be composed of army, air force and border guards. The army would be responsible for the security of the country [inaudible] which is not assessed at this point as a high risk. But, as in any country the army will provide support, especially in a country like Afghanistan which needs so much reconstruction. When there were earthquakes in many regions, ISAF for instance went to the regions to help. The same thing would be true for the new Afghan army. They should be capable of also providing that kind of support to civil defense in cases of some special disasters and emergencies in the country. I think I should also point out that the new armed forces, according to the paper presented by the Interim Administration, would be overseen by the national Security Council which would supervise that force.

Q: [Inaudible] Question on who would appoint the National Security Council.

Spokesman: I believe it will possibly be by the Interim Administration. I do not have information on that.

Q: [Inaudible] Question on the target for the new police force.

Spokesman: 70,000.

Q: Is that for the whole country? How would they be distributed?

Spokesman: I am not aware of details regarding how many per region but it is 70,000 total [for the country as a whole].

Q: You said that three generals accompanied Abdullah. Was that to Geneva?

Spokesman: Yes as part of the delegation. Minister Abdullah was accompanied by three generals from the Ministry of Interior and Ministry of Defense.

If there are no more questions I thank you very much and would like to hand over to Colonel Elisabeth Wildmann who will brief us on ISAF.