Press conference on Security Reform in Afghanistan - transcript

News and Press Release
Originally published
Lakhdar Brahimi, the Secretary-General's Special Representative for Afghanistan, spoke in the press conference with Abdullah Abdullah, the Foreign Minister of Afghanistan, and David Johnson, the United States Coordinator for Afghanistan, following a meeting with around 40 donor countries on the reform of the security sector in Afghanistan.
Mr. Brahimi: I apologize to all of you on behalf of my colleagues for the delay. We have had a much longer meeting than we thought we would. And I think that we can immediately ask David Johnson to tell you what happened there, and then Dr. Abdullah will also say a few words and answer your questions.

Mr. Johnson: Thank you Mr. Ambassador. We have just concluded here at the UN facility to talk about how the international community can assist Afghanistan in rebuilding the kind of security structures that are necessary to have a successful State. We all know that success in security is the key ingredient to being successful in any other aspect of the rehabilitation and reconstruction of Afghanistan. It is the necessary framework in which humanitarian assistance can take place, in which reconstruction can take place, in which Afghanistan can become a successful State that all of us in the international community would like for it to be. The security area was broken down into several parts where what we are calling lead States are acting as coordinators. The United States is taking the lead in training the Afghan national army; Germany is hoping to reconstruct and reform the police in Afghanistan; the United Kingdom is leading an international effort on counter-narcotics; and Italy, in close cooperation with the United Nations, is working on the reform in the judicial sector and reconstruction of that area. In addition to that, we heard a very compelling presentation by the United Nations, by Mr. Brahimi's staff, about how we can best go about reintegrating and demobilizing those who have participated in the very long war in Afghanistan. We believe that this was a reasonably successful meeting. We had good presentations from all of the lead States, and we are beginning to get the type of specificity in terms of contributions that are needed in order to have these programmes put forward and be successful over a long period of time. I am pleased to have been able to convene this meeting on behalf of the United States, and to have a very strong presentation of Mr. Brahimi and Foreign Minister Abdullah, both of whom I consider heros in this process and I am very pleased to be working with them.

Mr. Brahimi: Thank you very much. Dr. Abdullah you might wish also to say a few words before we take your questions.

Mr. Abdullah: Thank you very much. Today we had a very constructive meeting with the donor countries, addressing one of the most important aspects of the situation in Afghanistan, namely security. The international community, the Afghans to start with, in the international community, humanity suffered because of instability and insecurity in Afghanistan. The Bonn Agreement and the formation of the Interim Government created a new hope for a better situation in my country. Today's meeting was a symbol of the collective efforts of the international community to address one of the most important issues in Afghanistan. Today there is an opportunity, that opportunity is for the people of Afghanistan, for the region and for the world. We have to utilize this opportunity, and to make every effort to make it a full success; a full success will be for everybody. The opportunity is now or never. Following the last meeting in April, today's meeting, thanks to the lead States and the other donor countries and the organizations, we are more optimistic about the future of Afghanistan. Some countries came up with specific proposals and suggestions and promises, other countries promised they will come up with specific ideas and programmes, and coordinate them with the lead States, and also with the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) and with the Afghan Interim Authority in order to make those programmes a success. This is a great step. I hope that today's meeting will be followed by immediate actions, speedy actions by all countries. Thank you.

Question: I understood that certainly the Afghan delegation was hoping for firm cash commitments, given that the outlines had already been sketched back in April as to who would be responsible for which areas. Were there any solid, concrete offers of either cash or in kind made today, and if so how much?

Mr. Brahimi: Yes there were some cash commitments and offers of contributions of various kinds. I am afraid I cannot give you exact figures, because it was given piecemeal and mainly verbally. But we will ask the members to send that in writing. I am sorry I cannot give you specific figures.

Question: Can you give us an idea of the magnitude, are we talking about hundreds of thousands of dollars, or are we talking about millions?

Mr. Brahimi: We are certainly speaking about millions. It is not enough. But I think that as both Dr. Abdullah and Ambassador Johnson said, I think there is a clear indication that there is a commitment to this project, and we are hopeful that, as Dr. Abdullah has said, all this will be followed by concrete action and that the international community will indeed support the police and the national army in Afghanistan.

Question: There is clearly unrest in Afghanistan around places like Gardez, and the International Force in Afghanistan is still restricted to Kabul. Bearing in mind the security situation at the moment, what does Dr. Abdullah think the window of opportunity is in terms of having your own up and running security force.

Mr. Abdullah: Of course the formation of the Afghan army and the national police force will take time. The process has already started. It is good news for the people of Afghanistan. And there are some security problems in different parts of the country which have to be addressed. One has to look for the alternative. At this stage, I think we have to focus on some alternatives, rather than the expansion of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) which is a preferable option for Afghans, for the Interim Authority, but knowing the constraints in the practicality of that option, we should focus on alternatives. I think some ideas were discussed, but further elaboration is needed in order to come out with some alternatives. And with regards to the security, despite the reports and despite the incidents in some parts of the country, I should say that the security situation has improved to a large extent since the inauguration of the Interim Government.

Question: If you take just what happened now, presumably you are going to meet again, do you have a date for when you will next meet? Also, given the fact that the security arrangements are so vital, is it not a bit surprising that you have had two meetings and that you still do not have anything that concrete, given the priority that must be given to this element? And also, in the fact that you have coordinators for each area, does that involve some financial commitment, for example on part of the United States and the training of the military?

Mr. Johnson: I would take the issue with the (inaudible) of your questions. I think things are

fairly far along. The United States in its area for example has a well fleshed out training programme which will last upwards of 18 months (and) which will produce a significant Afghan national army. There are still issues to be filled in, but I think it is a very large step in the right direction. We have some significant funds to back that up, but we are also needing contributions from other States as well in order for that entire programme to be effectively financed, and for the other parts of the army, beyond what our training effort will produce, to be created as well. So I think we are fairly far along in this process. I do not accept the notion that this is somehow not where we need to be at this time.

But what we do need and what we are asking for now is some fairly specific offers from other States in order to provide additional resources, not only for the training programme that we have envisaged and we have planned, but also for the other aspects of an army that need to be built beyond what the US training programme will provide. Likewise, the other lead States in their areas have also created significant programmes and I think that you all know that the United Kingdom, for example, as the lead State on counter-narcotics, has not just talked about developing a programme, but they have also stepped forward and actually taken some rather strong steps in connection with some courageous actions of the Afghan Interim Authority to directly and negatively affect this year's crop. So this is not a holding pattern, this is something where we are moving out. But additional resources will be required, and this is what today's meeting was all about. In terms of having a next meeting if you will, we do not have one on the schedule. But the reason we do not is because what we need is based on the presentations today, the specific offers that will then be integrated into the various plans of action that the coordinators have. At that point, I think we might wish to schedule an additional meeting. But putting one on the calendar today was not what we needed, what we need is greater specificity from the contributors, and I think that is what we are going to be getting in the very near future.

Question: Given what you say, the figure that we heard this morning was $ 290 million for a year, is it possible to give us some figure or some indication on how much you have actually got. You said the United States had made a great commitment, what are these additional commitments from other countries that you are looking for, how much have you got, 50 per cent or 70 per cent of it?

Mr. Johnson: As Mr. Brahimi said earlier, we were getting various offers in bits and pieces from people around the table, we are not there yet, even with those. But we have made a substantial move in the right direction. And I think we have the kind of commitments that will allow us to do more than just get started. But the process is ongoing, and I think that we are confident that we can move forward, but we are going to require more than was indicated today, and that means that people like me and my colleagues are going to have to, not just work with our own governments, but more specially motivate those who have not yet made specific offers or specific indications that they are prepared to move out. But I think that the resources can be made available, it is just a lot of hard work that is going to be required in order to do so.

Question: It is written in your paper here that one of the pre-conditions for successful demobilization of the combatants is the reconstruction of the country. But there have been reports that the money is flowing to Kabul and not to other parts of the country. The World Bank is also talking about the risk of uncoordinated and ineffective donor assistance, and there is a massive flow of refugees also coming to the country. UNHCR is saying that it will probably have problems with that. Can you give me an idea on the reconstruction scheme and how it is going, and if the money is flowing to other parts of the country now?

Mr. Brahimi: Yes I think you are right that for demobilization to be effective, recovery has to move along with that. And you have many many countries that have made pledges in Tokyo and every country has its own system of providing aid, and that will take time. But I think that, as some of my colleagues from the Afghan Administration have said, although nobody is satisfied with the speed of the movement, I think we have got to recognize that it is moving faster in Afghanistan than probably anywhere in a post-conflict situation. The President of the World Bank was in Afghanistan the other day, and he has come with something like $ 100 million in grants. He has specifically told me that he was going to make sure that the arrears that Afghanistan owes the Bank are going to be paid so that Afghanistan can have access to more financial support from the World Bank. But we certainly have problems of coordination that need to be addressed. But then again, I do not know of many countries who have gone through what Afghanistan has gone through, who have been able in a very short time to come up with a master plan for reconstruction with a budget and with all this work that has been done for the security sector which is so essential. Peace in Afghanistan requires as a priority that the security concerns be addressed. So I think there is reason to be optimistic, there is absolutely no reason to be complacent, and after the Loya Jirga and the new administration that is going to set up, they are going to find that this interim administration, in a very short time, had laid the ground for them, to a very large extent, for them to have something to work on. Again, there is no reason to be complacent. But I think one has to recognize that quite a little bit has been done.

Question: Could I put a question to his Excellency the Foreign Minister. Sir, a few minutes ago, you said that you are now more optimistic. Does this mean more optimistic about raising the necessary financing, or optimistic in general terms about the progress in Afghanistan? And could you say what is the basis for that optimism? Thank you.

Mr. Abdullah: Thank you very much. Both in fact, about the situation in Afghanistan and also about the progress which has been made in partnership between the international community in Afghanistan in the process of reconstruction. As Ambassador David Johnson mentioned before, if I take one example, in the last meeting which we had in this building, we talked about the eradication of opium in Afghanistan. Today, we see that programme has been successfully achieved. I think that is a great achievement. Optimistic about the whole situation. The political process is moving ahead. There have been minor issues in the process of Loya Jirga, in elections of the representatives, but it was not stopped. We are talking about a situation, a Government which has inherited the burdens of the consequences of 23 years of war and destruction. The political process is moving ahead. The process of reconstruction, the early steps have been taken. We are talking about the reconstruction of security and a national army and a national police force and demobilization programmes. All of these are reasons for being optimistic. And also in parts of the international community, I am optimistic, because those were not just pledges or promises, there have been countries which have come up with specific programmes and contributions towards the security aspect. I would have been most disappointed had there been pledges for the reconstruction of Afghanistan without focus on the major aspect of security. We had expressed our concern at the Tokyo Conference in that regard. But thanks to the wisdom and vision shown by the international community, we are not in that situation, not only not in that situation, but we have made progress.

Question: As a Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dr. Abdullah, are we now witnessing the building of an independent State of Afghanistan, and if yes, what about the presence of foreign troops and the massive presence of foreign nationals, do you see that as a temporary situation or is that presence permanent?

Mr. Abdullah: Yes, Afghanistan is independent. Afghanistan was occupied, most of the country was occupied by terrorist groups and terrorist organizations. And that situation has not only posed a threat against the people of Afghanistan and stability and security in the country, but it was a major security threat in a regional way as well as globally. Humanity suffered as I mentioned as a result of that situation. That situation has come to an end. It is not the end of the road, I am not suggesting that the objectives are accomplished, goals are achieved fully, but there is a big change, a tremendous change from the situation a few months ago up to now. The presence of ISAF forces and international personnel in Afghanistan is with the full consent of people of Afghanistan and the legitimate Government of Afghanistan. And these forces will be there as long as they are required. Because today's situation, as I mentioned, is the result of a collective effort - the people of Afghanistan, the legitimate Government of Afghanistan, and the international community. That collective effort should continue as long as we are all satisfied about the situation. It does not compromise the aspect of independence or sovereignty of Afghanistan by any means.

Question: Can you throw us some light in terms of support that you are getting from your neighbours in building the security infrastructure, particularly pointing to India which has apparently offered assistance on this? What has been the dialogue that you have had so far?

Mr. Abdullah: The neighbouring countries of Afghanistan have also come up with some ideas and proposals about how to cooperate in security, neighbouring countries of Afghanistan, as well as the countries in the region, including India. I think today's meeting was the second meeting as such about the security situation after the Tokyo Conference. And we believe that the engagement with our neighbouring countries should continue in a constructive manner. They should be engaged in the reconstruction of Afghanistan in the sense that they will benefit from the stability and security in our country, it will be beneficial to all of us. So, they should contribute. How to do it, and what to do, today it was discussed. There is a mechanism now, there are leading States, there is the UNAMA office in Kabul, there is the Interim Government of Afghanistan. Of course coordination is needed in that regard.

Question: Mr. Abdullah, can you actually pinpoint what is India's engagement in the military or security infrastructure, where the United States is going to provide you with the military logistics and the United Kingdom with narcotics? What exactly is India's involvement going to be?

Mr. Abdullah: In today's meeting, I will not go into any details of what we discussed, the idea of giving vehicles for the military was proposed by India. But I think all these things should be discussed with the lead States as well the Interim Authority according to the programme created by the Interim Government, with the help of course of the international coalition, ISAF, and UNAMA, this would be a part of that programme.

Question: I am curious, we are still hearing some stories about rogue warlords. What is the plan to mobilize and reintegrate those who are not selected to join the new army?

Mr. Brahimi: These are very loose words, who is rogue and who is not rogue. But I think there is a paper, a very detailed paper, on the demobilization programme. This is one area where we are confident that we will have the necessary resources because countries are not used, not very enthusiastic about supporting armies. But supporting demobilization is something that is done by donors in general. And we think that we are going to have all the resources that are needed. Japan is willing to play in particular a very significant role in this, and it has been agreed today that Japan will be with us, the United Nations, in the lead in working out the demobilization programme with the Interim Administration and the next Administration in Afghanistan. How this is going to play out, I think that we are going to try and register those former combatants, or those who are still under arms in various military organizations, and are willing or encouraged to demobilize, and some small experiences that have been made, in Kabul in particular, show that there will be a great deal of interest. Many combatants will want to join these programmes, as a matter of fact, are ready to do so. So this is what I can say for the moment.

Question: What sort of incentives are going to be given to people to participate in this programme?

Mr. Brahimi: I think the incentive is that they are going to have a job that most likely will pay better than what they get as soldiers for the moment, and learn a trade, be trained in some kind of things, areas like a carpenter or a mason or a plumber that they would like to do. As I told you, I think a lot of people are tired of this life. Maybe some of those you call warlords have made some money out of this business, but the poor soldiers have not. I think they will, we have very strong indications that they will welcome an opportunity to throw down their Kalashnikov and start some kind of gainful activity.

Question: Dr. Abdullah please, if I may take this a little further from what my colleague said who said we can understand that foot soldiers will be happy to become plumbers and bakers and all that, but to what extent, how can we value the commitment to this process, by regional chiefs who have their own power base, you know, the war lords if you like. Are they willing to become bakers or plumbers too or something like that? I think they probably would not give up the kind of power base that they have constructed during this long war against the Soviet Union and beyond. So isn't that a major obstacle? That is my first question. The second question is how are you coping with this return of hundreds of thousands of refugees?

Mr. Abdullah: First of all, one cannot judge the situation in a sort of stereotype manner. The attitude of different local authorities are already different, but there is a loyalty all together towards the Interim Government. There have been one or two exceptions in the past, one or two bad experiences or headaches, but as a whole, the local authorities have been loyal to the Interim Government. This is one issue. Then there is also a political process which will lead to the formation of a transitional government. That will give a chance for the people to be represented in different phases of the political process. Added to that is the reconstruction activities in developmental programmes. As a whole, it is a part of one process. There are different elements in it. I am not saying that one of the local authorities would voluntarily or based on incentives would go and take vocational training. But the whole situation has provided an opportunity. I think that those who will resist, or will try to make obstacles for the political process or for stability in Afghanistan, they have to be dealt with accordingly by the Interim Government or proceeding Governments. Those who are cooperating show understanding for the situation. It should be welcomed and they should be encouraged. But as a whole, there is a tendency towards normalization of the situation. This is not by any chance underestimating the challenges which are ahead of us in that regard. That is the explanation that I can give.

And refugees, the return of the refugees from one side is good news, it shows that the people have regained their confidence in the political process, the Government and the situation in Afghanistan. From the other side, we are not ready, we cannot provide them with necessary facilities. We hope that the international community will move quickly in that regard. That issue should not be considered only from the humanitarian point of view, but mainly from the reconstruction and stability point of view. We focus in priorities of reconstruction and creating projects for development and opportunities and so on and so forth, all those things will help the situation. But the flood of refugees has been, if not overwhelming, but surprising to all of us. They started their return very quickly. But then, while we have to emphasize the means for quick action and looking at it in an urgent way, from the other side, the people of Afghanistan have been very understanding of the situation, their expectations have been very minimal. That situation should not be taken for granted. We have to move as the Authority, and the international community has to help us.

Question: If I may, I have two questions. One considers the amount of money you need for the total security issues, how much, in addition to the leading States, will you need from third countries. And another question to Mr. Abdullah, could you please tell us if you think there is any possibility of integrating people like Hekmatyar or Sayaaf into your next Government or in the future of the country?

Mr. Brahimi: I think, let us make it very clear that although we have not been able to give you numbers, I think that as David Johnson said a while ago, I think we have enough now to start on all these programmes, police, formation of national police, formation of national army, demobilization, narcotics programmes, we have enough and we have enough commitments to start. We are very optimistic that we can go ahead.

Question: I am sorry but my question is another way around. You must have a kind of budget, how much money do you need. I did not ask how much you had gotten so far.

Mr. Brahimi: I think we have said, for the police we are talking about something like $ 100 million, this is creating the national police, it will not be every year, the same thing, I think somebody said that we need $ 300 million , or $280 million or $ 290 million, for the army, not every year, these are the needs for creating the army and the recurring costs, recurring costs for both the army and the police will be much less than that in future years, it will go on decreasing. And as I said, we are fairly confident, if this interest and these pledges that have been made, and these promises of pledges that have been made, we think we are going to go ahead.

Question: I did not get the reply. I would like to know how much you expect from third countries, the United States is giving a lot, I do not know how much, Great Britain is going to give ... .

Mr. Brahimi: Who are the third countries, everybody is a third country here. I think what we expect is $ 300 million for the army and $ 100 million for the police, and $ 79 million for demobilization, and I think the drugs, I do not think we have a figure, but there again I do not think we will have problems getting the money. And by the way, the international community, the British and the others estimate that this modest destruction of the crops in Afghanistan had destroyed opium and heroin, because they have also seized some quantities of heroin, the street value of which is something like $ 8 billion. So I think it is a rather good investment for the international community.

Mr. Abdullah: Yes the political process means to be inclusive. But not inclusive of everybody, not inclusive of somebody who has announced war against the people of Afghanistan, jihad against the people of Afghanistan once again, like Hekmatyar. He is a part of the problem. While the Interim Government has shown enough understanding and tolerance and has tried to make every effort to prevent the cycle of revenge against such and such groups, that should not be interpreted as including people who are part of the problem. Professor Sayaaf has been a supporter of the political process. He has not chosen to be in the Government himself, but the attitude of the Interim Government and also the nature of the political process is such that those who share the high objectives of stability, peace, sovereignty of Afghanistan, and Afghanistan being a peaceful place for its own citizens as well as for the region and the international community, in partnership with the international community in acceptance of internationally accepted standards and norms, they could be a part of the political process, they could be a part of the Government, there are no exclusions.