With Afghanistan's capital now liberated from Taliban rule, Secretary-General Kofi Annan today emphasized that all forces in the country must respect international law.
Mr. Annan welcomed the fact that the people of Kabul and other cities in Afghanistan "have been freed from the oppressive and intolerant Taliban regime," a spokesman for the Secretary-General said in a statement. Spokesman Fred Eckhard said Mr. Annan reminded the United Front and other Afghan forces of the need to adhere strictly to their obligations under international humanitarian and human rights law.
"The Secretary-General reiterates the urgent need to establish a broad-based and fully representative Government in Afghanistan," Mr. Eckhard said. "To this end, he has instructed his Special Representative, Ambassador Lakhdar Brahimi, to re-double his ongoing efforts."
Asked to comment on the rapidly changing circumstances in Afghanistan, the spokesman said that "the sudden fall of Kabul - that I don't think was predicted by anybody - must also affect our thinking on how quickly we have to move to try to get these parties working on a formula for power-sharing."
Concerning the humanitarian relief effort for Afghanistan, Mr. Eckhard said that if some level of security could be established quickly in the cities recently taken by the Northern Alliance, it would facilitate UN food delivery.
He noted that with international relief workers slated to return to Faizabad in the coming days, followed by UN civil affairs officers, "the idea is to start establishing an international presence in Afghanistan immediately."
Asked to explain why a UN peacekeeping force was not considered the best option for Afghanistan, the spokesman explained that mounting such a force "takes months - we don't have that much time."
He also pointed out that the security situation must be considered. "Peacekeepers can do their best job when there is a nice, firm, political agreement among the combatants on which to base a peace arrangement, and then peacekeepers can go in to bolster that," he said. "When you have an unstable situation, as you have now, where you're not sure whether fighting is going to resume, that's not the environment you put in peacekeepers - that's where you need professional soldiers."