As the United Kingdom handed over its command of a multinational force for Afghanistan to Turkey today, a United Nations official in Kabul stressed that even with the improved security situation nationwide there was no room for complacency.
Speaking at a ceremony in Kabul, which was also attended by Afghan President-elect Hamid Karzai, Lakhdar Brahimi noted several achievements made by the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF).
Mr. Brahimi, who is UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s Special Representative for Afghanistan, also pledged to give Gen. Hilmi Akin Zorlu, the new Turkish commander of ISAF, the same cooperation that he had extended to British Gen. John McColl.
The UN envoy called yesterday’s conclusion of the Emergency Loya Jirga, or grand council, a “crucial milestone” in the Afghanistan peace process. “The very fact that the Loya Jirga took place at all, within the very short deadline set by Bonn, and that it concluded peacefully, is quite remarkable,” Mr. Brahimi said, referring to the German city where an agreement on Afghanistan’s political transition was brokered by the UN.
He noted that for the first time in 23 years, the Afghan people cast a vote for their leader and that the “enormous confidence” shown in Mr. Karzai will enable him to tackle the major challenges that lie ahead, including reconstruction, strengthening the central government, building a national army and police force, disarmament, advancement of women and protection of human rights.
The meeting of the grand council was also significant in that despite efforts to threaten and intimidate delegates, most found the courage to raise controversial issues and make daring proposals, Mr. Brahimi said.
“Despite its flaws, this Loya Jirga represents one step forward in a peace process that is bound to take years,” the Special Representative said.
With the conclusion of the Loya Jirga, the UN has started to airlift delegates home, a UN spokesman said. The UN flew 1,100 delegates in 54 sorties to Kabul in the two days before the convening of the tribal council, and more people are expected on UN flights home in the next couple of days.
Yesterday at a special session of the Loya Jirga, 40 women delegates agreed to create a Network of Afghan Women, which will become operational upon their return to their regions. The UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) will organize a training workshop in September for the women.