Home > 1999-2002 from Middle East, Afghanistan > UN asks US to limit air strikes on Afghanistan

UN asks US to limit air strikes on Afghanistan

October 24, 2001

by Guy Dinmore in Tehran
Published: October 24 2001

The United Nations has reached an understanding with the US that air strikes against Taliban front-line positions will be contained until arrangements are in place for a UN-led transitional authority, according to European diplomats in Tehran.

The US-led coalition is said to understand the need to prevent the opposition Northern Alliance from advancing on Kabul, the Afghan capital, until a political framework is ready to be put in place.

Meanwhile diplomatic pressure is being applied to the Northern Alliance, according to the western diplomats.

“The Americans have a problem because they are running out of places to bomb . . . The US are waiting for this [the UN plan] to get ready,” one diplomat said.

US forces have been attacking Taliban frontlines, including the first substantial assault on Taliban defences north of Kabul at the weekend.

An outline for a transitional authority is now being presented to all parties. It provides for a one-year, UN-supervised interim administration made up of 12 Afghan ministers who would hold a rotating, figurehead presidency for one month each. The Afghan representation would reflect the country’s ethnic composition, a controversial issue in itself.

A UN insider said that there was still debate over how influential a role the Afghan representatives would play but there was a movement towards giving ultimate authority to the UN, possibly represented by Lakhdar Brahimi, the UN special envoy for Afghanistan who is due to discuss the plan in Pakistan and Iran soon.

The interim administration would be charged with organising a loya jirga, a grand council of tribal, religious and political figures, to decide on Afghanistan’s future, possibl y involving elections at the end of the one-year period.

There is broad agreement on the need for an international police body but no consensus yet on the composition of a peacekeeping force.

Comparisons are being drawn, though on a smaller scale, with the UN Transitional Authority in Cambodia, which effectively ran the similarly devastated country for three years and conducted its first free and fair elections in 1993.

Untac, costing around $3bn, involved 15,000 troops from 15 countries, 3,000 civilian police and hundreds of administrators.

Diplomats admit the still-evolving plan is fraught with pitfalls and time is running out as the humanitarian crisis worsens with the approach of winter.

Iran, a key supporter of the Northern Alliance, is fully supporting UN efforts, a senior Iranian foreign ministry official told the Financial Times.

“We have to help Brahimi get his road-map,” said Siavash Yaghoubi, director of west Asian affairs.

Mr Yaghoubi said that under the UN plan, Burhanuddin Rabbani, president of the currently UN-recognised government ousted by the Taliban in 1996, would establish the authority of the Northern Alliance in Kabul but then hand over power to an interim administration under UN auspices.

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