Afghanistan at Risk

International Crisis Group (ICG) - Belgium
, June 25, 2004

The allied effort to remove the Taliban reflected an international consensus, backed by UN authorisation, to defeat and destroy al-Qaeda and to assist Afghanistan in building democracy and rebuilding its shattered economy.

This effort may fail. It may fail because the international community has been unwilling to recognise the magnitude of the threats and to direct sufficient political, military and financial resources to overcome them. Bombs and mines are still present throughout the country, and killings take place on a regular basis. The warlords have not been fully disarmed and the entrenchement of their power presents significant obstacles to central authority and long-term stabilisation.

The warlords and private militias who were once regarded as the west's staunchest allies in Afghanistan are now a greater threat to the country's security than the Taliban, according to the interim president, Hamid Karzai.

The Guardian (London), July 13, 2004

Afghanistan remains second to last in the world in the human development rankings of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). Warlords continue to siphon off customs revenues that should go to the national government, and nearly half of Afghanistan's $4.5 billion economy comes from opium cultivation and trafficking. There still are more than 2 million Afghan refugees in neighbouring countries and some 300,000 internally displaced persons within Afghanistan.

Security affects everything from elections to reconstruction to women's rights to drugs to the disarmament and demobilisation of warlords. It is vital to understand that this is not a post conflict situation - an unrelenting battle continues in Afghanistan against the Taliban and its supporters.

Recent fighting in the east and north of Afghanistan shows how unstable the country remains as it prepares for elections in September. To hold effective polls, it will be crucial to expand the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) beyond Kabul to the most troubled areas as recommended by NATO last October and authorized by a Security Council resolution. This requires an urgent commitment of a minimum of 5,000 additional troops by NATO members, which has not been forthcoming as yet.

The Istanbul summit of NATO heads of state on 28 and 29 June is a deadline with ominous implications for Afghanistan's future. Unless firm commitments of troops are made at the summit, it will be impossible to deploy them ahead of the elections, to complete disarmament and demobilization of regional militias or to counter the explosion of the opium narcotics trade, and the entire nation-building effort in Afghanistan will be threatened.

For more information on the situation in Afghanistan please visit ICG's Afghanistan at Risk page at

h t t p : / / w w w . r a w a . o r g