Radio Australia: ASIA PACIFIC, July 15, 2003

AFGHANISTAN: Concern over the lack of progress on disarmament

Afghanistan has taken another step towards restoring national unity and peace, with an ambitious disarmament and demobilisation campaign, aimed at absorbing hundreds of thousands of former soldiers into civilian society. But it's unclear how successful the initiative will be, as powerful regional warlords are keen to hold onto their power.

Presenter/Interviewer: Tricia Fitzgerald
Speakers: Tahmeena Faryal, of the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan (RAWA)

FARYAL: "Nothing like that was seen by this government and in a way people are waiting for the election in that a more permanent government will come to power after an election and maybe any kind of reform will happen after the election."

"That's what people are hopeful, but I think there's already there also is a great sense of disappointment towards the role of the international community, because even prior to the election after September 11, a lot was promised to Afghan people, this and this and that will happen, especially in terms of reconstruction. But people do not see any of that happening, and once again they say oh the US government or other governments involved in Afghanistan deceived us."

"They do find themselves once again being deceived, but again there is this little bit of hope after election, and that maybe more positive things will happen after that."

FITZGERALD: What sort of fears and hopes do you have about the way that poll will be conducted? What are emerging as the most important issues?

FARYAL: "The fears are what would be the percentage and possibility of the warlords and their participation, and to what extent it will be free and fair. But there is also hope, the hope that - ok - even if you're disappointed so far not much has happened, maybe after election things will change."

"Even these warlords that so far nothing has been done to warlords, maybe their power will get reduced, maybe there's more opportunity for democratic forces, maybe there's more opportunity for women. That is the kind of the hope that everyone has at this point, hope and challenges."

FITZGERALD: So it's due mid next year, is the country in the sort of shape that an election could take place? Will political parties be able to form freely?

FARYAL: "Not at all, not at this point because we have warlords in power everywhere, disarmament hasn't happened, and we believe that without these two steps the expansion of the ISAF peacekeepers and the disarmament, the result of the election won't be a free and fair one."

FITZGERALD: What was set down at the Loya Jirga about disarmament and at the Bonn talks, what was agreed?

FARYAL: "Everybody's talking about disarmament."

FITZGERALD: But how was it going to happen, who was going to supervise it?

FARYAL: "It is done, I mean the responsibility is given to the United Nations, and the UN has been quite involved in different processes, including the disarmament, which we are happy about, the people of Afghanistan are happy about the meeting that the UN might be the only body who can do this. "

"But the problem is the UN, we think that the UN does not do it sincerely and the UN is sort of trying to do it in a way to also compromise with the warlords, and that's the part we can't understand. Why can't they understand the nature of these warlords, and don't say we shouldn't give them any opportunity. But rather they're trying to get them engaged in the discussions of peace table discussions, which has never been useful."

FITZGERALD: What is your understanding and your group's understanding of why the international community won't move their peacekeepers outside Kabul, which as you've said is going to be a crucial precondition for this election?

FARYAL: "I think when we talk about the involvement of international community in Afghanistan at this point, it's really mostly the United States involvement. And it is the United States is the main obstacle towards expansion of the ISAF. The Bush administration has never agreed to expand it despite the constant requests of Karzai himself."

FITZGERALD: You've travelled quite a bit in the US and met with US leaders. What's the opposition based on?

FARYAL: "It can be understood because of the compromise with the warlords, because warlords are not happy at all with expansion of the ISAF, they're not happy with what we have right now even in Kabul. The presence of the UN peacekeepers from the beginning the Northern Alliance was not happy about this. They were saying we have our own forces, we don't need any foreigners to come and control us, and the US unfortunately has been compromised with them, has been supporting them."

Listen to the interviews [ 1st ] - [ 2nd ]


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