Transcript Of Press Conference on Security Reform In Afghanistan, Held at the Palais Des Nations

Lakhdar Brahimi, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Afghanistan, spoke in the press conference with Abdullah Abdullah, the Foreign Minister of Afghanistan, and David Johnson, the United States Coordinator for Afghanistan, following a meeting with around 40 donor countries on the reform of the security sector in Afghanistan.

Mr. Brahimi: I apologize to all of you on behalf of my colleagues for the delay. We have had a much longer meeting than we thought we would. And I think that we can immediately ask David Johnson to tell you what happened there, and then Dr. Abdullah will also say a few words and answer your questions.

Mr. Johnson: Thank you Mr. Ambassador. We have just concluded here at the UN facility to talk about how the international community can assist Afghanistan in rebuilding the kind of security structures that are necessary to have a successful State. We all know that success in security is the key ingredient to being successful in any other aspect of the rehabilitation and reconstruction of Afghanistan. It is the necessary framework in which humanitarian assistance can take place, in which reconstruction can take place, in which Afghanistan can become a successful State that all of us in the international community would like for it to be. The security area was broken down into several parts where what we are calling lead States are acting as coordinators. The United States is taking the leading training the Afghan national army; Germany is hoping to reconstruct and reform the police in Afghanistan; the United Kingdom is leading an international effort on counter-narcotics; and Italy, in close cooperation with the United Nations, is working on the reform in the judicial sector and reconstruction of that area. In addition to that, we heard a very compelling presentation by the United Nations, by Mr. Brahmi’s staff, about how we can best go about reintegrating and demobilizing those who have participated in the very long war in Afghanistan. We believe that this was a reasonably successful meeting. We had good presentations formal of the lead States, and we are beginning to get the type of specificity in terms of contributions that are needed in order to have these Programme spot forward and be successful over a long period of time. I am pleased to have been able to convene this meeting on behalf of the United States, and to have a very strong presentation of Mr. Brahimi and Foreign Minister Abdullah, both of whom I consider heroes in this process and I am very pleased to be working with them.

Mr. Brahimi: Thank you very much. Dr. Abdullah you might wish also to say a few words before we take your questions.

Mr. Abdullah: Thank you very much. Today we had a very constructive meeting with the donor countries, addressing one of the most important aspects of the situation in Afghanistan, namely security. The international community, the Afghans to start with, in the international community, humanity suffered because of instability and insecurity in Afghanistan. The Bonn Agreement and the formation of the Interim Government created new hope for a better situation in my country. Today’s meeting was symbol of the collective efforts of the international community to address one of the most important issues in Afghanistan. Today there is an opportunity that opportunity is for the people of Afghanistan, for the region and for the world. We have to utilize this opportunity, and to make every effort to make it a full success; a full success will be for everybody. The opportunity is now or never. Following the last meeting in April, today’s meeting, thanks to the lead States and the other donor countries and the organizations, we are more optimistic about the future of Afghanistan. Some countries came up with specific proposals and suggestions and promises, other countries promised they will come up with specific ideas and programmers, and coordinate them with the lead States, and also with the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) and with the Afghan Interim Authority in order to make those programmers a success. This is a great step. I hope that today’s meeting will be followed by immediate actions, speedy actions by all countries. Thank you.

Question: I understood that certainly the Afghan delegation was hoping for firm cash commitments, given that the outlines had already been sketched back in April as to who would be responsible for which areas. Were there any solid, concrete offers of either cash or in kind made today, and if so how much?

Mr. Brahimi: Yes there were some cash commitments and offers of contributions of various kinds. I am afraid I cannot give you exact figures, because it was given piecemeal and mainly verbally. But we will ask the members to send that in writing. I am sorry I cannot give you specific figures.

Question: Can you give us an idea of the magnitude, are we talking about hundreds of thousands of dollars, or are we talking about millions?

Mr. Brahimi: We are certainly speaking about millions. It is not enough. But I think that as both Dr. Abdullah and Ambassador Johnson said, I think there is a clear indication that there is a commitment to this project, and we are hopeful that, as Dr. Abdullah has said, all this will be followed by concrete action and that the international community will indeed support the police and the national army in Afghanistan.

Question: There is clearly unrest in Afghanistan around places like Gardez,and the International Force in Afghanistan is still restricted to Kabul. Bearing in mind the security situation at the moment, what does Dr. Abdullah think the window of opportunity is in terms of having your own up and running security force?

Mr. Abdullah: Of course the formation of the Afghan army and the national police force will take time. The process has already started. It is good news for the people of Afghanistan. And there are some security problems in different parts of the country which have to be addressed. One has to look for the alternative. At this stage, I think we have to focus on some alternatives, rather than the expansion of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) which is a preferable option for Afghans, for the Interim Authority, but knowing the constraints in the practicality of that option, we should focus on alternatives. I think some ideas were discussed, but further elaboration is needed in order to come out with some alternatives. And with regards to the security, despite the reports and despite the incidents in some parts of the country, I should say that the security situation has improved to a large extent since the inauguration of the Interim Government.

Question: If you take just what happened now, presumably you are going to meet again, do you have a date for when you will next meet? Also, given the fact that the security arrangements are so vital, is it not a bit surprising that you have had two meetings and that you still do not have anything that concrete, given the priority that must be given to this element? And also, in the fact that you have coordinators for each area, does that involve some financial commitment, for example on part of the United States and the training of the military?

Mr. Johnson: I would take the issue with the (inaudible) of your questions. I think things are fairly far along. The United States in its area for example has a well fleshed out training Programme which will last upwards of 18 months (and) which will produce a significant Afghan national army. There are still issues to be filled in, but I think it’s a very large step in the right direction. We have some significant funds to back that up, but we are also needing contributions from other States as well in order for that entire Programme to be effectively financed, and for the other parts of the army, beyond what our training effort will produce, to be created as well. So I think we are fairly far along in this process. I do not accept the notion that this is somehow not where we need to be at this time.