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Omar Samad: Bonn summit on a post-Taliban government

The hilltop hotel where the Afghan leaders are discussing plans for an interim government
The hilltop hotel where the Afghan leaders are discussing plans for an interim government  

Omar Samad is the Director of the Afghanistan Information Center, and is working as a CNN consultant during the meeting near Bonn, Germany about a post-Taliban government.

CNN: What are the expectations out of the summit in Bonn on a post-Taliban government?

SAMAD: The expectations on the part of the Afghan delegations that are gathered here in Bonn are basically to find an arrangement that is acceptable to all of them that will open the way for the formation of a new post-Taliban transitional government. This includes the format of the government, the composition of the new government, how much weight each group should have within the new government, and a timeline and a venue for the mechanism to which the new government should come about.

As far as the United Nations, which is sponsoring this conference, is concerned, their expectation is how quickly we can have a new government on the ground in Afghanistan. And the Germans hosting the conference obviously expect it to be a success. Those are the three parties involved here in Bonn.

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CHAT PARTICIPANT: Is there a danger that Bonn becomes more than just about initial discussions and the identification of common grounds for progress?

SAMAD: Bonn, in the view of many of the participants, and I'm talking about the Afghan participants, is the first step towards the creation of a new government in Afghanistan. It is the first step towards reconciling the differences between the various Afghan groups, and the first step toward eventually allowing the Afghan people to determine what type of regime and political system they want.

We should not consider Bonn as the last step in this process. There are definitely other steps ahead before all of those goals are met. But Bonn obviously is an important phase within the process, and it's a prerequisite for progress. If things don't work out in Bonn to the satisfaction of all the parties involved then the international community and the Afghans will have to think of a different approach, which will be difficult.

CHAT PARTICIPANT: Since women represent 60 percent of all Afghans, a clear majority, why are women not being included in Bonn in comparable numbers?

SAMAD: Unfortunately, if we put this question in those terms, then that particular premise applies to all countries in the world. Look at the United States. Are there enough female congresswomen? Are there enough [women] secretaries within the U.S. administration? The same applies to all. But this doesn't mean that women should not be included in the Afghan political structures being built. It doesn't mean that women should be ignored. In order to achieve the desired goals for additional inclusion of women in Afghan politics, we need to lay the groundwork now, and we need to make efforts towards that goal.

There are at least five women in the composition of the delegations as primary delegates or alternate delegates. There are two women in the group representing the former King, also the Rome process. There are two women in the Northern Alliance group, one of whom is an alternate. I believe there is a fifth female that we haven't seen yet, maybe she hasn't arrived, that the Cyprus group has mentioned. There's another that I remember, but we weren't sure this morning if the original numbers were correct, but also a women on the advisory board of the Peshawar group.

So, all of them have at least one female representative. Unfortunately, we don't know what the male/female ratio is in Afghanistan, because there has never been a census done there. After 23 years of war, after 23 years of all types of extremist politics, extreme of the left and extreme of the right, and after many years of conflict in the country, at this point it is almost impossible to represent everyone adequately. But you need to start somewhere, and need to give it your best shot.

Afghanistan is a very diverse country, and the task ahead and the challenge ahead for the leaders who are rebuilding the country, is to continue being as inclusive as possible, and to be as representative as possible, whether it's based on gender, social groupings, or ethnicity or religion.

CHAT PARTICIPANT: What is the likelihood of a multi-ethnic government to include representatives from the Taliban?

SAMAD: The possibilities depend on whom you call the Taliban. The Taliban that we hear about in the media today, who seem to be on the losing end of the Afghan political and military spectrum, are in essence themselves a group composed of various subgroups. The Taliban leadership, whether military or political, does not seem to be acceptable to the vast majority of Afghans, therefore their representation within these forums is not likely at all.

They're accused of many violations, whether human rights violations or the destruction of the cultural heritage of the country, they're accused of having brought in terrorists and foreign militants into the country, who are in turn accused of killing many Afghans and destroying many Afghan villages and towns. You hear about it every day on the news. And the Taliban is accused of having formed a regime that is very much opposed to Afghan self-determination and traditions.

So it's highly unlikely that the Taliban who espoused such mentalities and policies will be acceptable to the rest. But as I mentioned earlier, within the structure of the Taliban, there were elements that were concerned about all these violations. Some of them were probably even in opposition to all of these Taliban actions. These people, from tribal and local regions of Afghanistan, who had no choice but to follow or sympathize with the Taliban for survival reasons, and were not ideologically connected to them, and are not accused of those violations that I mentioned, may in the future, not under the term Taliban, but a different term, be part of a larger Afghan political movement. But I don't think that the term Taliban, or anyone considering themselves Taliban, like for example the Nazis in Germany after World War II, are any longer acceptable as a political entity in Afghanistan.

CNN: What might an interim government look like?

SAMAD: An interim government will be composed of an executive head of state, maybe some deputies, a prime minister, maybe, a cabinet of ministers, each of whom will be responsible for a specific portfolio within that cabinet, and the revival of a governmental structure within the country. It will be a shared government, meaning that the groups that are meeting today in Bonn, and maybe some others that have been left out, or could not be accommodated right now, will somehow agree on an arrangement through which they will create the new government and administration, and divide it up among themselves and form a coalition government. [It] will also be the interim government, until a constitution is drafted, and hopefully a more democratic system emerges, through which each individual Afghan will have the right to express, maybe through a vote, their will. And that will in essence creates a durable system in the country. But we are talking about maybe two years down the road for that to happen.

CNN: Do you have any closing comments to share?

SAMAD: Those were very good questions. Seems like many are well informed about some details of the subject matter. So, I thank you all for the questions.

CNN: Thank you for joining us today

SAMAD: Thank you very much.

Omar Samad joined the chat room via telephone from Bonn, Germany and provided a typist. The above is an edited transcript of the interview on Tuesday, November 27, 2001 at 12 p.m. EST.


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