Move into Afghan capital hastens diplomatic steps
U.N. envoy proposes plan for new Afghan government
KABUL, Afghanistan (CNN) -- As the Northern Alliance solidified control of Afghanistan's capital, the United Nations' Afghan envoy Tuesday offered a road map for establishing a transitional post-Taliban government.
The ruling Taliban abandoned the city early Tuesday, allowing Northern Alliance troops -- who made rapid advances over the weekend, backed by U.S. airstrikes -- to go into Kabul unopposed.
Northern Alliance Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah offered the city as a place for talks among different Afghan factions.
"We invite all Afghan groups at this stage to come to Kabul and to speed up negotiations on the future of Afghanistan," said Abdullah, adding "Taliban excluded."
In New York City, Lakhdar Brahimi, the U.N. secretary-general's special representative for Afghanistan, told the U.N. Security Council that he wants to convene a meeting of all Afghan groups as soon as possible, in an effort to form a broad-based government.
U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan will dispatch Brahimi's deputy, Francesc Vendrell, to Kabul once it is safe, and the United Nations is preparing to send staff back into the country to help with delivery of humanitarian aid.
The White House said Tuesday that President Bush is "very pleased" with military developments in Afghanistan.
Outside Afghanistan, key members of the U.S.-led coalition expressed concern that the advance into Kabul could complicate efforts to establish a new government.
Pakistan wants Kabul to be placed under U.N. control, with a peacekeeping force to keep order in a "demilitarized" city. Pakistan's president, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, met Tuesday with Turkish Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit to discuss forming a peacekeeping mission and said the world needs to move quickly to ensure the country's stability.
"The events in Afghanistan are moving extremely fast ... and we need to move faster so that we can bring peace and security to Afghanistan in accordance with the wishes of the people of Afghanistan," Musharraf said.
The U.N.'s proposal
Brahimi proposed an initial round of meetings that would include the Northern Alliance, followers of the exiled king, Zahir Shah, and representatives of other Afghan opposition factions in Cyprus and Peshawar. Diplomats say the meetings could take place as early as this week.
After those meetings, Brahimi said a provisional Afghan council would be convened, drawing from all of the ethnic and tribal factions and including Afghans in the country and abroad.
The council should be led by an individual who is seen by the people of Afghanistan as a symbol of national unity "around whom all ethnic, religious and regional groups could rally," Brahimi said.
He said women should be included as part of transitional structure. Brahimi then said the provisional council would devise a transitional administration and action plan, to be approved by an emergency "Loya Jirga," a gathering of thousands that Afghans traditionally use to choose a government.
He stressed that it was important that Afghans work along side the United Nations and nongovernmental organizations in creating a transitional government.
"Parachuting a large number of international experts into Afghanistan could overwhelm the nascent transitional administration and interfere with the building of local capacity," he said.
A transitional administration should last no more than two years, and should be tasked with security in the country, Brahimi said, adding that a political solution will not be possible without "genuine and lasting security."
Some type of peacekeeping force would be needed to stabilize the country, preferably an all-Afghan force, Brahimi said. But he said such a force cannot be assembled quickly enough, so a multinational force would likely be needed in the short term.
He did not recommend an armed U.N. peacekeeping force because it would take several months to create and U.N. peacekeepers are far more successful after political settlements are already in place.
U.S. envoy to meet with the ex-king
In Kabul, increasing numbers of Northern Alliance troops moved into Kabul from the city's outskirts Tuesday as thousands came out on the street to support them. Many of the revelers were clean-shaven men -- an apparent gesture of defiance to the Taliban, who forced men to grow their beards long
The crowds also chanted anti-Pakistan slogans and shouts of death to the Taliban's supreme commander, Mullah Mohammed Omar, and death to Musharraf. Pakistan supported the Taliban until the September 11 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington that prompted the U.S.-led war in Afghanistan.
In Islamabad, Pakistan's foreign ministry repeated its insistence that any Afghan government must be representative of the country's ethnic makeup. The Northern Alliance is made up mostly of the country's Uzbek and Tajik minorities, while the Taliban draw their support from the country's dominant Pashtun.
Elements of the Northern Alliance held power from 1992 to 1996, when the Taliban drove them from power. The period was marked by frequent internal strife among armed factions before the fundamentalist Muslim Taliban came to power as a reform movement.
"Past experience has already demonstrated that no single group or faction can bring peace to the country," Pakistani Foreign Ministry spokesman Aziz Ahmed Khan said Tuesday.
White House spokesman Ari Fleischer urged the Northern Alliance to respect human rights and efforts to establish a governing coalition. He said there are "constant reminders" to the Northern Alliance through military and diplomatic channels of the long-term political goals, including the U.S. desire that any Afghan government is "not weighted toward any one group."
In New York, the so-called "six plus two" nations -- those neighboring Afghanistan along with the United States and Russia -- were slated to resume talks on a post-Taliban government.
U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell dispatched James Dobbins, his special envoy for Afghan opposition groups, to Rome, Italy, to meet with Afghanistan's deposed king, Mohammad Zahir Shah, before heading to the region. And the U.N. special representative for Afghanistan, Lakhdar Brahimi, said he hopes to assemble the Afghan groups in the "next couple of days."
A senior State Department official told CNN that Dobbins would make contact with the Pakistani government and work with Afghans there on a future government.
Dobbins' mission is to talk with Afghan groups as possible, the official said, adding after meeting with the king, Dobbins would travel to Peshawar, Pakistan, to meet with Pashtun leaders.
"We will keep in touch with other governments, we'll keep in touch with other Afghan factions and leaders and encourage all these people to come together as quickly as they can," the official said, adding that the United States wants to "add more Pashtun to the mix."
U.S. officials and diplomats said the main concern is for the Northern Alliance to avoid bloodshed in Kabul. One Western diplomat said it is a "dream to think that the Northern Alliance would get out of Kabul," now that the forces have captured the city.
The official said the United States is "urging Northern Alliance to maintain order and not undermine peace efforts."
"We are not urging them to leave Kabul for now," the official said. "If they leave nobody would be there except a lot of guys with guns."
In London, British Prime Minister Tony Blair said the Taliban withdrawal from Kabul could aid efforts to establish a new regime.
"It is only now, with the military direction so clear, that I think we are able to bring together the factions likely to be involved in any successor government," Blair said. He added that unlike the period following the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan in 1989, "This time we will not walk away from you.
"We have given commitments. We will honor those commitments, both on the humanitarian side and in terms of rebuilding Afghanistan," he said. "We are with you for the long term."
Brahimi said reconstruction of Afghanistan should begin immediately, calling it the "key to bringing peace and stability" to the country.
"It is not something to be undertaken once a government is in place, but is at the heart of the political transition," he said. "Reconstruction will provide opportunities for the absorption of large numbers of men engaged in war and opportunities for Afghan women who have been deprived of voice and participation in society."
Brahimi said that more humanitarian aid needs to be sent to vulnerable populations in Afghanistan. He said that the city of Mazar-e Sharif should serve as a hub for aid to reach the people.
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