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Homepage > Publication Type > Open Letters > Open Letter from Crisis Group to the foreign minister of each NATO member state and all NATO ambassadors

Open Letter from Crisis Group to the foreign minister of each NATO member state and all NATO ambassadors

Brussels  |   26 Apr 2004

The International Crisis Group has been reporting on issues affecting the prevention of further conflict in Afghanistan since November 2001. Throughout that period, our focus on security, institution-building, and the political transition has emphasized the importance of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF). In that regard, we recommended and applauded the NATO decision to take responsibility for ISAF in August and to agree on extending ISAF's mandate beyond Kabul in October.  We recognize that your country already has contributed to the NATO/ISAF effort. However, 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 vital to expand the international security presence across the most troubled areas. This will require an urgent commitment of additional troops by NATO members at the Istanbul summit on June 28 and 29. Unless firm commitments of troops are made at the summit, it will be impossible to deploy them ahead of the elections.

Further delays in deployment will only embolden those Afghan commanders who are already consolidating their power in advance of the elections. Security problems such as drugs, the Taliban and al-Qaeda, the deployment of new Afghan security forces and the successful demobilisation of those armed men outside government control will only be tackled if ISAF can improve security. NATO commanders have estimated that there is a need for a minimum of some 5000 troops beyond the 5000 currently deployed in and around Kabul.

United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan recently urged NATO expansion of ISAF in Afghanistan, saying "elections are approaching and … sustained commitment and expanded engagement by NATO would make a real difference."

Lakhdar Brahimi, former special representative of the secretary general in Kabul, has also called for an urgent expansion of ISAF to ensure that presidential and legislative elections can go ahead across the country.  It will not be tenable to forego security and monitoring arrangements, or to dispense with elections altogether, in some parts of the country.  This would disenfranchise some Afghans along ethnic and regional lines, undermine the legitimacy of central and provincial governments, and be a recipe for resumed conflict.

Unless ISAF expansion happens as soon as possible, the efforts of the international community to rebuild the country are likely to go to waste and internal conflict is likely to return.

As NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer has said, "Our first, and immediate priority is to get Afghanistan right. We cannot afford to fail. My predecessor, Lord Robertson, said that if we don’t go to Afghanistan, Afghanistan will come to us. He was right….If we fail in Afghanistan – if we do not meet our commitments to the people of that country to help them build a better future – then who will have confidence in us again? Our credibility – as NATO, as the Euro-Atlantic community – is on the line. And credibility is one of our strongest assets. To preserve it, we have no choice but to succeed."

Crisis Group urges your government to take immediate steps to meet NATO's commitment to provide improved security in Afghanistan and to announce those contributions no later than the Istanbul Summit.

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