the United Nations
The Afghan nation began to emerge in the late eighteenth century. It was
ruled, with brief interruptions, by a succession of monarchs whose consolidation
of power was constantly undermined by civil wars and foreign invasions.
The current borders of Afghanistan were delineated in the nineteenth century,
as a result of the "great game" rivalry between Russia and Britain.
Britain exerted some influence over Afghan foreign policy from the late
nineteenth century until the Third Anglo-Afghan War in 1919. Afghanistan
joined the UN in 1946.
In 1973, King Zahir Shah was overthrown in
a coup by his cousin and former Prime Minister, Muhammad Daud. Daud declared
Afghanistan a republic, with himself as president, and the King went into
exile in Italy.
a mountainous country of approximately 652,000 square kilometres,
shares borders with China, Iran, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan,
Uzbekistan and a sector of the disputed territory of Jammu and
Kashmir that is controlled by Pakistan. About half of its territory
is more than 2,000 metres above sea level.
In 2000, the United Nations Population Fund estimated the population
of Afghanistan at some 22.7 million (the most recent census
was in 1979, when the population was reported to be about 15.5
million). The major languages are Pashto and Dari/Farsi.
Daud's government, however, was opposed by
both the leftist People's Democratic Party of Afghanistan (PDPA) and traditional
ethnic leaders. In April 1978, leftist military officers overthrew and
killed Daud and PDPA leader Noor Muhammad Taraki became President.
Late in 1978, Islamic traditionalists and
ethnic leaders began an armed revolt, and by the summer of 1979 they controlled
much of Afghanistan's rural areas. In September, Taraki was deposed and
later killed. He was replaced by his deputy, Hafizullah Amin, but Amin
also failed to suppress the rebellion, and the government's position weakened.
On 25 December 1979, Soviet forces entered Afghanistan, and took control
of Kabul. Babrak Karmal, leader of a less hard-line faction of the PDPA,
became President. Karmal adopted more open policies towards religion and
ethnicity. However, the rebellion intensified.
Early in 1980, the Security Council met to consider a response to the
Soviet intervention, but a draft resolution condemning it was not passed,
due to the negative vote of the USSR.
The matter was then taken up in the General
Assembly, which held an Emergency Special Session on Afghanistan over
five days, from 10 to 14 January 1980. The Assembly adopted the first
of a series of 'Situation in Afghanistan' resolutions (resolution ES-6/2),
in which it deplored the armed intervention in Afghanistan, called for
the withdrawal of all foreign forces, asked States to contribute humanitarian
assistance, and asked the Secretary-General to keep it informed of developments.
Various approaches to the parties were made
with a view to finding a means to end the conflict, but war continued.
Its effects were devastating. During the next few years about 3 million
refugees fled to Pakistan and 1.5 million to Iran. Many people were also
driven from the countryside to Kabul, and in total more than half of the
population was displaced. Estimates of combat fatalities range between
700,000 and 1.3 million people. With the school system largely destroyed,
industrialization severely restricted and large irrigation projects badly
damaged, the economy of the country was crippled.
The Assembly maintained its focus on Afghanistan
throughout the 1980s, adopting a series of resolutions which called for
an end to the conflict, withdrawal of foreign troops, UN assistance to
find a political settlement and international help for refugees and others
affected by the conflict (see box 2).
In 1985, the General Assembly also began
a separate consideration of the human rights
situation in Afghanistan. This followed receipt of the first report from
a newly appointed Special Rapporteur on human rights in that country.
The first in what was to become an annual resolution on human rights and
fundamental freedoms in Afghanistan was adopted on 13 December (resolution
40/137). In it, the Assembly expressed its profound concern about widespread
disregard for human rights and large-scale violations. It also expressed
concern at the severe consequences for the civilian population of indiscriminate
bombardments and military operations aimed primarily at villages and the
In May 1986, Karmal was replaced as PDPA
leader by Mohammad Najibullah, who subsequently became President in November
Following the exercise of the UN Secretary-General's good offices, Afghanistan,
Pakistan, the USSR and the United States signed Agreements on the Settlement
of the Situation Relating to Afghanistan under United Nations auspices
on 14 April 1988. These provided for an end to foreign intervention in
Afghanistan, and the USSR began withdrawing its forces. With the Security
Council's agreement on 25 April 1988 (and subsequently authorized in resolution
622 of 31 October 1988), Secretary-General Javier Perez de Cuellar set
up a mission to monitor the withdrawal of foreign forces - the United
Nations Good Offices Mission in Afghanistan and Pakistan (UNGOMAP) - and
made plans to support the anticipated repatriation of refugees. The Soviet
withdrawal was completed in February 1989.The rebels, however, who had
not signed the agreements, maintained their fight against Najibullah's
government and the civil war continued."
Following the May 1987 agreement, the UN
had begun strenuous efforts to coordinate humanitarian assistance. Afghanistan
had long been designated by the UN as one of the world's least developed
countries and war only made it more difficult to respond to the challenge
of reconstruction and development. The United Nations Food and Agriculture
Organization (FAO) estimated that the area under agricultural cultivation
in Afghanistan fell by 40 per cent between 1979 and 1991.
In 1989, under the guidance of the Secretary-General's
newly-appointed Coordinator for United Nations Humanitarian and Economic
Assistance Programmes, a plan of action was developed jointly by United
Nations agencies and programmes, including the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF),
the UN Development Programme (UNDP), the UN High Commissioner for Refugees
(UNHCR) and the World Food Programme (WFP).
In 1991, responsibility for Operation Salam - the UN's emergency relief
programme for Afghanistan - was taken over by the Secretary-General's
Personal Representative at the time, Benon Sevan. In that year, WFP provided
60,000 metric tons of food to needy Afghans, while FAO provided 6,800
tons of seed and more than half a million fruit and poplar saplings.
Agricultural assistance, food aid, public
and maternal health services and economic recovery programmes were initiated
with resources provided to the United Nations by the international community.
But other programmes that had been planned - to repair infrastructure,
provide shelter and discourage narcotics production - had to be shelved
because of insufficient funds.
As civil war between various factions continued
following the Soviet withdrawal, the number of civilians fleeing the country
increased steadily, making Afghanistan the world's worst refugee crisis.
By 1990, there were 6.3 million civilians in exile -3.3 million in Pakistan
and 3 million in Iran. In addition to setting up a voluntary repatriation
project, UNHCR established more than 300 villages in Pakistan for the
mainly ethnic Pashtun refugees. In Iran, the mostly ethnic Tajiks, Uzbeks
and Hazaras lived and found work in local communities.
In 1992, fighting intensified, making the
aid effort more difficult. Rebel forces closed in on Kabul and the Najibullah
government fell. On 24 April 1992, leaders of the mujaheddin (guerilla)
forces except one (Gulbuddin Hekmatyar) agreed to form a government under
Sigbatullah Mojaddedi. According to the agreement, Mojaddedi would head
a Transitional Council for two months. He would then be replaced by a
Leadership Council -- to last four months -- that would be headed by Burhannudin
Rabbani was declared President of the Islamic
State in Afghanistan in July 1992. According to the agreement (called
the Peshawar Accord) he should have relinquished power in October, but
didn't. By that time, Massoud, Rabbani's Defence Minister, and Hekmatyar
were engaged in armed confrontation in Kabul--which had largely been spared
during the Soviet occupation.
The General Assembly's annual assessment
of the situation - summarized in a resolution on emergency international
assistance for the reconstruction of Afghanistan (resolution 47/119 of
18 December) - noted that establishment of the Islamic State provided
a new opportunity for reconstruction, welcomed the Secretary-General's
efforts to draw attention to mobilizing assistance for rehabilitation
and reconstruction, and sought funds for an emergency trust fund to support
In 1993, two peace accords were negotiated
between President Rabbani and eight other Afghan leaders - in Islamabad
on 7 March and in Jalalabad on 18 May. In these accords, the leaders agreed
to form a government for 18 months, to set in motion an electoral process,
to formulate a constitution, and to establish a defence council to set
up a national army. In his annual report issued in September, the Secretary-General
observed that although the accords were encouraging, they had neither
resolved the problems of the government nor removed the threat of renewed
fighting around Kabul.
In December 1993, at the request of the General
Assembly, the Secretary-General established the United Nations Special
Mission to Afghanistan (UNSMA) to canvass a broad spectrum of Afghan leaders
and solicit their views on how the UN could best help with national reconciliation
and reconstruction. Meanwhile, the movement of civilians mirrored the
ebb and flow of battlefield realities, with many refugees returning to
peaceful parts of the country. In 1992, more than 1.2 million returned
home from Pakistan.
However, despite all these positive developments, Kabul was soon besieged
again: first by various mujaheddin factions, and then by the Taliban -
a movement with its foundations in Kandahar. The Taliban were mostly sons
and orphans of mujaheddin, who had been raised in refugee camps in Pakistan
and were opposed to what they saw as the corruption of the mujaheddin.
This round of fighting led once more to the displacement of populations,
with some 350,000 people fleeing the Kabul region for camps near Jalalabad,
bringing the total of internally displaced people dependent on the UN
for food and sustenance to 800,000. By 1994, there were an additional
700,000 Afghan refugees, living mostly in camps in Pakistan and Iran.
In 1994, the first of a series of annual
consolidated appeals to aid Afghanistan was launched. The appeals detailed
the emergency needs of Afghan people and asked for funds to enable non-governmental
and UN agencies to address those needs. This first appeal had some success,
with donors supplying 75 per cent of the funds requested. Rehabilitation
projects focussed on human development and poverty alleviation in rural
communities. High quality seed was distributed to farmers - yielding some
80,000 tons of grain - while some 125,000 hectares of land were irrigated
and over 8,000 hectares of orchards rehabilitated.
From 1995, however, the annual consolidated
appeals were less successful in raising the necessary funds. The 1995-1996
appeal, for example, raised only 50 per cent of the amount deemed urgent
- of which practically nothing was available for crucial infrastructure
repairs. However, the absence of conflict in some parts of the country
made it possible to reopen some roads, allowing greater aid distribution
by the United Nations and aid agencies.
From January to June 1995, WFP distributed
more than 53,000 tons of food aid, while the UN Centre for Human Settlements
helped some 10,000 families rebuild their homes. During a health campaign
in 1995, nearly 2.4 million children under five years of age were immunized
against polio and more than 80,000 under two years old were inoculated
The Taliban takes Kabul
Meanwhile, the Taliban rebellion was growing in strength. In late 1994
and early 1995, the rebels took control of much of southern and western
Afghanistan, including Kandahar and Herat. In a presidential statement
on 15 February 1996, the Security Council expressed concern about intensified
hostilities around the capital city of Kabul, which prevented deliveries
of humanitarian aid. It was also deeply concerned that the continuing
conflict provided fertile ground for terrorism, arms transfers and drug
trafficking, which destabilized the whole region and beyond.
In September, the Taliban took Kabul. Rabbani
joined an opposition alliance, the United Islamic Front for the Salvation
of Afghanistan (the United Front or the Northern Alliance). The Taliban
soon controlled much of Afghanistan, with the Alliance holding territory
only in the north.
On 22 October, the Security Council adopted
resolution 1076 (1996), calling on all Afghan parties to end hostilities
and engage in a political dialogue aimed at achieving national reconciliation.
It repeated its deep concern that the conflict provided fertile ground
for terrorism and drug trafficking and called on the parties to halt such
activities. The General Assembly, along with the Council, condemned the
abduction from United Nations premises in Kabul of former President Najibullah
and his brother on 26 September, and their subsequent brutal execution
by the Taliban (Assembly resolution 51/108, Council statement S/PRST/1996/40).
Najibullah had taken refuge there four years earlier, but repeated calls
by the Secretary-General
to allow his safe departure from the country had been ignored.
Fighting continued between the Taliban and
Northern Alliance groups between 1997 and 2000, but military positions
changed little. In July of 1997, the Secretary-General appointed Lakhdar
Brahimi, the former Foreign Minister of Algeria, as his Special Envoy
for Afghanistan, to consult with interested and relevant countries and
parties and make recommendations on UN peacemaking activities there. He
visited Afghanistan as part of a 13-nation tour and in October, with the
Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, convened a series of informal
meetings with what became known as the "Six plus Two" group
- composed of the six States bordering Afghanistan (China, Iran, Pakistan,
Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan) plus the United States and Russia.
In April 1998, through a presidential statement,
the Security Council noted the increasingly ethnic nature of the conflict,
and reports of ethnicity-based persecution. It also deplored the continued
supply of war-making materials to the factions from foreign sources, warning
that a resumption of large-scale fighting would seriously undermine efforts
towards a political solution. In July, the Council raised concerns at
reports of harassment of humanitarian organizations and at a decision
by the Taliban to insist on the relocation of all humanitarian organizations'
offices to a single location in Kabul. It also expressed deep concern
at continuing discrimination against girls and women.
Following the 7 August terrorist bomb attacks
on United States embassies in Nairobi, Kenya, and Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania,
which claimed hundreds of lives, the Council adopted resolution 1193 (1998)
on 28 August, which repeated its concern at the continuing presence of
terrorists in the territory of Afghanistan. It condemned attacks on UN
personnel in Taliban-held areas, including the killing of two Afghan staff
members of the World Food Programme and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees
in Jalalabad, and of the Military Adviser to UNSMA in Kabul. It also condemned
the capture of the Consulate-General of Iran in Mazar-e-Sharif. On 8 December,
by resolution 1214 (1998), the Council demanded that the Taliban stop
providing sanctuary and training for international terrorists and their
organizations and that all Afghan factions cooperate in bringing indicted
terrorists to justice.
On 15 October 1999, citing the failure of
the Taliban authorities to respond to this demand, the Council applied
broad sanctions under the enforcement provisions of the UN Charter. In
resolution 1267 (1999), it noted that Usama bin Laden had been indicted
by the United States for the August 1998 embassy bombings and demanded
that the Taliban faction - never recognized as Afghanistan's legitimate
government - turn him over to the appropriate authorities to be brought
to justice. The sanctions, imposed on 14 November following non-compliance,
included the freezing by States of all funds and other financial resources
owned or controlled by the Taliban.
In a statement on 22 October, the Security
Council also expressed deep distress over reports of involvement in the
fighting, on the Taliban side, of thousands of non-Afghan nationals, some
of whom were below the age of 14. It expressed grave concern at the seriously
deteriorating humanitarian situation and deplored the worsening human
rights situation - including forced displacements of civilian populations,
summary executions, abuse and arbitrary detention of civilians, violence
against women and girls, and indiscriminate bombing. The capture of Iran's
Consulate-General in Mazar-e-Sharif was described as a flagrant violation
of international law, along with the murder there of Iranian diplomats
and a journalist. Deeply disturbed by a significant increase in the cultivation,
production and trafficking of drugs, especially in Taliban-controlled
areas, it demanded that such illegal activities be halted.
By the late 1990s, Afghanistan had become
notorious as the source of nearly 80 per cent of the world's illicit opium,
with nearly 1 per cent of its total arable land -- some 640 square kilometres
-- devoted to poppy growing. In response, the UN Drug Control Programme
(UNDCP) established a poppy crop reduction project, as part of which it
introduced alternative crops, rehabilitated irrigation systems and improved
roads. It worked with the Taliban with some success, and in December 2000
noted that the Taliban had banned opium production, although the Security
Council sanctions made it difficult to support alternate crop development
2000 and beyond
The conflict in Afghanistan continued unabated until the end of 2001.
Throughout this period, the international aid community, including the
United Nations, tried with varying levels of success to ensure that the
victims of the war and turmoil - ordinary Afghans trying to live their
lives - received at least the minimum needed for survival. Political and
security problems, in the absence of an effective government, caused frequent
interruptions in the flow of humanitarian assistance, and various crises
required the temporary departure of UN and non-governmental aid workers.
In the late 1990s, the people of Afghanistan,
already suffering the devastating effects of civil war, also faced a series
of natural disasters -- starting with earthquakes in February and May
1998 that killed more than 7,000 and adversely affected the livelihoods
and shelter of a further 165,000. In June, some 6,000 people were killed
in severe flooding. Since then, a severe and protracted drought - the
worst in living memory - has brought further suffering to some 2.5 million
people already living on the edge of survival.
In the face of such a daunting situation, the UN redoubled its efforts,
delivering more than 94,000 tons of food aid to 1.13 million people in
2000 alone, while vaccinating some 5.3 million children against polio
and providing support for non-discriminatory education to more than 300,000
children - including home schooling projects for girls.
Nevertheless, one quarter of all children
born in Afghanistan were dying of preventable diseases before the age
of five. Afghan women were nearly five times more likely to die in childbirth
than in other developing countries. Typhoid and cholera epidemics were
rampant and pneumonia and malaria had re-emerged as public health threats.
The condition of women had deteriorated markedly, and only one in 20 girls
received any kind of education.
Between 1988 and 2000, more than 4.6 million
Afghan refugees returned to their homes with UNHCR assistance, but as
the fighting continued they were soon replaced by new refugees; themselves
in need of clothing and housing from UNHCR and their host countries. All
told, by the end of 2001 UNHCR had spent at least $1.2 billion for refugee
operations in Pakistan, $352 million in Iran, and $72 million inside Afghanistan.
As the year ended, some 2 million refugees remained in Pakistan and 1.5
million in Iran.
To compound the problem, refugees were returning
to what the UN Mine Clearance Programme has called the most heavily mined
country in the world, with a staggering 9.7 million landmines. As part
of its efforts, the Programme cleared some 68 square kilometres of previously
infested areas, but much remains to be done.
In 2000, as in previous years, the vast majority
of funding for the UN-coordinated appeals for Afghanistan was earmarked
by donors for emergency relief - notably food aid by WFP. Funds to promote
Afghan self-sufficiency remained in short supply, with only $6 million
being received for projects to increase access to sustainable livelihoods.
Programmes to promote agricultural development - a particularly acute
area of need given the drought - were almost non-existent.
On 4 September 2001, the UN and its partners
issued a report entitled "The Deepening Crisis", which highlighted
the desperate and worsening humanitarian situation faced by Afghans across
the country. The report contained a plan of action to support critically
vulnerable Afghans during the upcoming winter period and beyond, identifying
the needs of 5 million people severely affected by three years of drought
and many years of fighting. The plan envisaged providing food aid, shelter
for internally displaced people, and support to help people remain in
their own homes instead of adding to the numbers of those displaced.
Post 11 September
In the escalation of the conflict in Afghanistan following the 11 September
terrorist attack on the United States by the Afghan-based Al Qaeda group,
the Security Council expressed support for the efforts of the Afghan people
to replace the Taliban regime, once again condemned for allowing Afghanistan
to be used as a base for the export of terrorism and for providing safe
haven to Usama bin Laden.
On 1 October, in his address to a special
week-long session of the General Assembly on terrorism, Secretary-General
Kofi Annan said, "As we summon the will and the resources needed
to succeed in the struggle against terrorism, we must also care for all
the victims of terrorism, whether they are the direct targets or other
populations who will be affected by our common effort. That is why I have
launched an alert to donors about the potential need for much more generous
humanitarian assistance to the people of Afghanistan."
That new alert called on the international
community to provide $584 million to meet the humanitarian needs of some
7.5 million Afghan civilians over the following six months, with particular
concern to ensure adequate food supplies ahead of winter setting in. Unfortunately,
increasing conflict in Afghanistan, including the military response to
the terrorist attacks on the US, compelled UN agencies to withdraw international
staff from the country, and the flow of food and other essentials into
the country was slowed or halted.
As the situation unfolded, the UN continued
its role in promoting dialogue among Afghan parties, aimed at establishing
a broad-based, inclusive government. On 3 October, the Secretary-General
reappointed Lakhdar Brahimi, who had resigned two years earlier, as his
Special Envoy for Afghanistan.
On 12 November, the "Six plus Two"
group met in New York under the chairmanship of the Secretary-General,
agreeing on the need for a broad-based and freely chosen Afghan government
and pledging continued support for UN humanitarian efforts in Afghanistan,
as well as in refugee camps in neighbouring States. On 27 November, a
conference on Afghanistan's reconstruction sponsored by UNDP, the World
Bank and the Asian Development Bank, opened in Islamabad. Over 300 participants
attended, including many from Afghanistan. Issues discussed included the
role of women, the importance of education and the creation of a comprehensive
A further donor conference -- focusing on the immediate and longer-term
needs of the country -- was held in Berlin in early December.
Meanwhile, the Northern Alliance had entered
Mazar-e-Sharif, Herat and then Kabul - a decisive event in the defeat
of the Taliban. The United Nations organized a meeting of Afghan political
leaders in Bonn in late November. When it concluded on 5 December, the
four groups represented, including the Northern Alliance, signed an agreement
on a provisional arrangement pending re-establishment of permanent government
institutions in Afghanistan.
As a first step, the Afghan Interim Authority
was established. On 20 December, the Security Council, by resolution 1386
(2001), authorized the establishment of an International Security Assistance
Force (ISAF) to help the Authority maintain security in Kabul and its
surrounding areas. On 22 December, in Kabul, the internationally recognized
administration of President Rabbani handed power to the new Interim Afghan
Administration, established in Bonn and headed by Chairman Hamid Karzai.
Special Representative Brahimi moved to Kabul to commence his activities
in support of the new Afghan Administration. At the same time, the first
of the ISAF troops were deployed, under British control.
With the easing of hostilities, WFP was able
to deliver a record 114,000 metric tonnes of food aid in December - enough
to feed 6 million people for two months. Still, by 20 December, only some
$358 million of the nearly $662 million being sought for UN relief work
in Afghanistan had been received, and the needs of only one agency - the
UN Population Fund (UNFPA) - had been fully covered. And while the WFP
had achieved 81 per cent of its funding requirements, UNHCR had secured
only 59 per cent. As in the past, funds were mostly being donated for
emergency relief, with very little for reconstruction and rehabilitation.
To maintain the momentum for international
assistance to Afghanistan generated by the political process an International
Conference on Reconstruction Assistance on Afghanistan was held in Tokyo
on 21 and 22 January 2002. Addressing the Conference, Secretary-General
Kofi Annan said such assistance would require $10 billion over a 10-year
period, including $1.3 billion to cover immediate needs for 2002. That
latter covers recurrent costs of the Interim Authority, as yet unfunded
humanitarian assistance, and $376 million for quick impact and recovery
projects "that are ready to go."
"Two months from today, some 1.5 million Afghan girls and boys will
return to school, to start a new school year in a new Afghanistan,"
he said. "For many girls of primary school age, it will be the first
time in their lives that they have been allowed to attend school. Supplies
and safe learning spaces are needed. Teachers will need to be deployed
and paid. If we want to help the next generation of Afghans improve upon
the country's recent history, surely this is one place where our efforts
"Our challenge is to help the Afghans
help themselves," Mr. Annan added, describing the country's reconstruction
needs as immense. They include the reintegration of former combatants;
revival of economic activity; a fairer justice system, democratic institutions
and mechanisms to protect human rights; such basic serves as clean water,
sanitation, schools, health care and roads; ensuring the country is no
longer a haven for terrorists or drug traffickers; ending violence against
women; protecting childrens' rights; and ensuring security throughout
A preliminary needs assessment prepared by
the World Bank, UNDP and Asian Development Bank identified possible high-priority
areas. These include: mine action; a basic health-services package to
reduce child and maternal mortality; an education programme to enrol over
a million girls and boys in school; rapid increase in food production
through irrigation and other programmes; increased access to safe water;
shelter to facilitate resettlement and development of a national urban
management capacity; emergency energy supply while restoring the existing
power system; urban and rural employment generation; supporting local-level
reconstruction; and creating a conducive socio-economic environment for
The Tokyo Conference resulted in pledges
of over $4.5 billion, which the Secretary-General described as "remarkably
successful." He also praised its Interim Administration Chairman
Hamid Karzai for welcoming international auditors to ensure that the money
will be well spent.
Secretary-General Kofi Annan visited Kabul
on 25 January to offer moral support to the new Interim Administration
and to thank members of the United Nations staff in Afghanistan for their
sustained effort to provide humanitarian assistance to the Afghan people.
The first milestone of the Bonn Agreement
was achieved with the announcement that same day of the composition of
the Special Independent Commission for the Convening of the Emergency
Loya Jirga (pashto for grand council -- a traditional forum in which tribal
elders can come together and settle affairs).
The Commission is composed of 21 members. It has the final authority for
determining the procedures for and the number of people who will participate
in the Emergency Loya Jirga, which will elect a Head of State for the
Transitional Administration and will approve proposals for the structure
and key personnel of the Transitional Administration. The Bonn Agreement
sets out that free and fair elections must be held within two years of
the establishment of the Loya Jirga.