Karl F. Inderfurth, Assistant Secretary for South Asian Affairs, Testimony before the Subcommittee for Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs, of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, "Remarks on Afghanistan," Washington, DC, October 8, 1998


New Realities and Old Concerns

Mr. Chairman, new realities are emerging in Afghanistan, as the maps I have
attached to my testimony attest.  The Taliban, which 8 months ago controlled
three-quarters of the country, now occupies virtually all of it.  The Northern
Alliance is in disarray; its disintegration through battlefield defeat and
cooptation was a major factor in the Taliban advances.

But the conflict unfortunately is not at an end, only entering a new phase.
Taliban advances have not brought peace to the country or to the region.
Resistance continues, neighboring countries are increasingly worried, and
Afghans continue to die.  It is a tragedy that the Afghan people, who sacrificed
so much to maintain their independence and whose struggle helped end the Cold
War, still suffer from this ongoing conflict.

Regional Instability

The changed environment has grave implications for Afghanistan's neighbors.
Recent Taliban advances have markedly increased regional instability, and there
is a clear danger the conflict may be widened or inflamed, something we clearly
do not want to see.

The principal, immediate danger of expanded conflict arises from the increased
tension between Iran, the Taliban, and Pakistan arising from the murder of
Iranian diplomats in Mazar-i-Sharif by forces under Taliban control.   We view
the murder of the diplomats particularly seriously given their protected status
under international law.  We condemned these killings and joined in the call for
an  international investigation and the punishment of those found guilty.

Iran also is concerned about the Taliban's harsh treatment of Shia minorities,
and has additional fears for the fate of the Persian-speakers in the Tajik
minority.  Together with others, Iran has supported Northern Alliance leaders,
including Commander Masood, an ethnic Tajik, who remains the only obstacle to
total Taliban military control.

In response to Taliban actions, Iran has staged military maneuvers near the
border.  The first involved a reported 75,000 troops.  Another larger exercise,
involving a reported 200,000 soldiers, is pending, although we believe the
number of Iranian soldiers along the border to be far less than that.  Iran also
has put additional troops on alert and reportedly has made incursions into
Afghan airspace.  We are urging all parties to prevent this saber-rattling from
leading to actual conflict.

At the same time, we welcomed Iranian President Khatemi's statement to the UN
General Assembly last month that Iran would seek a diplomatic solution and his
observation, "there is no military solution to that country's predicament."   He
reinforced this message on October 6 when he said: "We do not see war as the
primary solution to the problem.  But, of course, our patience depends on the
success of the United Nations and world bodies."  He warned, however, referring
to the Taliban, that "Bullies have to be forced to accept international norms."

Afghanistan's Central Asian neighbors, along with Iran, fear the spillover
effects of what is taking place in Afghanistan today including drugs, terrorism,
and religious extremism.  They too are concerned for ethnic minorities,
particularly as persecution could lead to destabilizing refugee flows.  We have
been working with the Central Asian states to reduce regional tensions and to
enlist their assistance in helping to bring about a cessation of hostilities in
Afghanistan.

We have also cooperated with Pakistan both bilaterally and in the UN context.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif played a key role in bringing the parties together
for talks in Islamabad as well as in facilitating Ambassador Richardson's April
visit to Afghanistan, in which I took part.  We also  welcomed the joint
Pakistan/Iran initiative this summer to promote intra-Afghan negotiations.  We
were disappointed that it did not succeed.  We expect Pakistan now to exert its
influence upon the Taliban to enter into negotiations.  Pakistan has more to
gain from a settlement than virtually any other country except Afghanistan
itself.  No country has been more affected than Pakistan.  Moreover, by
supporting the Taliban, Pakistan has become isolated regionally and has
complicated its relations with India and many other nations.

Pakistan, along with Afghanistan and others in the region, will remain
economically disadvantaged as long as this fighting goes on.  For only through a
peaceful settlement can Afghanistan resume its role as a trade route between
Central and South Asia, allowing these nations an outlet to the sea profitable
for all, including Pakistan. Only with peace will the proposed pipeline project
come to fruition and promote both Afghan reconstruction and regional stability.

Need for a Political Settlement

        Mr. Chairman, a political solution can bring peace and regional stability
to Afghanistan.  Military conquest cannot.  Only a political settlement can give
each of Afghanistan's many ethnic communities a stake in the future of their
country.  (Please see the attached map which illustrates Afghanistan's ethnic
diversity.)  Only a political solution can bring forth a government able to
reconstruct the shattered economy, to represent Afghanistan effectively
internationally, and to deal with terrorism, drugs, and human rights.

The September 21 meeting at the United Nations of the Group of Six Plus Two --
composed of Afghanistan's neighbors plus the U.S. and Russia -- in its first
Ministerial -- addressed the grave situation both inside Afghanistan and along
its borders.  The international community, through the UN General Assembly, the
Security Council, and most recently the Six Plus Two Ministerial has called on
all parties to declare a cease-fire and negotiate a political settlement
culminating in a broad-based, multiethnic, representative government.

Without a broad-based government, Afghanistan will remain at war, with all the
problems that entails for the Afghan people, the region, and the world.  Absent
a negotiated political settlement, we have several important issues to raise
with the Taliban that directly affect our interests.  These include narcotics,
terrorism, human rights -- including the rights of women and girls --  the
provision of humanitarian assistance, along with safeguarding regional
stability. We have delivered this message, as well as the call for a cease-fire
and negotiations,  before, during and after Ambassador Richardson's visit to
Afghanistan last April.  We need to see improvement in all these areas.  The
Taliban's performance on these issues will define our relationship with them.

On Terrorism

The bombings of our Embassies in Nairobi and Dar Es Salaam made it horrifyingly
clear that Afghanistan-based terrorism has become a direct threat to us.  We are
outraged that after all of the support we devoted to the Afghan resistance that
terrorists trained and based in Afghanistan are involved in criminal actions
that resulted in the deaths of Americans abroad and threaten our interests and
those of our friends all over the world.  Their victims come from all races and
religions.

We have repeatedly demanded of the Taliban, and those with influence over them,
that Afghanistan cease offering a safehaven to terrorists, but the situation has
not changed.  Threats from Afghan-based terrorist groups continue.  The August
20 strike at the Khowst camps was one response to imminent threats posed by such
groups and was designed to prevent further attacks on innocent Americans.  It
was not directed against Afghanistan or the Taliban, and certainly in no way
against Islam. As President Clinton said in the UN General Assembly on September
21, "Americans respect and honor Islam."

Still Afghanistan and the Taliban need to understand that by harboring
terrorists, they are becoming increasingly complicit in the acts those
terrorists commit.  They are forfeiting their right to complain when we take
appropriate action.  Our message is simple: Usama Bin Laden, an international
terrorist leader still operating from Afghanistan, must be brought to justice,
and Afghanistan must stop being a terrorist base.  We have been joined in this
call by all of Afghanistan's neighbors. In fact, Saudi Arabia recently
downgraded its diplomatic representation in Kabul because of the Taliban's
failure to expel Bin Laden.  We hope the Taliban take this measure seriously.

On Narcotics

Afghanistan has become a major producer of opium and manufacturer of heroin, the
number two opium producer after the Golden Triangle.  Just this week the the UN
Drug Control Program reported that poppy cultivation has again risen in
Afghanistan, and almost all production is in Taliban-controlled areas.  Vast
quantities of Afghan-produced narcotics supply Pakistan, with its large and
growing addict population of several million, Central Asia, Europe, and
increasingly the U.S. The Taliban must implement its agreement with UN Drug
Control Program to end production and trafficking and not continue to put off
efforts to deal with the problem.

On Human Rights

Afghanistan has been the scene of horrendous human rights violations for the
last 20 years.  Many are attributable to war; many not. The increasingly ethnic
character of the conflict has led to ethnic-based persecutions, arrests, and
killings.  We are deeply concerned by reports of ethnic-based killings of Shia
minorities in Mazar-i-Sharif and the deaths of Iranian diplomats based there.
There are also reports of ethnic-based mass arrests, religious persecution,
deportations, rape, and trafficking in women.  These reports have damaged the
Taliban's relations with Iran and the Central Asian states, which fear for co-
religionists and ethnic brethren.  We have called upon all factions to respect
the rules of war and the rights of combatants and non-combatants alike.  At the
Six Plus Two Ministerial, we called for release of non-combatants in detention,
and a UN investigation of reported mass killings and mass graves.

All factions, but particularly the Taliban, should respect humanitarian law and
the human rights of minorities, and pay special attention to the rights of women
and girls, who now are truly Afghanistan's silenced majority. A report prepared
by Physicians for Human Rights entitled The Taliban's War on Women depicts in
gruesome detail the degree to which Taliban policies have undermined the health
of Afghanistan's female population.  The entire world has condemned the
Taliban's treatment of women and girls.  The Secretary rightly characterized it
as "despicable." The world will not accept a government that denies women
education, health care, and employment.

On Facilitating Humanitarian Assistance

Few places on earth need humanitarian aid more than Afghanistan, a fact I
observed during my visit there last April.  This is a country destroyed.
Ongoing fighting has impeded relief, but the Taliban made the situation worse
last year by blockading the Hazarajat and restricting the activities of UN and
non-governmental organizations.  As a new winter approaches, we urge
cooperation, especially in providing security for UN employees and humanitarian
relief workers, some of whom have literally sacrificed their lives for the
Afghan people.  We are working with other major donors and the UN and NGOs to
get assistance programs up and running before the onset of winter.  We have
contributed generously in the past to such programs and plan to do so in the
future.  Over the past year we have been the largest single national contributor
to Afghan relief, donating about $50 million, to deal with disasters resulting
from the war and the natural calamities such as the two major earthquakes in
northern Afghanistan. We have pledged 100,000 tons of wheat to the Afghan
consolidated appeal, a quantity which will almost entirely fulfill the expected
needs of the Afghan people.

U.S. Urging International Solution

We vigorously supported the convening by UN Secretary General Kofi Annan of the
September 21 Six Plus Two in New York.  I have attended previous meetings of
this group in New York.  This time, however, it was held at the Ministerial
level.  Five Foreign Ministers -- including Secretary Albright and newly-
appointed Foreign Ministers Ivanov of Russia and Aziz of Pakistan -- one Deputy
Foreign Minister (for Iran), and two United Nations Permanent Representatives
participated.

In his opening statement to the Ministerial, the Secretary General said: "the
Taliban need to be told what the international community expect of them by way
of minimum standards of behavior, and this group is well placed to start that
process." The group set forth the international community's position on what the
Taliban must do to achieve greater acceptability in light of its recent demand
for recognition.  In its Points of Common Understanding the Six Plus Two called
for a cease-fire, negotiation for a political settlement, international
investigation into mass killings and the killings of the Iranian diplomats and
UN staff, urged the Taliban to respect human rights, to cease providing haven
for international terrorists, to prevent narcotics production and trafficking,
and to facilitate UN humanitarian aid.

We support the Secretary General's decision to send Special Envoy Lakhdar
Brahimi to the region to advance these goals.  Ambassador Brahimi is in region
now, and we await his report.

Mr. Chairman, let me conclude by stating that we have been active both publicly
and privately in working to bring peace to Afghanistan and to the region through
reduction of tensions and promotion of diplomatic solutions.  We have worked
bilaterally with key players, helped to energize international efforts with the
UN and the Islamic Conference (OIC), and with the Afghan factions themselves, as
well as with the independent inter-Afghan dialogue process.

Afghanistan has reached yet again a critical point with the country virtually
under Taliban control, the possibility of conflict with Iran, and terrorism on
the increase.  Afghanistan was once a crossroads for trade, but now it is a
crossroads for conflict and for terrorism.  It is imperative that all who have
influence that could bring this conflict to a conclusion use it.

We urge the Taliban to respond to concerns expressed by the international
community.  If it does not, we will have to respond accordingly and adjust our
policies to meet those conditions.


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