Afghan Talks Touch on Security, Interim Government

Northern Alliance delegation leader Younus Qanooni told reporters, ”We don’t feel a need for an outside force. There is security in place.”

According to U.S. observers, the alliance has not rejected peacekeepers in any case, but has said the current situation does not require a force at this time.

“Our understanding is not that they’re refusing to discuss it but that they’re of the view that security is actually pretty good at the moment,” lead U.S. representative James Dobbins said.

In the last two weeks, Northern Alliance forces have pushed Taliban troops from every major city in Afghanistan except the southern stronghold of Kandahar.

The goal of the talks taking place in Bonn, Germany is to form an interim administration that will run Afghanistan until a loya jirga, or council of tribal leaders, can convene, possibly as early as March.

At that first meeting, the tribal leaders would establish a transitional government that could be installed for up to two years. It would also set the stage for a second loya jirga to approve a constitution and organize elections.

Late in the day, delegates said a rough framework for the initial administration would be hammered out Thursday.

“They have agreed to set up a temporary council but the mechanism for its creation will be discussed tomorrow,” a top aide to Qanooni told Reuters. “What will be discussed is how many people should be in it and who should be in the council.”

Despite public pronouncements of unity, the United Nations, who organized the talks, carefully downplayed the possibility of a major decision at this point.

“These talks are not going to be easy. One grain of sand can stop the machine,” U.N. spokesman Ahmad Fawzi said.

A role for the king?

A key adviser to one of the four groups at the talks, said Wednesday the delegates may be nearing an agreement that could place former King Mohammad Zaher Shah, 87, at the head of that first administration. Zaher Shah, who was exiled from Afghanistan in 1973, has not attended the talks.

“The majority, everyone agrees that whatever procedure, [the king] will be the head of it,” said Fatima Gailani, who is advising the delegation of exiles based in Peshawar, Pakistan. “How much power he will have, we have to discuss this.”

Deputy UN mediator Francesc Vendrell and the U.S.’s Dobbins agreed that delegates from all four groups would like to see a role for the king.

The Northern Alliance representative said as long as tribal leaders see a role for the exiled king, they would support his involvement.

“We don’t believe in the role of a person and personalities. We believe in a system, for example, the loya jirga,” Qanooni said. “If the people agree through a loya jirga that the king has a role, of course.”

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