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ICP Asks of Afghanistan Coordinating Aid, Where UN & Taliban Meet

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, March 16 -- After the UN Security Council voted to extended the mandate of its Afghanistan mission for a year on March 16, UN envoy Nicholas Haysom and Afghan Ambassador Zahir Tanin came out to answer Press questions together.

 Inner City Press asked about Tanin's idea that his government should be central to the coordination of aid in the country, and where Haysom has been speaking with the Taliban, and what about. Video here.

  Haysom said, in Doha, about civilian casualties and the UN's methodology for counting them. He said he wouldn't prejudge the UN's review.

  Tanin chimed in to repeated, more diplomatically, what he stopped and told the Press on his way into the Council, that it is time for his government to take the lead.

  Haysom came again to the microphone to say that to be challenged on what value the UN mission brings is welcome. One wonders if the UN missions in the DR Congo and South Sudan feel the same.

  When Tanin spoke inside the Council before the 15-0 vote, he emphasized the penultimate paragraph of 17-page resolution, saying that

“we welcome the Security Council's request 'that the Secretary-General initiate a process to conduct within six months of the renewal of this mandate, a full examination of the role, structure and activities of all United Nations entities in Afghanistan, in full consultation and engagement with the Government of Afghanistan and key stakeholders, including the donor community, in light of the completion of transition and the beginning of the Transformation Decade and in accordance with the principles of Afghan national sovereignty, national leadership and national ownership.'”

  Inevitably this recalled the UN system's own role in corruption in the country, for example the UN Development Program-run "Law and Order Trust Fund for Afghanistan," which its double payments to phantom police. This is still much to be reported on this, even as former UNAMA chief Jan Kubis takes up his new post atop the UN Mission in Iraq, UNAMI. Inner City Press was first to report this move, as credited in the media in Slovakia, here.

 While Tanin didn't get into it in his March 16 speech to the Security Council, UNAMA's Nicholas Haysom told the Council that “I can also confirm that UNAMA continues a frank dialogue with the Taliban on humanitarian access and on human rights, notably on the protection of civilians.”

  Haysom also told the Council on March 16 that “recent reports have indicated that the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant has established a foothold in Afghanistan. It is UNAMA's assessment that the group's presence is of concern but that ISIL's significance is not such much a function of its intrinsic capacities in the area but its potential to offer an alternative flagpole to which otherwise isolated insurgent splinter groups can rally.”

Back on December 18, 2014 after UNAMA's Haysom briefed the Security Council on December 18, he came to the Council's stakeout and took questions from the Press.

His predecessor Jan Kubis had previously answered about the scandal plagued UN Law and Order Trust Fund for Afghanistan, promising a “public accounting;” further back when he was Afghanistan envoy, Staffan de Mistura told Inner City Press he would get to the bottom of the killing of UN staff member Louis Maxwell there.

  Haysom on December 18 said that the Louis Maxwell case was being handled by the UN Department of Safety and Security. On December 19, when to his credit he held a sit-down press conference, he said that the LOTFA issues were more for the UN Development Program -- which has been far from responsive -- and that it is largely a matter of answering the questions from donors. That's certainly part of it. But what about the “public accounting”?

  Some of these issues go beyond Haysom as SRSG. It was up to Ban Ki-moon to push the Karzai government about the killing of Louis Maxwell, and he didn't. UNDP should be answering the questions about LOTFA, but isn't. Still, doesn't this make the UNAMA mission's job more difficult?

  Again to his credit, Haysom said that UNAMA formally reached out to the Taliban, on human rights issues, and meet with them in Doha. He emphasized there can be no (entirely) military solution.

  Inner City Press tried to ask UNAMA Human Rights Office chief Georgette Gagnon if her office works with the International Criminal Court's inquiry into Afghanistan.

 But it was Haysom who answered, saying yes UNAMA participates constructively but that it is confidential. With the release, even redacted, of the summary of the US torture report, the ICC's Afghanistan inquiry has become all the more interesting. We'll have more on this.

Footnote: in terms of accessibility during his visit to UNHQ in New York, Haysom should be credited. Under Secretaries General like Herve Ladsous and even, less abusively, Jeffrey Feltman rarely speak to the media. Inner City Press for the new Free UN Coalition for Access on December 19 thanked Haysom -- and posits that willingness to answer questions from the media should be one of the criteria by which UN officials, including for example the next head of OCHA, are chosen.


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