U.S.-Russia Working Group Accuses Taliban of Fostering Terrorism
By Omar Samad
WASHINGTON, May 25, 2001 - AAR - Following two days of high-level consultations between U.S. and Russian officials in Washington, the two former Cold War foes agreed that the ongoing Afghan conflict "continues to threaten the interests of both their countries as well as regional and international stability." The two sides specifically accused the Taliban militia of fostering "terrorism that reaches beyond the borders of Afghanistan."
A U.S. Department of State spokesperson told Azadi Afghan Radio Friday that the third session of the US-Russian Working Group on Afghanistan, headed by US Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage and Russia's First Deputy Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Trubnikov, agreed that "only a political solution can lead to peace in Afghanistan and a stable and prosperous environment for the Afghan people."
Both sides pledged their support to UN efforts to seek Taliban compliance with Security Council resolutions calling for the handover of alleged terrorist mastermind Osama Bin Laden and the closure of training camps in Taliban territories, but went further and agreed to develop steps to effectively strengthen the UN sanctions monitoring mechanism.
The working group also called on the international community to "mobilize to avert a humanitarian tragedy" in Afghanistan and asked for increased donor support, in part to "secure respect for basic rights of refugees and internally displaced persons."
The two sides reiterated that the Afghan situation has been "exacerbated by Taliban misrule, and gross violations of human rights as well as basic principles of international humanitarian law."
Armitage and Trubnikov called upon Central Asian countries to "further consolidate their sovereignty and security," in order to counter the "threats emanating from Afghanistan."
A positive note was struck on the ban imposed by Taliban rulers on poppy cultivation and in return called for humanitarian support to the rural population affected by the ban and the drought. But both sides also noted that the Taliban should destroy existing stockpiles of narcotic drugs.
A US source told AAR that the American and Russian delegations also discussed political initiatives to end the Afghan conflict, decided to "encourage a peace process and support UN efforts in this regard, and to relieve the suffering of the Afghan people."
The Working Group meetings on Thursday and Friday coincide with a strongly worded report submitted to the United Nations Security Council that calls upon Pakistan, the main backer of the Taliban, to do a better job enforcing an arms embargo and other sanctions against the radical militia. The report also faults Islamabad's military regime of failing to regulate the extremist Pakistani madrassahs, which are an important source of manpower and recruitment for the Taliban.
The assessment team led by UN experts also questioned the sincerity of a poppy ban by the Taliban, saying that the value of narcotics had risen tenfold in 2001. The report says, "if the Taliban were sincere ... then one would expect them to order the destruction of all stocks existing in areas under their control."
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