Dr Charles Tannock

Member of the European Parliament for London

Afghanistan

Delivered in Plenary - 4th September 2002

Mr President

A year has now passed since the tragic 9/11 events which triggered the war against Afghanistan, now mercifully in a mopping-up phase to search out and destroy remnants of the odious Taliban regime and their al-Qa'ida terrorist allies. Nevertheless, Afghanistan has come a long way since the rout of Mullah Omar and the disappearance, hopefully for good, of Osama Bin Laden.

Girls are back at school, music and film are allowed again and football is replacing public hangings. We have had a successful Bunn Conference and a Tokyo Donors Conference. The Loya Jirga was opened by the former king, whom I had the pleasure of meeting last September in Rome. He has now been granted the title of 'Father of the Nation', as he has worked tirelessly and assiduously behind the scenes to reunite his nation and stop squabbling, particularly amongst the Pashtun communities.

However ISAF, the International Security Assistance Force, still has its work cut out. We have witnessed the assassination of two ministers and this week a bomb attack, presumably aimed against western forces. We still see the evils of warlordism, ethnic division and a flourishing drug trade. I was shocked to read that the opium crop this year was up to three thousand tonnes, overtaking even that of the Golden Triangle's 900 tonnes in Myanmar and Thailand. We still have the problem of considerable sympathy for Islamic terrorism in neighbouring Iran, where some al-Qa'ida fighters have allegedly taken refuge, but almost certainly many are sheltering in Pakistan, where president Musharraf walks a tightrope between cooperating with the West and yet not fully cracking down on his home-grown Jihadi Islamic terrorist groups despite pledging to do so. These groups infiltrate Indian Kashmir, causing mayhem and making a war between the two nuclear neighbours a very real possibility. Clearly, President Musharraf does not want a peaceful Kashmir election to be held.

Pakistan is also not fully cooperating with ISAF, allowing it to enter the tribal areas of the north-west frontier region where al-Qa'ida is currently regrouping to threaten Afghanistan's government and civil society.

The West must now be prepared to extend the mandate of Turkish-led ISAF forces beyond this December at the UN and extend their remit to Afghan provinces as well, to end the warlordism and extend the government's authority in the provinces as part of the nation-building exercise and construct a national army and police force and distribute much needed aid to a desperately poor country.

Sadly, the USD 1.8 billion promised in Tokyo for reconstruction has yet to materialise. Only humanitarian aid has been seen so far. The recent Operation Mountain Sweep has only brought a few weapon caches to light and we still have a long way to go to make this beautiful country a peaceful and prosperous one and a respectable member of the international community again as it was once in the 1960s and 1970s.

I feel particularly strongly that the government of Afghanistan should grant a moratorium on the use of Sharia law in areas such as the stoning to death of women and the amputation of limbs, in order to show how a modern Islamic country respects international covenants and treaty obligations and promotes justice without cruelty or abuse of human rights. War criminals must also be brought to book and tried. Refugees coming to the West who are terrorist sympathisers or have been active with the Taliban or al-Qa'ida must be sent back to face the music.

I sincerely wish President Karzai and ex-king Mohammad Zahir Shah well with all the challenging problems that they face in the months to come. Overall, I sincerely hope that Afghanistan will again be a respectable member of the international community as it once was.