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Omar Samad: The interim government in Afghanistan

U.S. raises flag over former embassy in Kabul
U.S. raises flag over former embassy in Kabul  

Omar Samad is the Executive Producer at the Azadi Afghan Radio and also a member of the Afghanistan Information Center

CNN: The interim Afghan government is set to take office on December 22. What will this government look like, and how will it work in concert with international peacekeeping bodies?

SAMAD: Yes, the interim administration will be taking office on December 22 in Kabul. It will be comprised of 29 members, including a head of administration, someone who will act as prime minister, with five deputies, including one woman, and four others each representing a large Afghan ethnic group. Each is also responsible for a ministerial portfolio. In addition to that, 23 ministers, with a total of two females in the cabinet, and a mix of technocrats, certain tribal leaders, and political/military leaders.

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International security forces are expected to arrive in Kabul within the next week, and they may continue to arrive thereafter. There are still no decisions that have been made public on the number of international security forces to be deployed in Afghanistan, or the duration of their mission. We still do not know if they'll be centered around Kabul only, or if they will also be deployed in other major Afghan cities. Those details are still being worked out. I do need to mention that there will also be Afghan security forces on the ground, so you will have a mix of Afghan and foreign forces cooperating with each other in dividing up the tasks.

CHAT PARTICIPANT: Can you tell us how many ministers represent Professor Rabbani in this interim government please ?

SAMAD: One needs to make a distinction between Professor Rabbani's group and those who are part of the umbrella organization that is called the Northern Alliance or the United Front. Professor Rabbani will be transferring power on December 22; therefore he will be losing the status that he maintained as the UN recognized president. The Northern Alliance, on the other hand, is composed of various factions, one of which is directly and closely linked with Professor Rabbani. From my count, it seems like there are a couple of individuals in the new administration that could be considered as part of Mr. Rabbani's faction within the Alliance. But then you have other members of the Alliance also represented in the new administration, and they, at this stage, hold most of the portfolios, including some of the more important ones. The second group with the largest number of positions is the so-called Rome process that represents the former Afghan king, Zahir Shah.

CHAT PARTICIPANT: How are women's rightful place being assured in the new government?

SAMAD: Already, you are seeing two very active, well-respected, and well-known Afghan women, one in the health sector, the other in the women's rights sector, who have also been involved in other types of work in the past, as part of the new administration. One of them, for the first time in Afghanistan's history, is holding a deputy prime minister position, the highest position ever held by a woman in Afghanistan. Aside from that, not only the Bonn accords, but many other conferences and forums taking place in the last few months concerning Afghan women, all have encouraged and requested that women play a major role, not only in politics, but all spheres of Afghan life from now on. This is to make sure that a clear break takes place from the previous Taliban regime.

CHAT PARTICIPANT: What will be done to ensure that the Taliban do not regroup and cause problems again?

SAMAD: I believe there are two requirements to make sure that the Taliban and the leaders, most of whom have unfortunately escaped, are barred from participation in any political activity. That means that those Taliban members who are not alleged or accused of grave human rights violations or other types of violations, can play a role, but not under the title of Taliban. This in itself stipulates that Taliban leaders who aided and abetted terrorism and were involved in the killing of Afghans and in the destruction of the country's heritage, be brought to justice.

So, there is an internal component that needs to handle the Taliban situation that is an equally important factor outside of Afghanistan, in such places as Pakistan, where the Taliban either find refuge or support, and in the past were fully recognized and backed. The world community and the new Afghan administration need to make it quite clear that elements within Pakistan or other countries who may be planning to use the Taliban, and those who have fled, to destabilize future Afghan political activities are kept under control, and prevented from doing so.

CHAT PARTICIPANT: What will be the role of religion in the new government? Is there to be any specific rulings in regard to separation of church and state?

SAMAD: I am sure that will be an issue that will be debated in the new constitutional commission that will be activated in the second phase of the political process that has been put in place, meaning, after six months. There may be differences of opinion on this issue, but one thing is certain. As in the past, except for the Communist regimes, Afghanistan will remain an Islamic country, and its government will respect the most important tenets of Islam. But it will be up to the Afghan people and their representatives to decide upon where the line will be drawn between religious law and civil law.

CHAT PARTICIPANT: In spite of the American help to end the Taliban regime, I suspect there is resentment toward American influence in the new government. Do you hear such talk from the Afghan people? Are many adamantly opposed to U.S. 'nation building'?

SAMAD: There are no visible signs of resentment towards the U.S. anti-terrorism campaign in Afghanistan, and as a result, most Afghans understand that not only the U.S., but the international community as a whole, is now engaged in helping the Afghans sort out their political issues, and embark on a much-needed plan for reconstruction and rehabilitation. So, the American involvement, as long as it is not perceived as an occupation force, is understood and even welcomed by most Afghans. It's not seen as a permanent policy. But Afghans would like to have good relations with all friendly countries, including our neighbors.

CHAT PARTICIPANT: Can you tell us how long the interim government will be in place and what will happen after the interim government is replaced?

SAMAD: The road map that was agreed upon in Bonn will last for almost two years. The first phase, which will start next week with the formation of the new administration, will end in six months. It will be followed by a traditional grand assembly, or Loyajirga, that will select the transitional government for an 18-month period. During that time, a constitution will be drafted, a Supreme Court will be set up, work will be done on the formation of a national security and military force, and the work of reconstruction will be forcefully implemented. That period will end with another Loyajirga that is tasked to approve the new constitution, and if agreed upon, hold elections for a government and a parliament and a new regime.

CHAT PARTICIPANT: Beyond the setting up of a government, what else do you think is necessary for Afghanistan to become a normal, stable country again?

SAMAD: I think that Afghans need to develop a sense of national identity. They need to sort out some of the lingering problems from the past two decades. They need to differentiate between those who have committed treason and grave violations, and those who were just followers or sympathizers. They need to bring about a sense of reconciliation and cooperation at the national level, as well as the local level. They need to support their leaders and representatives to move toward a democratic system, an inclusive system. All of these have to be done while millions of refugees need to be resettled, the economy needs to be revitalized, the infrastructure needs to be reconstructed, and Afghanistan needs to take its place in the family of nations as a stable, peaceful and developing nation.

CNN: Thank you for joining us today, Omar Samad.

SAMAD: Thank you.

Omar Samad joined the chat room via telephone from Washington, DC and provided a typist. The above is an edited transcript of the interview on Monday, December 17, 2001 at 1 p.m. EST.


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