Afghan Sanctions Outlive Usefulness


By Thalif Deen

Interpress Service
January 10, 2002

Following the ouster of the Taliban regime in Kabul, the United Nations Security Council is weighing the removal of economic, diplomatic and travel sanctions imposed on Afghanistan two years ago.

Initially, the council's sanctions committee will lift restrictions on the state-run Ariana Airlines, grounded since 1999, a UN spokesperson said. This is likely to happen before the end of January in order to allow Afghans to travel to Mecca, Saudi Arabia, for the annual Muslim haj. The pilgrimage takes place this year during the third week of February.

Originally imposed in October 1999 to punish the Taliban regime for harboring Saudi dissident Osama bin Laden, the embargo was aimed at restricting overseas travel by all Taliban officials.

The Afghan airline was barred from taking off, landing in, or overflying any territory outside the country's territorial borders - specifically if the aircraft was owned, leased, or operated by or on behalf of the Taliban. Additionally, all UN member states were asked to freeze funds or other financial resources, including those derived or generated from property or undertakings directly or indirectly owned or controlled by the Taliban. Since the two-year flight ban, all commercial aircraft have been out of service, some of them remaining in storage for lack of spare parts.

Besides economic and military sanctions, the Security Council also asked member states "to significantly reduce the number and level of the staff at Taliban missions and posts and restrict or control the movement within their territory of all such staff who remain". Only three countries - Pakistan, the United Arab Emirates, and Saudi Arabia - maintained diplomatic relations with the Taliban but they cut off all links last October.

The only sanctions that may now be left intact would be the military embargo, which bars the sale of weapons, although since late last month Afghanistan has been under an interim administration headed by Hamid Karzai, a US ally.

Last year, a UN field investigation concluded that economic sanctions imposed on Afghanistan had caused severe hardships on the people - not on the country's political leaders, who were the real targets. "A significant impact of sanctions is the extent to which ordinary Afghans feel isolated and victimized," the Office of the UN Coordinator for Afghanistan said. The report said that "there is a widespread perception, and resultant bitterness, that the UN Security Council has set out to harm an innocent population and not the authorities with which it has a quarrel. The population of Afghanistan is highly vulnerable and has little capacity to cope with any further economic shocks," the study added.

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan has remained skeptical about the effectiveness of sanctions in general. "Just as we recognize the importance of sanctions as a way of compelling compliance with the will of the international community," he said, "we also recognize that sanctions remain a blunt instrument."

In an analysis of post-war Afghanistan, the New York-based Carnegie Endowment for International Peace said last week that the United States should continue to enforce the international arms embargo, destroy drug factories and cultivation, and create a Muslim peace-keeping force. "What the people of Afghanistan need most urgently, and the international community can help them obtain, is the cessation of war and the possibility of pursuing basic economic activities free from brutal oppression, ethnic harassment, and armed conflict," the analysis said.

More Information on Sanctions on Afghanistan
More Information on Afghanistan
More Information on Sanctions

FAIR USE NOTICE: This page contains copyrighted material the use of which has not been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. Global Policy Forum distributes this material without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. We believe this constitutes a fair use of any such copyrighted material as provided for in 17 U.S.C íŸ 107. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond fair use, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.