Visiting Washington a little over a month into his new job as the Special Representative of the Secretary-General in Afghanistan, Norwegian diplomat Kai Eide — whose candidacy only emerged after renowned British negotiator Paddy Ashdown’s was shot down by the Afghan government — is being received with wide open arms here in the U.S. After speaking at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace today — where he cited the confidence that the “highest authorities of the U.S. administration” have in him — Eide will be meeting with the top levels of the U.S. foreign policy brass: Secretary of State Rice, National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, and even President Bush.
The red carpet being rolled out for Eide is indicative of the importance that the administration has recognized in an increased role for the United Nations in Afghanistan. U.S. Ambassador to the UN Zalmay Khalilzad testified to this importance himself, in a New York Times op-ed last month, in which he praised the nomination of Eide and outlined the roles that the UN should be fulfilling in Afghanistan.
The expanded responsibilities that Khalilzad envisioned for the UN in Afghanistan line up closely with those identified by Eide: coordinating civilian and military efforts, ensuring that resources for aid are spent effectively and with appropriate oversight, combating corruption in the Afghan government, and strengthening the country’s police and justice systems. Eide has consistently emphasized that international involvement in Afghanistan must be seen not solely through a military lens, but as a broader political project; while he expressed confidence that the U.S. has increasingly adopted this perspective, it remains crucial for the U.S. to see beyond the military situation of the country.
The U.S. will also need to back up its warm reception for Mr. Eide with concrete support for the UN mission that he leads. For the administration to saddle Eide with increasing responsibilities, yet fail to provide the necessary resources, would be both hypocritical and counterproductive. To demonstrate its commitment to the UN’s role in Afghanistan, the U.S. Congress should begin by approving the $53 million in the FY 2008 supplemental funding bill designated to fund the UN’s political missions in Afghanistan and Iraq, and could follow by paying up on its long-standing back dues to the UN regular budget, out of which missions like the one in Afghanistan are funded.