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.
That night, a spotlight fell on the stage where Jal rapped. The darkened hall was full of young, successful-looking Washingtonians. It was a fascinating scene and one couldn’t help but wonder: How can this audience possibly understand where he’s coming from?
“My dreams are like torment
My every moment
Voices of my brain
Of friends that were slain,
Friends who died by my side of starvation
In the burning jungle and the desert plain.
But Jesus heard my cry.
I was tempted to eat the rotten flesh of my comrade.”
Jal was born in southern Sudan. He thinks the year was 1980. He’s not sure of the exact date. The region was engulfed in a civil war as rebels from the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) began fighting for independence and control of the country’s oil.
His father became a rebel. His mother was killed. He says government soldiers raped his sister three times. Jal ended up in a United Nations refugee camp.
Midtown Manhattan is a madhouse this week. Both the opening session of the 62nd UN General Assembly and the Clinton Global Initiative are in town and bring with them both an unprecedented group of world leaders and a complex security situation. As I shuttle back and forth between the two events, I am struck by the competence of the New York Police Department. I can’t even imagine the intricacies involved in securing an area this large and vulnerable, but they have every appearance of having it under control. I’m confident at least. This is an apropos moment to bring up the UN’s Capital Master Plan, a plan to renovate the UN Headquarters in New York City, which has not happened since the complex was built in 1950, and bring the building up to current safety and security codes.
UN Dispatch was well represented at Yearly Kos at the end of last week. Three out of four Dispatchers made the trip out to Chicago.
Aside from getting to meet many of the bloggers that I had only known as online personas, I thought the foreign policy discussions were the most interesting part of the convention. For the most part, everyone seemed remarkably well-informed. And, even though as a convention largely dedicated to the progressive movement the discussion too often veered toward a single-minded view of the war in Iraq, international cooperation and improving the U.S. image abroad was the underlying sentiment in the forums on U.S. foreign policy.
Unfortunately, that idea was rarely carried through to a discussion on the U.S. role at the United Nations. The UN is the world’s platform for international cooperation, and it is clear that strengthening U.S. engagement at the UN should be the centerpiece of our efforts to bolster both our image and our influence abroad. UN Dispatch intends to continue to foster this conversation in part so that at next year’s event it attains its natural position at the center of U.S. foreign policy discussions.
I sat in on a panel discussion today at the Carnegie Non-Proliferation Conference centered on Europe’s efforts toward building non-proliferation regimes. During his presentation, Martin Briens from the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs mentioned one of those rarely reported efforts–the EU, as a standard practice, has included non-proliferation clauses in their trade agreements since 2003, basically requiring a non-proliferation commitment from trading partners. Annalisa Giannella, the EU chief diplomat’s non-proliferation representative, outlined this initiative in an interview with Arms Control Today. Apparently the Europeans have 90 such agreements–which can basically be viewed as hair-trigger sanctions and make clear the EUs commitment to non-proliferation.
As part of the Carnegie Conference on Non-Proliferation, Russian Alexia Arbatov from the Carnegie Moscow Center, Neil Crompton from the British Embassy in Washington, and Bruno Tertrais from the Fondation pour la Recherche Strategique sat down with Barbara Slavin from USA Today and Glenn Gessler from the Washington Post to discuss the efforts to persuade Iran to give up its pursuit of nuclear enrichment. Their main differences centered on whether UN sanctions had been effective and whether anything short of the threat of force or a serious hit to the Iranian oil economy will force Iran to stop its program. More in-depth coverage of their presentations after the jump.
The SG: In Ethiopia over the weekend, the SG is now in the United Arab Emirates. Today he met with Sheikh Mohammad bin Rashed Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE, where the two discussed developments in the region, including Syria, Iran, Lebanon, Egypt and Jordan, and in the Middle East Peace Process.