Afghanistan: HC to meet Taliban
UN High Commissioner for Refugees Ruud Lubbers continues his mission in Afghanistan today, including scheduled meetings with senior Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (Taliban) officials in Kandahar and Kabul. Mr Lubbers arrived in Herat yesterday by road from Mashad, Iran. In the Herat area, he toured the Jangan village returnee settlement and the sprawling Maslaqh camp, where some 100,000 displaced people have sought aid. Afghanistan has been embroiled in conflict for the last 20 years and despite the return of more than 4.6 million refugees, there are still some 3.6 million Afghans outside their homeland, while more than 500,000 people are displaced due to the civil war and drought inside Afghanistan.
Today, the High Commissioner travels from Herat to Kandahar, where he was scheduled to meet with the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan's (Taliban's) Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Minister of Drug Control, as well as various provincial authorities. Later this afternoon, Mr. Lubbers goes on to Kabul, where he will meet with the Minister of Martyrs and Refugees on Wednesday before flying to Faisabad to meet with the President and Defense Minister of the Islamic State of Afghanistan (Northern Alliance).
His message to both sides in the Afghan conflict is that the international community cannot be expected to continue delivering aid to Afghanistan - and take care of the growing numbers of displaced and refugees - year after year while the parties go on fighting with no regard for innocent victims. He is appealing to both sides to at least temporarily refrain from further hostilities so aid agencies can step up their efforts inside Afghanistan, where the suffering is enormous. This is particularly urgent because of the devastating effects of the drought.
After visiting returnees and various integration projects in the Khak-i-Jabar District near Kabul on Thursday morning, he flies to Islamabad, Pakistan. While in Pakistan, the High Commissioner will visit newly arrived Afghans at the Jalozai site, as well as meet various government officials as well as Pakistan's Chief Executive, Pervez Musharraf.
Since 1979, UNHCR has spent more than $1.1 billion assisting Afghan refugees. UNHCR's current budget for Afghanistan, Iran and Pakistan is $32.4 million, including $5.7 million for returnee assistance inside Afghanistan. Next year UNHCR plans to spend $53.6 million on Afghan refugees, including $5.5 million inside Afghanistan.