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Written Answers. - Foreign Conflicts.

Wednesday, 27 March 2002

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 551 No. 3

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 80. Mr. Coveney   asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs Information on Brian Cowen Zoom on Brian Cowen  if he will provide an update on the ongoing military operations in Afghanistan and the continuing war there. [10280/02]

Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Cowen): Information on Brian Cowen Zoom on Brian Cowen Members will be aware from my previous statements to the House on Afghanistan, that the US-led action against the Al Qaeda network and Taliban regime began on 7 October 2001. Less than a month later, major cities throughout northern Afghanistan fell to the US-backed Northern Alliance. Kabul followed on 13 November, and the last major Taliban strongholds in the south collapsed a month later. Since then, the interim authority, under the chairmanship of Hamid Karzai, took office on 22 December, as provided by the terms of the Bonn Agreement, reached by Afghan parties, on 5 December. This agreement further provided for an International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan – ISAF. It achieved full deployment of some 4,800 members in Afghanistan by mid-February.

On 13 March, the Taoiseach met President Bush in Washington. The President acknowledged Ireland's sympathetic reaction to the events of last September, and for our assistance since, on overflight facilities in the control of terrorist finances and our participation in the reconstruction of Afghanistan. The President said the first phase, to defeat the Taliban, had been completed, and that the next phase, to deny them sanctuary, was under way.

Members will be aware from reports this month that reinforced ground force operations have been undertaken in Afghanistan. These operations are to eliminate remaining pockets of resistance from Al Qaeda and Taliban members. Operation Anaconda was launched on 2 March, in the eastern Afghan province of Paktia. Around 1,000 US troops and the same number of Afghan troops were involved. Last week, the British Government confirmed the deployment, in coming weeks, of further troops. I understand a total of 1,700 royal marines and army commandos are expected to take up duty for a period of three months, and may be replaced if required after that.

Overall, the past months have seen significant events in the path towards the establishment of peace and stability in Afghanistan. Ireland, together with its EU partners, continues to support and promote the UN-led process and efforts of the Secretary General and his special representative, Ambassador Brahimi. The EU special representative for Afghanistan, Mr. Klaiber, is key [810] to the co-ordination of EU efforts to assist the Afghan process.

While there is progress towards reconciliation and a representative government in Afghanistan, as well as in eliminating the use of Afghan territory by terrorists, and in curbing narcotics production and trafficking, enormous challenges remain for the people of Afghanistan. At the ministerial conference on the Reconstruction of Afghanistan in Tokyo in January, the international community pledged $4.5 billion in assistance to Afghanistan. On behalf of Ireland, I pledged €12 million over 3 years in reconstruction, in addition to ongoing humanitarian assistance which, in 2002, is likely to exceed the €5 million contributed in 2001.

Last week, the Secretary General reported on the situation in Afghanistan and its implications for international peace and security. This report summarised the key developments in Afghanistan since the signing of the Bonn Agreement and proposed a structure for the UN presence in Afghanistan, in accordance with its responsibilities under the Bonn Agreement, and taking into account current political, security and humanitarian conditions in the country. I have arranged for a copy of this report to be lodged in the Dáil Library.

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