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20 Jul, 2010 08:04

A lot still has to be done in Afghanistan - Russian FM

The Afghan capital Kabul is hosting its biggest international conference in decades as 60 nations are expected to produce an agreement on handing power back to Afghan forces by 2014.

However, according to NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen, when the full transition period happens, the international forces will not leave the area and “they will simply move into a supportive role.”

Security in the region remains fragile. According to some reports, several blasts have rocked the Afghan capital over the last 24 hours

The conference is focusing on reconstructing and developing the war-torn country, as well as fighting corruption and the drug trade.

The participants of the talks mentioned the strengthening of local authorities in Afghanistan.

However, Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov, who is representing Russia at the meeting said that “there is a lot to be done – to suppress the terrorist threat, to form the efficient forces of Afghanistan to maintain security, to prevent drug trafficking, to achieve state reconciliation, to create efficient state administration, to restore economic potential and develop democratic institutions.”

Lavrov stressed that “an international presence in Afghanistan is called to help tackle these tasks.”

“The conditions for completing the mission of these forces is the fulfillment of the mandate of the Security Council.”

President Karzai said Afghans can and will provide their own security.

Daoud Sultanzoy, a member of the Afghan Parliament, thinks it is possible.

However, he added, “Afghans were completely stripped from its military and security forces ten years ago, and we are on the process of building it. But this buildup will take time.”

Ivan Eland, the director of the Center on Peace and Liberty at the Independent Institute in Washington, does not share this opinion.

“I think most experts would agree with me that the Afghan forces are still corrupt and not ready to fight alone,” said Eland. “So I think this 2014 deadline will probably not be met.”

The expert points out that European and US publics, which are tired of the war, might put pressure on the government to withdraw troops from Afghanistan as soon as possible, but there is another force that does want to extend the length of the campaign.

“Certainly there’ll be a pressure to withdraw from the public, but on the other hand the bureaucracy, especially the military, will push back and say, ‘Well, we can’t leave because the security forces of Afghanistan are not ready to take over yet.’”

Lavrov also said during his speech that Moscow is working to support Afghan security in different areas.

“The problem of Afghan drug trafficking is a serious one, because its destructive effects have gone far beyond the region and turned into a threat to international peace and security. This evil must be fought along the entire line of production and distribution, the crops must be destroyed, and the UN should blacklist producers,” Lavrov said.

“We expect the Afghan government and international forces to take more decisive action in fighting the drug industry. Russia is ready and willing to help coordinate anti-drug efforts.”

For the Russian delegation the problem of Afghan drug trafficking is probably the most important one, because nearly half of Afghanistan’s heroin is being consumed on the territory of the European Union and the Russian Federation. This has led to tens of thousand of deaths annually. Thus, Russia is more than willing to cooperate with partners from the West to tackle this problem.

“Any political games around this huge problem are unacceptable. They weaken our common anti-drugs coalition,” announced earlier Russian President Dmitry Medvedev. “Afghanistan today is the world’s main drugs supplier, but the problem has spread over regional borders. That is why our common goal is to prevent globalization of the criminal world.”

So, one of the most urgent tasks to be solved at the conference is the extermination of the poppy fields, arresting drug lords, and cutting off money that flows to them to reduce the black market sector of Afghanistan’s economy.

Afghanistan’s state is in a condition of freefall with a completely disintegrated social, political and economic infrastructure, said Igor Khokhlov, fellow with the Institute of World Economy and International Relations.

“Most of Afghanistan’s territory has already fallen to Taliban control and [Afghan president] Hamid Karzai does not control his own capital,” Khokhlov revealed, adding that at the time of the conference four explosions occurred in Kabul alone.

The United States had focused all its efforts on Iraq and lost initiative in Afghanistan. Now the whole of the Central Asian region, likely including former Soviet republics, are falling into the hands of the Taliban.

American generals who are in charge in Afghanistan are trying to solve the country’s problems by military means, yet there are social, economic and political problems.

“The basic problem of those countries is failed nation building,” Khokhlov concluded.

Meanwhile Taliban is very clearly winning the fight, believes anti-war activist Michael Prysner.

“This [conference] cannot be seen as a move of desperation on behalf of the US with Hillary Clinton going as a representative there. We were told that the goal in Afghanistan is to drive the Taliban from any inch of political power,” Prysner reminded.

“What we do know is that the US is losing this war and the US will not withdraw in defeat from this war. All we can expect to see is the US doing everything it can to not leave that country with the perception that they have been defeated and try everything they can to bomb and murder that country into submission,” Prysner predicted.

Afghan war veteran Jake Diliberto says there is no hope for a peaceful Afghanistan until NATO breaks bread with the Taliban.

“Nobody has any clue about how to bring peace or stability to this whole thing if we do not negotiate with the Taliban. Unless the Taliban peace negotiations are brought to the forefront of the discussion – it’s all mindless chatter. It’s nonsense; it’s like Facebook blogging on steroids,” the veteran said.

“The only way to bring peace and stability is to allow local people to solve local problems through local solutions. That does not include our foreign forces being the source of that. The peacemaking has to be done by the Afghan Parliament. It has to be done by Pakistan and needs civilians to do it, not the military force,” said Diliberto.

Read more on the story and watch full interviews with Michael Prysner and Jake Diliberto