Afghanistan summit: nations discuss country’s future
More than 70 international delegates and organizations met in London to discuss plans to strengthen the Afghan government and replace foreign troops with local forces.
The day-long conference was co-hosted by British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, Afghan President Hamid Karzai and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and NATO chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen also attended the talks.
A key issue discussed was the plan to reintegrate Taliban fighters into civilian life in return for abandoning militancy. Effective governance, corruption and national security were also on the agenda.Afghan President Hamid Karzai has announced his plan to lure Taliban fighters back into mainstream society with offers of jobs and housing. Despite difficulties, he noted, Afghanistan was moving “slowly but surely toward the end goals of peace and stability.”
An agreement prescribing the terms under which the power of decision-making will be passed to the Afghan authorities has already been signed by Afghanistan and the other conference participants.
Karzai envisions Afghanistan's government taking control of security in all 34 provinces by 2015, but said he expects foreign troops to stay in his country for up to a decade.
As Hamid Karzai called for support from neighboring Pakistan and oil-rich Saudi Arabia, the international community has promised to increase financial support to Afghanistan by 50% as well as provide humanitarian assistance and help restore the country’s infrastructure.
Political analyst Mikhail Troitsky believes the international community should continue financing Karzai’s regime.
“Karzai is the best of the available options at the moment. Plus, it is not his fault that a large chunk of international aid to Afghanistan lines the pockets of the Taliban, but rather it is due to the perennial state of affairs in Afghanistan,” Troitsky says.
Former Afghan presidential candidate and opposition leader Abdullah Abdullah puts the Afghan government in the spotlight.
“Unless [Karzai] accepts the realities of Afghanistan and finds a way to unite the people, Afghanistan’s problems will continue,” he says.
“What we need now is a political and civilian surge to match the military surge. We have to put alongside security and stability, transferring responsibility overtime from the international community to the Afghan army and police,” Ivan Lewis, UK Minister for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs told RT. “Alongside that, we have got to ensure that the government is more effective, that it is serious about stamping out corruption, so it can regain the trust of the Afghan people.”
Meanwhile, Sabah Al-Mukhtar, President of the Arab Lawyers Association, denies the effectiveness of the planned strategy. He says Afghans who oppose US involvement in Afghanistan and see their country as being “hijacked” by foreign forces will not accept the proposed terms.
“Listening to what has been said so far, it does not look like there is any seriousness in dealing with the issue. Because they are still talking about corruption and what have you, as if these are the causes of the problem in Afghanistan, as if it is not the occupation,” Al-Mukhtar said.
Barak Hoffman from the Center for Democracy and Civil Society says the decisions taken in London fail to present a consistent approach towards Afghanistan.
“It’s not entirely clear what the policy is at this point. It seems to be changing day by day. What the Afghan government wants seems to be negotiated with the Taliban. For years it had been part of our policy that we had to destroy the Taliban or at least weaken them in extent that the Afghan government could control them. And listening to what happened in London is that now we are going to negotiate with the Taliban. Is that because we have realized that there is no threat anymore? They are surely not weaker – in fact they are stronger – but it doesn’t seem to be embedded in a more comprehensive strategy, as it seems to be shifting day by day as we saw in the London conference,” he said.
Following the talks, Ban Ki-moon said that, despite the agreements made, there are no easy solutions for Afghanistan’s recovery and peace remains a long way off.
US Blogger Gregg Carlstrom says it's part of a reconciliation plan that is going to fail as long as the Taliban feels it has the upper hand in Afghanistan.
“The problem with this specific plan we are trying to implement it right now is that the Taliban is not going to stop fighting unless it feels like it’s losing. If it feels like it’s winning on the battlefield, it has no incentive to lay down its arms,” Carlstrom told RT. “And right now, NATO casualties are up pretty substantially from where they were a year ago.”