Afghanistan conference leaves strong wish but rocky way ahead

Date of Publication : Wednesday 7 December 2011 15:32
Afghanistan conference leaves strong wish but rocky way ahead
. Nonetheless, the host Germany and chair Afghanistan are satisfied with the meeting, which saw the absence of Pakistan and Afghan insurgents, adding that the original purpose of the meeting is to collect political will and set principle, while concrete words are left to conferences in the future. TRANSFORMATION DECADE Ten years ago, in the same city, the first major Afghanistan conference after the Western toppled the Taliban regime laid ground for "a transition decade" -- Hamid Karzai was chosen as a interim government leader and international troops began their decade-long presence in the war-devastated region. Now with the then-fresh man Karzai leading the country for ten years, delegates from 85 nations and 15 international organizations gathering in Bonn are setting their sights to the next ten years, drawing up a roadmap till 2025 after the foreign troops' departure in 2014. In the former German former capital, another key word emerged from horizon - the "transformation decade." According to world leaders, it has at least two meanings. First, Afghanistan has been far from a fully-functioning modern country and it has the duty to change itself, and the international community is committed to the engagement of the process. Second, the long-term foreign involvement has to be defined and clarified, and a ten-year period, long enough but also a limited time, would be appropriate for both sides. From U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle and Karzai, many delegates have highlighted "another ten years" in their statements and speeches, as well as the promises of strong and steadfast support for the Afghans' brighter future. The "transformation decade" was written into the conference conclusions later. MUTUAL ACCOUNTABILITY The continued support and aid to Afghanistan is based on mutual commitment, delegates stressed, urging Kabul to do its own homework as a return. Hillary said that the U.S., which has more than 100,000 troops stationed in Afghanistan, is "prepared to stand with the Afghan people for the long haul." Meanwhile, "mutual accountability will be at the heart of the commitments" made by Afghanistan and the international community. Westerwelle said that Afghanistan's allies hoped to hammer out their long-term engagement on the basis of "mutual credible commitments". "This renewed partnership between Afghanistan and the international community entails firm mutual commitments in the areas of governance, security, the peace process, economic and social development, and regional cooperation," the conference's conclusions stated. The protection of civilians, strengthening the rule of law, enhancing public governance, embracing institutional reform, and fighting against corruption remain key priorities for the Afghan government, it added. For an exchange, the international community promised to provide consistent financial support to "help Afghanistan address its continuing budget shortfall to secure the gains for the last decade, make transition irreversible, and become self-sustaining." STAND ON ITS OWN The words "Afghan-led" and "Afghan-owned" were commonly cited by delegates during the Bonn meeting, showing the world's expectation that the central Asian country, which experienced years of wars and bloody conflicts, could stand on its own feet, politically, economically and militarily, in the near future. However, it might be an extremely tough mission. Afghanistan currently receives about 16 billion U.S. dollars a year from the outside. About two thirds of the funds go to security sectors, which is a huge public-financed department and will boast some 352,000 personnel by the end of 2014. A recent World Bank report said that Afghanistan needs about 7 billion U.S. dollars per year to foot its security and other bills until 2021. Afghanistan estimated that it has to obtain some 10 billion U.S. dollars of foreign contributions of in 2015 and onward, nearly half the country's annual gross national product. Despite years of outside financial assistance, Afghanistan still ranks among the world's poorest. According to data from the UN, up to half a million Afghans are currently displaced, while three million were left with hunger, malnutrition and disease. However, the world's blood transfusion to Afghanistan is facing its own difficulties. The debt crisis and austerity move in Europe, the fragile recovery and budget rifts in America, have weakened the western's firepower in financing Afghanistan. In Bonn, except that the U.S. decided to redistribute its some 700 million dollars of reconstruction aid for Afghanistan, which was suspended earlier due to irregularities in Afghanistan's Kabul Bank, no new and specific pledge were made by participants in Bonn. Officials said the donation issue will be fully examined in the next major Afghanistan meeting, to be held in Tokyo in July 2012. REGIONAL UNCERTAINTIES The one-day Bonn meeting was largely overshadowed by Pakistan's boycott, following a cross-border NATO bombing that left 24 Pakistani soldiers dead in late November. As Pakistan is seen as a crucial mediator in the peace talks between the Afghan government and military insurgents such Taliban, the absence of such a key player raised doubts over the effects of the gathering. However, some experts said that Pakistan's staying away is not only a response to NATO's airstrike, but also a typical reflection of the current situation - the westerns still did not figure out how to deal with the Pakistanis while Islamabad seemed restrained and lukewarm to Afghanistan's reconciliation process. Tensions date back long between Kabul and Islamabad, as the two countries kept accusing each other of their inability to fight against military groups. "The wider regional dimensions of the terrorist threat have been neglected and the problem of sanctuaries outside Afghanistan has remained unaddressed," Karzai said in the conference. For western allies, another uncertainty came from Iran. Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi told delegates that Tehran stands ready to support Afghanistan and an Afghan-led reconciliation process, while demanding that all international troops leave Afghanistan without any kind of long-term military presence after 2014. Peace and security in Afghanistan "could only be successful if they discard the presence of foreign military forces and especially ... the founding of foreign military bases in Afghanistan," Salehi said. As for Taliban, although Karzai said he remained open to talks, but the ground for resuming a peaceful negotiation has been severely wrecked after assassination of Karzai's peace envoy, former president Burhanuddin Rabbani. Until now, neither side has a clear action towards pushing the Restart button. With so many challenges, the rebuilding of Afghanistan would be a giant and complicated project in coming years, both for the insiders and outsiders. "The road ahead will remain stony and difficult. It will require endurance and tenacity," Westerwelle's comments might be a right conclusion.
Story Code: 39697
 


 
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