Planning Afghanistan`s future beyond 2014

A global conference in Germany to discuss Afghanistan`s future beyond 2014 comes as the country faces political instability.

Berlin: A global conference in Germany to
discuss Afghanistan`s future beyond 2014 comes as the country
faces political instability, an enduring Taliban-led
insurgency and possible financial collapse following the
planned drawdown of international troops and foreign aid.

About 100 countries and international organizations will
be represented at the Monday gathering, with some 60 foreign
ministers in attendance, among them US Secretary of State
Hillary Rodham Clinton.

But one of the most important countries for Afghanistan`s
future, its eastern nuclear-armed neighbour Pakistan, said it
will boycott the conference to protest last month`s NATO air
assault carried out from Afghan territory that killed 24
Pakistani soldiers.

Pakistan is seen as crucial player in the region because
of its links and influence on insurgent groups that are
battling Afghan government and foreign troops and that
sometimes use Pakistan as a base for their operations.

The Bonn conference is expected to address the transfer
of security responsibility from international forces to Afghan
security forces over the next three years, long-term prospects
for international aid and a possible political settlement with
the Taliban.

"Our objective is a peaceful Afghanistan that will never
again become a safe haven for international terrorism," German
Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said.

The US had once hoped to use the Bonn gathering to
announce news about the prospect for peace talks with the
Taliban, but neither an Afghan nor a US outreach effort has
borne fruit.

The reconciliation efforts suffered a major setback after
the September assassination of former Afghan President
Burhanuddin Rabbani, who was leading the Afghan government`s
effort to broker peace with the insurgents.

But Washington and other partners are still trying to
arrange an interim step toward talks, the opening of a Taliban
diplomatic office where its representatives could conduct
international business without fear of being arrested or
killed. Such a deal would be a minor accomplishment for the
Bonn gathering.

"Right now we don`t know their address. We don`t have a
door," to knock on, said Afghanistan`s ambassador to the US,
Eklil Hakimi.

The final declaration of the Bonn conference is expected
to outline broad principles and red lines for the political
reconciliation with the Taliban, a project that several
leading participants in the conference increasingly predict
will outlast the NATO timeline for withdrawal in 2014.

The Bonn conference also seeks to agree on a set of
"mutual binding commitments" under which Afghanistan would
promise reforms and policy goals such as good governance, with
donors and international organisations pledging long-term
assistance in return to ensure the country`s viability beyond
2014, a senior German diplomat said.

"It`s about not repeating the mistakes of 1989, when the
Soviet troops left and the West also forgot about
Afghanistan," he said, referring to the bitter civil war that
unfolded soon after the sudden withdrawal that was followed by
the collapse of the Soviet Union.


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