West pledges continued support to Afghanistan

Last Updated: Monday, December 5, 2011 - 23:19

Bonn: The United States and other nations vowed
on Monday to keep supporting Afghanistan after most foreign forces
leave the country in 2014, as the nation faces an enduring
Taliban-led insurgency and possible financial collapse.

"The United States is prepared to stand with the Afghan
people for the long haul," US Secretary of State Hillary
Rodham Clinton told a global conference on Afghanistan`s
future that was overshadowed by the absence of key regional
player Pakistan.

The international community has "much to lose if the
country again becomes a source of terrorism and instability,"
she added.

The Bonn conference is focused on the transfer of security
responsibilities from international forces to Afghan security
forces during the next three years, long-term prospects for
international aid and a possible political settlement with the
Taliban to ensure the country`s viability beyond 2014.

Clinton stressed that in return for continued support the
Afghans must live up to their commitments "on taking difficult
decisions to embrace reform, lead in their own defense and
strengthen an inclusive democracy rooted in the rule of law."

About 100 countries and international organisations were
represented among the 1,000 conference delegates, including
some 60 foreign ministers.

"Together we have spent blood and treasure in fighting
terrorism," Afghan President Hamid Karzai said.

"Your continued solidarity, your commitment and support
will be crucial so that we can consolidate our gains and
continue to address the challenges that remain. We will need
your steadfast support for at least another decade."

Afghanistan is economically dependent on foreign aid and
spending related to the huge military presence, currently
totaling about 130,000 international troops.

The country seeks assurance that donor nations will help
fill the gap after most forces leave by 2015.

Although donor nations will not commit to specific figures
at the one-day session today, they will sign up to the
principle that economic and other advances in Afghanistan
since the ouster of the Taliban government in 2001 should be
safeguarded with continued funding.

Afghanistan estimates it will need outside contributions
of roughly USD 10 billion in 2015, or slightly less than half
the country`s annual gross national product, mostly to pay for
its security forces, then slated to number about 350,000.

The conference`s final declaration outlines a series of
mutual commitments for the decade following the troop
withdrawal, strongly conveying that Afghanistan "will not be
left alone," a German diplomat said.

"On the other hand, there is a clear Afghan commitment do
to its homework in terms of reform, fighting corruption, good
governance and strengthening democracy," said the diplomat,
who spoke on condition of anonymity because the summit
conclusion was not yet made public.

The international community also pledges to support the
process of reconciliation with the Taliban, "with its basic
principles being no to violence, no to terrorism and respect
for the Afghan constitution and human rights," he said.

Pakistan is a central player in regional efforts to
improve trade and strengthen its weak economies. But its
boycott has cast a pall over the session, because it points
out that nation`s influence in Afghanistan and its ability to
play the spoiler.

Pakistan is seen as instrumental to ending the Taliban-led
insurgency in Afghanistan because of its links to militant
groups and its unwillingness, from the US and NATO
perspective, to drive insurgents from safe havens on its soil
where they regroup and rearm.

Pakistan canceled its participation to protest last
month`s NATO air assault, carried out from Afghan territory,
that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers.

PTI



First Published: Monday, December 5, 2011 - 11:42

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