Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Afghanistan: The Kabul Conference--July 20, 2010

Today, the first international conference to be hosted in Afghanistan was held in Kabul. Eight previous conferences with UN partners have been held elsewhere, notably this year on January 28 in London. The Afghani presentation materials for that conference are here. The website for the Kabul Conference is enticing, but somewhat frustrating, as it is not current, and has a number of empty links. On the other hand, security pre-occupations have probably predominated, over IT prowess.

 Heightened security in Kabul in anticipation of the conference

The Kabul conference website is part of the broader Ministry of Foreign Affairs site with its beautiful banner, part of which is below.

The news has already been full of Karzai's demands and the US promises. No one misses the symbolism of holding the conference on Afghan soil, representing a new maturity and confidence in the Afghan government--or a new change in policy to exit planning.

Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Kabul, Afghanistan

Karzai has long expressed a wish for greater autonomy but with ongoing US/UN support, yet there are fears, and evidence that his government has little real power throughout the whole of Afghanistan, and is riddled with corruption, seen as endemic to the region.

65 countries participated in the 6 hour conference, though some were more prominent than others.

While not invited, Al-Qaeda's number 2 man, Ayman Al-Zawahiri, added his commentary on July 19, 2010, celebrating the ultimate victory of the Taliban and mocking Obama's claims of their certain defeat.

Aljazeera provides an excellent Kabul conference cheat sheet, actually a well written and well resourced article. The BBC is also providing extensive backgrounders and coverage. Most salient is Karzai's desire for a 2014 handover of security to Afghan forces, which has been endorsed.

Afghan troop map: US and Nato deployments

Combat troops will be out before then but trainers and mentors will remain. Another main theme is whether to talk with the Taliban directly, which is increasingly favoured as countries, especially the US which provides the bulk of the foreign troops, are increasingly anxious to withdraw their own forces, yet leave a functioning state in the centre of Central Asia.

After twenty-five years of various conflicts, and parallel to the rebuilding of political and societal institutions of the state, Afghanistan is in the process of rebuilding physical infrastructures and economic foundations of the country. There have been remarkable achievements in the fields of reconstruction and development. However, since to many media outlets “good news” do not necessarily constitute as news, there has been less coverage of activities concerning reconstruction and development in Afghanistan.

There is indeed much at stake, for the country, the region, the international community, and the most vulnerable.

Donors have contributed billions for agriculture, schools, and other programs [AFP]

What do you think can be expected to come of the Kabul Conference?
How important was it symbolically, and practically to hold a conference there now?
What is the attitude in your country toward maintaining foreign troops in Afghanistan?
What is at stake in the success or failure of Afghanistan as a country?
How would that be measured?
Any other comments,  thoughts, impressions?


Susanne said...

Thanks for the info on this conference!

Chiara said...

Susanne-Glad you liked it, and thanks for your comment. :)


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