On July 20, 2010, a major international conference will take place in Kabul, Afghanistan. The purpose of the conference is to design the beginning of a transition process in Afghanistan and putting Afghans into the ‘driving seat.’ The argument for having a conference in Kabul was to mobilize the international community to adapt its support and assistance in accordance with Afghanistan’s needs. In other words, President Karzai of Afghanistan will plead for financial international assistance of over $13 billion in order to boost the economy and fight the insurgency.
As defined during the London Conference last January, the issues of security, governance, peace and security, reconciliation, regional cooperation, and economic matters will be the frameworks of the Kabul Conference. Over 70 countries are expecting to attend the conference, including the presence of high level officials from the EU, High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy/Vice-President of the European Commission Lady Ashton, the Secretary General of the UN, Mr. Ban Ki Moon, and other leaders of international organizations, plus ministers of ally countries such as US Secretary of State, Ms. Clinton.
Prior to the EU High Representative’s departure, she expressed EU commitments to adjust its assistance in accordance with Afghanistan’s priorities. HR Ashton went further by claiming in her press statement on July 19, 2010 that:
“Afghanistan’s problems cannot be solved without stronger governance and respect for the rule of law. The key challenges are to extend the Government’s authority into the provinces, and to stamp out the culture of impunity and corruption that undermine the whole governance and development process. That is why our future package will put a special focus on strengthening public administration and in particular on aiming to reform of the justice sector which will complement the EU’s work with the Afghan police – helping to improve law enforcement at all levels.”
The EU strategy will most likely be the one embraced by the international community.
However, it is very unclear what kind of symbol and message world leaders want to send throughout Afghanistan. Why would they decide to organize a conference in one of the most dangerous and unstable place in the world? The level of security will be such that it is very unlikely that Afghans will be able to directly participate at the conference and express their voices. As articulated by an Afghan, “it is between the government and foreigners, we are not involved.” How far can the international community go with this kind of perceptions and win the ‘hearts and minds’ of Afghans?
So what would Afghanistan in the post-Kabul Conference period look like? Measuring the impacts on the short and middle terms of the Kabul Conference will be extremely difficult. The only certainty is that Afghanistan will be going through parliamentary elections in the Fall 2010. The international community must be careful in the processes of pre- and post-elections by not committing the similar mistakes made during the 2009 Presidential elections. For example, as stressed over and over by civil societies and NGOs throughout last year elections, public buildings such as schools, hospitals, and so forth should not have been used as voting stations. The presidential elections of 2009 were a failure in this aspect as Talibans and terrorist groups have since increasingly targeted public buildings. These attacks have limited the reconstruction of the Afghan nation and endangered lives of civilians.
As internationally agreed, the situation in Afghanistan is extremely complex and volatile. American and European public opinions are pressuring their governments to find short-term solutions and remove troops as fast as possible. Such scenario will be the most dangerous for the stability of the country, the region, and the world. Western governments have a moral responsibility and duty to establish some kind of order and stability, which would give a solid starting point for Afghans to reconstruct their country.