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Conference marks transition to Afghan leadership

19 luglio 2010

By Lynne O’Donnell (AFP) – 10 hours ago

KABUL — Afghanistan is to host a key international conference in Kabul on Tuesday, aiming to chart a future of peace and development and show supporters the war-torn country is acting on past pledges.

The meeting is being billed as a bid by the Afghan government to follow a process of transition from dependence on Western backers to running the country alone and responsibly after tens of thousands of US-led NATO troops go home.

Hailed as the biggest international gathering ever in the Afghan capital, NATO and Afghan security forces are enforcing a security clampdown to prevent Taliban attacks from marring the event.

“The conference has two major goals — one is to demonstrate Afghan political will and a concrete programme of action,” Ashraf Ghani, conference organiser and a former presidential candidate, told AFP in an interview.

“The second is to ask for realignment of the assistance so generously provided by the international community, to achieve our common objectives of a stable, secure and democratic Afghanistan.”

President Hamid Karzai and UN chief Ban Ki-moon are to chair the conference. Up to 70 international representatives and 40 foreign ministers, led by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, are scheduled to attend.

Blanket security has seen the government declare Monday and Tuesday holidays in Kabul and thousands of security forces close major roads.

Karzai is expected to lay out a timeframe for Afghan police and military to take responsibility for security, allowing foreign combat troops to withdraw by the end of 2014, Western diplomats said.

Afghan officials are to present proposals to improve governance, implement economic and social development, assert rule of law and justice, support human rights, use aid more effectively and map out peace efforts.

Afghanistan and the United States are trying to reach out to Taliban foot soldiers, offering them jobs and cash in exchange for laying down their weapons. Karzai has also called for peace talks with insurgent leaders.

“We would strongly advise our friends in Afghanistan to deal with those who are committed to a peaceful future where their ideas can compete in the political arena through the ballot box and not through the force of arms,” Clinton told reporters after talks in the Pakistani capital on Monday.

NATO’s civilian representative in Afghanistan, Mark Sedwill, said the 2014 deadline was challenging but realistic.

“Of course this has to be a conditions-based process and we will only transition the lead and more and more of the responsibility for conducting operations as the Afghan forces build up their capability,” he told the BBC.

The conference would mark another phase in what is now being called the “Kabul process”, a series of conferences and other milestones such as elections charting the transition to Afghan leadership, a Western diplomat said.

Central to this process, conference organiser Ghani said, is a commitment from the international community to grant the Afghan government control of 50 percent of all donor funds within two years.

“This of course requires significant changes in public financial management, accountability and transparency from the Afghan government’s side,” he said.

Since the Taliban regime was overthrown in 2001, only 20 percent of pledged funds — an estimated total of 40 billion dollars — had been channelled through the Afghan budget, leading to serious corruption among the rest.

While officials are adamant it is not a donors’ conference, some have said the United States, Britain and Japan could add billions of dollars to their existing commitments.

Western nations are under increasing public pressure to justify their aid and military commitments to one of the world’s most corrupt countries.

“We are at a time of unique opportunity to get Afghanistan right,” said Ghani.

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