Afghanistan Needs Continuous Support After 2014: Karzai
BONN, Germany - According to President Hamid Karzai, Afghanistan will remain dependent on international assistance for the foreseeable future.
At the opening of the conference on Afghanistan here on Dec. 5, titled "From Transition to Transformation," he asked for further help from the international community for at least 10 years after 2014, when most foreign troops will leave.
More than 1,000 delegates, including U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, met in the former German capital to discuss Afghanistan's future.
"Three key issues will be on the agenda for Bonn: the civilian aspects of transition until 2014, the political process in Afghanistan as well as a long-term commitment to Afghanistan beyond 2014," a German foreign office spokesperson said.
According to Ban, progress has already been made since the invasion in 2001.
"Together, we have supported the return of 4.6 million Afghan refugees," Ban said: "We have enrolled 7.3 million more children in school and helped deliver better health care.
"As Afghanistan assumes full responsibility for its security, the government and its international partners must shift and intensify their focus on the non-military aspects of transition - on development, on governance and on extending effective civilian authority throughout Afghanistan," Ban said.
In addition to delegates from other states and organizations, Ban and German Chancellor Angela Merkel ensured their support. However, both asked the Afghan president and his government to more aggressively fight corruption and drug-trafficking, and demanded greater efforts to promote women rights and national reconciliation.
"We will tackle corruption more effectively," Karzai had promised the delegates earlier. He also announced reforms to government institutions and the civil service. Afghanistan does not want to be a burden on the international community any longer than necessary, he said.
During the conference, many nations and organizations, including the U.S., the European Union and the United Nations, vowed to continue supporting Afghanistan after the troop withdrawal.
"A stable and peaceful Afghanistan which does not pose a threat to the world is in the interest of all of us," German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said during his opening remarks.
Among the conference participants were about 60 foreign ministers, but there were no representatives of the Taliban or Afghanistan's neighbor, Pakistan. The latter boycotted the meeting because of a U.S. airstrike near the Afghan border on Nov. 26 that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers.
Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi used the meeting to demand the closure of all international military bases in Afghanistan and criticized the International Security Assistance Force.
Jo Nakano, Japanese vice minister of foreign affairs, announced that his country would host a ministerial conference on Afghanistan in Tokyo in July 2012.
"The conference will address, in addition to the coordination of international economic assistance through the transition period, Afghanistan's strategy for sustainable development including regional economic cooperation," he said.