A future vision for Afghanistan has been drawn up at an international conference in Kabul. Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s strong desire that Afghanistan be permitted to manage its own security affairs by 2014 has been accepted by the international community and a broad agreement reached to assist the country in this. More money will be poured into the Afghan budget, in return for a promise to do more to tackle corruption and promote accountability. The link between the development of the country and an end to militancy has been recognised. Karzai – who faced a closer contest than he expected at the last presidential election in his country – is obviously conscious of why he has been facing a slump in popularity. The continued presence of a US-led foreign force in his country has contributed to the re-emergence of the Taliban as a group that presents a threat to the government. The US, Britain and other nations making up the Nato force, meanwhile, fear a withdrawal would leave Karzai in an extremely precarious situation. Few believe he can survive indefinitely without outside support — and here begins the most vicious of circles.
The Nato chief at the conference has made it clear it will remain in Afghanistan beyond 2014, even though its role would be to support the Afghan National Security Force rather than to play any part at the forefront of the struggle. It is unlikely the subtlety of this difference will be appreciated in the country. Most Afghans wish to see foreign troops leave their land. The majority does not, however, wish to be delivered back into the hands of the Taliban and from this arises a considerable dilemma. The similarity of the situation Pakistan and Afghanistan face cannot be ignored. Even though there is, mercifully, no occupying force in our country, the question of sovereignty remains an acute one. The two countries indeed need to work together to defeat militancy, and by doing so regain the independence both so desperately yearn.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 22nd, 2010.