While the world leaders opened a major international conference on Afghanistan’s future in London on Thursday, President Hamid Karzai admitted that it could take anything between 5 to 10 years for Afghan forces to take over from the American-led coalition fighting the Taliban. He further clarified that it may take even longer to end his nation’s dependence on financial aid to sustain its military.
Leaders from around 70 nations including U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, Canadian Prime Minister Gordon Brown and the U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton are attending the one day conference. Mr. Brown announced that the transfer of responsibilities from coalition forces to the Afghan forces would start this year.
“This is a decisive time for the international cooperation that is helping the Afghan people secure and govern their own country,” Mr. Brown said. “This conference marks the beginning of the transition process,” he said, referring to the handover to Afghan authorities of responsibility for security.
The coalition forces are targeting to weaken Taliban by dividing their forces using a central fund of about USD500 million being projected as a “pay-for-peace” plan. The proposal is targeted to bring the Taliban fighters to civilian fold.
Ban Ki-moon has named Staffan de Mistura, a veteran Swedish diplomat, as the new top U.N. official in Afghanistan. De Mistura, has been a former U.N. representative in Iraq. He will start his stint on March 1 this year.
As the coalition nations plan the next steps the plan to attract the Taliban cadres may seem to be bit tough given the fact that the U.S. military intelligence believes that the Taliban now has shadow governments in 33 of 34 provinces. Taliban sources meanwhile responded in a strong tone to the conference, calling for an immediate withdrawal of all foreign forces.
“It is a matter of great sorrow that the invaders led by U.S.A. are bent on sticking to the military approach of the issue,” the statement said.
“We want to say clearly, if the invaders want to save themselves from further financial and life losses, they should not deceive their people by illusory plans and strategies, nor they should waste time on them, or make our people face further sufferings and problems. They should accept the solution put forward by the Islamic Emirate, which is the full withdrawal of the invading forces from our country.“
A second major gathering of the leaders is expected to take place in Kabul, in a few months from now.