Afghanistan plans ambitious vision for the future

Afghanistan plans ambitious vision for the future
# 19 July 2010 19:52 (UTC +04:00)
Baku – APA. Afghanistan will seek greater control of billions in development funds at a major international meeting on Tuesday, promising in return to take on more responsibility for security as well as generate economic growth, APA reports quoting “Reuters”.
The ambitious pledges will be made at the Kabul Conference, where President Hamid Karzai will plead for more say in $13 billion in international funding to use on programs he hopes will boost economic growth and help end the insurgency.
With governments anxious to withdraw from the 150,000-strong NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) sooner than later, they are keen too for assurances the country won’t slide back into the isolation that allowed al Qaeda to flourish and launch the September 11, 2001 attacks.
But the Taliban, treating any talk of withdrawal timetables as signs of weakness, have spurned any peace overtures and insist they will fight until all foreigners leave.
Some rights groups fear that as the west disengages, the government will try to cut a peace deal with the Taliban that will sacrifice gains made since the 2001 overthrow of hardline Islamist group.
"Amnesty International fears that human rights, including women’s rights, will be compromised as the Afghan government and its US/NATO partners seek a quick solution to the conflict," said Sam Zarifi, the group’s Asia-Pacific director.
A security blanket has been thrown over the city for the conference, Afghanistan’s biggest in over three decades and attended by representatives from over 60 countries or international organizations, including U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
The streets of the capital were deserted on Monday as even foreign diplomats found themselves unable to pass through scores of checkpoints that mushroomed overnight.
The Taliban frequently target prestigious government events and last month attacked a national peace meeting being addressed by Karzai, leading to the resignations of the country’s interior minister and intelligence chief.
Ordinary Afghans complained of the disruption to life in a capital that already can seem like an endless security check.
"Whatever is happening tomorrow is not going to help us," said Raz Mohammad, reduced to walking to an appointment after his car was turned away.
"It is between the government and foreigners, we are not involved," he said.
A recent poll found 75 percent of Afghans believed foreigners disrespect their religion and traditions, 74 percent believe working with foreign forces was wrong, 68 percent believed foreign forces did not protect them and 65 percent wanted the Taliban and its leader, Mullah Mohammad Omar, to join the government.
Karzai will be seeking international support for exploring peace talks with Taliban leaders, but Clinton warned some remain personae non gratae.
"We would strongly advise our friends in Afghanistan to deal with those who are committed to a peaceful future," she said in a townhall-style meeting in Pakistan earlier.
Clinton said, however, that history showed that sometimes peace forays work and thus should be tried.
"We would never reject that. We just caution, you need to enter into it very realistically," she said.
Tuesday’s gathering will hear the Afghan government present a grand vision that contains commitments to both its own people and the international community and divided into five areas: funding, governance and law, economic and social development, peace and reconciliation, security and international relations.
Some analysts and diplomats say the commitments are long on hope and short on details, but all agree they come at a crucial time for Afghanistan.
Highlights include:
- Asking donors to increase aid through government channels from the current 20 percent to 50, promising better accounting in return and stepped up prosecution of graft and corruption cases involving officials through special courts.
- Expanding the army to a strength of over 170,000 by October 2011, and the national police to 134,000 as well as the formation of a new local police force in insecure areas.
- Introducing a program that aims to reintegrate up to 36,000 ex-combatants within five years.
- Increasing collection of domestic revenues to 9.4 pct of GDP by March next year.