Leading article: Time to commit to the future of Afghanistan

 

Share
Related Topics

After more than 10 years of conflict and tens of thousands of lives lost, the international community has more responsibilities towards Afghanistan than ever. At the second multilateral conference in Bonn today, a decade on from the first, we must prove that those commitments will be comprehensively met.

It is all too easy to cast Nato's involvement in Afghanistan as a failure, with the arbitrary withdrawal of troops by 2014 as the final, conclusive evidence of defeat. It is true that the optimism of the first Bonn conference looks recklessly naive given the violence that has racked the country since. And recent diplomatic overtures to the Taliban only add to the sense that nothing much has been achieved. There have nonetheless been advances. Afghan politics may be corrupt, but the situation is a world away from the extremist repression that went before. The status of the country's women is also telling: there are now three million girls in school and a constitutional commitment to gender equality. Economic growth is heading in the right direction too, albeit from a woefully low base.

But progress, always fragile, now hangs by a thread. The international community – keen to rid itself of the millstone of an unwinnable war – must not allow a narrative of defeat to become an excuse for abandoning the Afghans just as they need us most. President Hamid Karzai says his country requires another decade of assistance. It is a call that must be answered.

There are four areas demanding attention in Bonn. First is security. Afghanistan is still riven by violence. Nato countries must both continue to support the recruitment and training of Afghan soldiers and police, and also step up efforts to address alarming reports of abuses by local forces. Quantity is not enough; the focus must also be on quality.

Second, the international community has a vital role to play in Afghanistan's political development: in securing peaceful reconciliation with the Taliban, in fostering the emerging political class, and in helping nascent democratic institutions to mature.

Third is the position of Afghan women. There are disquieting signs that ground is already being lost: violence against women is rising; the number of girls at school is falling; and there are disturbing suggestions that women's rights may be used as a bargaining tool with the Taliban. There must be explicit guarantees from Bonn that women will take an active part in the reconciliation process and that protective laws will be upheld.

The final piece in the jigsaw is the economy. Efforts to address entrenched deprivation and under-developed infrastructure are a vital counterpoint to political advances, helping to tilt Afghanistan away from extremism, warlordism and a destabilising dependence on poppies.

Progress will not come cheap. Estimates range from $5bn to $12bn a year. But that is a fraction of the cost of either continued military involvement or another failed state. Indeed, the stakes could not be higher. If Afghanistan is allowed to descend into civil war the implications for both global terrorism and regional stability are dire. In such a context, it is regrettable that Pakistan is boycotting today's conference, following Nato's deadly cross-border air strike last week.

Nor is Pakistan the only notable non-attendance. Sceptics claim the Taliban's absence as evidence that Bonn can be little more than a talking shop. The international community must ensure that they are wrong. More than anything else, it is a matter of common humanity that we do not abandon the Afghan people now. The first Bonn conference was marked by an astonishing complacency as to the risks ahead. Let this one be marked instead by an acknowledgement of what still needs to be done, and an unequivocal commitment to do it.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Primary Teacher Jobs in Blackpool

Negotiable: Randstad Education Preston: Primary Teacher Jobs in BlackpoolWe ar...

Health & Social Teacher

Competitive & Flexible : Randstad Education Cambridge: The JobRandstad Educati...

***SEN British Sign Language Teacher***

£60 - £70 per day: Randstad Education Preston: Successful candidate should hav...

Early Years and Foundation Stage Primary Teachers in Blackpool

Negotiable: Randstad Education Preston: Early Years and Foundation Stage Prima...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Photo issued by Flinders University of an artist's impression of a Microbrachius dicki mating scene  

One look at us Scots is enough to show how it was our fishy ancestors who invented sex

Donald MacInnes
Oscar Pistorius is led out of court in Pretoria. Pistorius received a five-year prison sentence for culpable homicide by judge Thokozile Masipais for the killing of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp  

Oscar Pistorius sentence: Judge Masipa might have shown mercy, but she has delivered perfect justice

Chris Maume
Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Let's talk about loss

We need to talk about loss

Secrecy and silence surround stillbirth
Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Women may be better suited to space travel than men are
Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

How to dress with authority

Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

Tim Minchin interview

For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album