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

Service Desk Analyst (Graduate, Helpdesk, Desktop, Surrey)

Negotiable: Harrington Starr: Service Desk Analyst (Graduate, Helpdesk, Deskto...

Service Desk Analyst (Graduate, Helpdesk, Desktop, Surrey)

Negotiable: Harrington Starr: Service Desk Analyst (Graduate, Helpdesk, Deskto...

Junior Quant Analyst - C++, Boost, Data Mining

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Junior Quant Analyst - C++, Boost...

Service Desk Analyst- (Desktop Support, Help desk)

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Service Desk Analyst- (Desktop Su...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

August catch-up: architecture, suitcases and ‘pathetic figures’

John Rentoul
Mosul dam was retaken with the help of the US  

Air strikes? Talk of God? Barack Obama is following the jihadists’ script after James Foley beheading

Robert Fisk
Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

The President came the nearest he has come yet to rivalling George W Bush’s gormless reaction to 9/11 , says Robert Fisk
Ebola outbreak: Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on the virus

Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on Ebola

A Christian charity’s efforts to save missionaries trapped in Africa by the crisis have been justifiably praised. But doubts remain about its evangelical motives
Jeremy Clarkson 'does not see a problem' with his racist language on Top Gear, says BBC

Not even Jeremy Clarkson is bigger than the BBC, says TV boss

Corporation’s head of television confirms ‘Top Gear’ host was warned about racist language
Nick Clegg the movie: Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise

Nick Clegg the movie

Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise
Philip Larkin: Misogynist, racist, miserable? Or caring, playful man who lived for others?

Philip Larkin: What will survive of him?

Larkin's reputation has taken a knocking. But a new book by James Booth argues that the poet was affectionate, witty, entertaining and kind, as hitherto unseen letters, sketches and 'selfies' reveal
Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?

Waxing lyrical

Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?
Texas forensic astronomer finally pinpoints the exact birth of impressionism

Revealed (to the minute)

The precise time when impressionism was born
From slow-roasted to sugar-cured: how to make the most of the British tomato season

Make the most of British tomatoes

The British crop is at its tastiest and most abundant. Sudi Pigott shares her favourite recipes
10 best men's skincare products

Face it: 10 best men's skincare products

Oscar Quine cleanses, tones and moisturises to find skin-savers blokes will be proud to display on the bathroom shelf
Malky Mackay allegations: Malky Mackay, Iain Moody and another grim day for English football

Mackay, Moody and another grim day for English football

The latest shocking claims do nothing to dispel the image that some in the game on these shores exist in a time warp, laments Sam Wallace
La Liga analysis: Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

Pete Jenson starts his preview of the Spanish season, which begins on Saturday, by explaining how Fifa’s transfer ban will affect the Catalans
Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape