Bigger role for NATO in Afghanistan?
60-plus nations Tuesday will discuss support for the country over the next five years.
Delegates from more than 60 nations will sit down Tuesday to recommit themselves to Afghanistan's future, as the impoverished country combats a deadly insurgency and struggles to stem the opium trade.Skip to next paragraph
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
The two-day London Conference on Afghanistan marks the next phase in state building after the 2001 Bonn Process, which culminated in September with the first parliamentary elections in 30 years.
The United States, which is providing the bulk of the foreign aid and military muscle to Afghanistan, is hoping that more of the mission can be shouldered by the international community - particularly NATO members. It is the military component that may prove to be the most frustrating and troublesome for the US because at least one NATO ally is showing signs of reneging on its promise.
The meeting is expected to produce an agreement, called the Afghanistan Compact that will serve as the playbook for tackling security, narcotics, and governance problems over the next five years. And, in theory, it should make all parties accountable for keeping promises. Some of the targets for 2011, according to the Associated Press, will be a tripling of the Afghan Army in size to 70,000, and a reduction in the number of people living on less than a dollar a day by 3 percent per year.
Experts and Afghans worry that despite the expected monetary and military pledges and displays of goodwill, the international community's tangible commitment to Afghanistan will continue to be anything but robust.
"Compared to other modern post-conflict situations [and the] aid given, it is at the bottom of the barrel so far," says Ayesha Khan an associate fellow at the Royal Institute of International Affairs in London. "It's still minimal investment. And with minimal investment, obviously, the outcome will be minimal results."
Ms. Khan and many Afghan experts contrast Afghanistan with Kosovo. In the first four years after major fighting ended, Kosovo received $1.8 billion in international aid for a population of just below 2 million. In the four years after the Taliban was forced from power in 2001, Afghanistan, a nation of approximately 29 million, was pledged $15 billion at various donor meetings, but received $4.7 billion.
The US government announced on Friday that at the conference it will make a "major financial contribution" intended to cover both economic and humanitarian aid as well as military activities.
But the US military has said it is drawing down its forces in Afghanistan from the current level of about 19,000 to 16,500. The Pentagon would also like to intensify its focus on eastern Afghanistan, especially along the Pakistan border.
To meet those goals, the US is shifting responsibility for the restive south, which has seen a recent spate of roadside bombs and suicide bombings, to NATO.
Canada is sending 1,250 troops to Kandahar Province next month. On Thursday the British government committed to sending 3,300 paratroopers to take over Helmand, a Taliban stronghold and the top poppy-producing province.
However, Holland is rethinking its promise to replace US troops in Uruzgan. The Netherlands, a NATO signatory, has been slated to send up to 1,100 of its soldiers to Uruzgan, the home of Taliban leader Mullah Omar and one of the country's most dangerous provinces.