How Afghanistan views the NATO summit
As NATO officials prepare to meet in Lisbon on Friday, Afghans are watching. Many would like to see NATO forces here take Karzai more seriously.
At the NATO conference this Friday in Lisbon, President Barack Obama and other NATO officials are expected to begin to clarify a timeline for the eventual withdraw of US forces in Afghanistan. While Obama initially suggested that the US would gradually remove forces starting in July 2011, the focus is being shifted to 2014 as the deadline for the end of US combat operations in Afghanistan.Skip to next paragraph
In Pictures Fighting continues in Afghanistan
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Additionally, the US and its NATO allies are expected to outline a plan to begin handing over provinces to Afghan authorities and security forces.
Afghans are watching.
“For Afghans, the discussion of the date has been a big thing. The suggestion that troops would be leaving by 2011 has caused quite a bit of consternation and concern,” says Martine van Bijlert, co-director of the Afghanistan Analysts Network in Kabul.
The Lisbon summit “is more about a longer-term strategy for Afghanistan. We haven’t heard what’s specifically going to come out of the conference yet, but all the indicators are that this is a much more forward looking, much more strategic view of the road ahead looking out several years. I don’t recall any NATO summit over the last several years that has even attempted to touch on that,” says retired Lt. Gen. David Barno, former commander of US forces in Afghanistan and a senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security.
As war planners prepare to potentially agree on an eventual end date for international involvement in Afghanistan, there is likely to be increasing focus on the readiness of Afghan security forces to take control of the situation here.
Although the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force, (ISAF) is likely to point to gains within the Afghan army and police, the security forces still suffer from corruption, questionable professionalism across Afghanistan, and there are also concerns about insurgent infiltration.
“There are more than 100,000 foreign soldiers in the country right now who are professional and well-equipped and they can’t defeat the Taliban. How can the Afghan Army and police defeat them alone?,” asks Ahmad Shah Wahdat, a librarian in Kabul.