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With peace stalled, Afghanistan looks to extend foreign aid

With Taliban uninterested in peace talks, Afghan President Karzai seeks long-term pledges from donors at peace conference in Bonn, Germany.

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A year ago a Pakistani shopkeeper duped NATO and Afghan officials into thinking he was Mullah Akhtar Muhammad Mansour, one of the most senior Taliban leaders. Last summer, talks collapsed with Tayyab Agha, one of the closest people to Taliban leader Mullah Omar, when information about them leaked to the media. In September head of the High Peace Council and former President Burhanuddin Rabbani was assassinated in his home by a man claiming to have a message from the Taliban.

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The most recent blow came when Pakistan, which is seen as a critical interlocutor with the Taliban, boycotted the Bonn Conference after a NATO airstrike killed at least 24 Pakistani soldiers.

“When there was no participation of the Pakistan it pushed the issue of negotiation to the sidelines,” says Muhammad Hassan Haqyar, an independent political analyst in Kabul. “There still can be negotiations, but negotiations through Bonn are completely closed.”

Even before Pakistan's boycott of the Bonn Conference, talks with the Taliban had become something of a marginal issue. Last month, 2,000 tribal elders from across Afghanistan gathered in Kabul for a loya jirga, or grand assembly to discuss relations with the US and reconciliation efforts. Of the 67-point resolution issued at the conclusion of the loya jirga, only 13 dealt with reconciliation and the rest on Afghan-American relations

Eye on funding

Especially in light of Pakistan's absence, the Bonn Conference, much like the loya jirga, seems to have fallen short of some expectations. Now, Afghan and international officials appear to be shifting their focus and energies toward Afghanistan post-2014 when Western combat forces are scheduled to leave.

In this new calculus, peace with the Taliban and other insurgent groups is of course still desirable, but the more realistic goal of ensuring that international funding and support does not disappear with combat troops in three years is primary.

“We will need your steadfast support for at least another decade,” Mr. Karzai told leaders at the conference, warning that the withdrawal could cut the country’s economic growth in half.

“Our only concern for Afghans is that our international friends should not leave us alone like they did in the ‘90s. They should not withdraw based on a calendar date. Even in 2014 they should evaluate the situation and then make their decision,” says Mohammad Ismail Qasemyar, a member of the High Peace Council.

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