Ratbil A. Shamel comments that the Afghanistan conference in Kabul deserves to be called the 'beginning of the end' of the international Afghanistan mission.
For the first time, an international Afghanistan conference was held in Kabul. Foreign ministers and representatives of about 70 countries had come to fix a date for the end of the international Afghanistan mission. At least this goal was achieved quickly: By 2014 the Afghan government is supposedly going to be in a position to take on full responsibility for security in the country.
2014 is not a new date, it was mentioned in London about six months ago as well. But now it has become official. Moreover the wish for a withdrawal of international forces from Afghanistan was expressed by the Afghan president in the name of all Afghans in Kabul. In other words: Karzai was once again there when he was needed.
Ratbil Ahang Shamel
So the international community can pack up now without having a bad conscience, although it hasn't achieved its goals: Neither the Taliban nor al Qaeda have been defeated, and Afghanistan is still far away from enjoying peace, democracy and prosperity. And yet, many Western politicians emphasize: Pulling out in 2014 is necessary. Of course, the West will continue to assist Afghanistan long after Western soldiers have gone! These politicians promise that the Afghan people will not be left alone.
But alas, the Afghan people don't believe these promises any more. They remember well what happened after the Soviets withdrew from their country. After a decade of occupation and war, they got civil war and arbitrary rule by warlords instead. Life became so unbearable that the Taliban were hailed as liberators when they entered the capital. It was only a bit later that people realized they hadn't been liberated at all.
Now, many Afghans are wary that history might repeat itself in their country - and rightly so. In the many declarations adopted by the Kabul conference there is no explicit explanation how the Afghan government will be put in a position to take care of security on its own. What hasn't been achieved over the past nine years, won't be achieved in the next three either.
It is understandable that the West wants to leave Afghanistan. But it should withdraw only when the Afghans are ready to run their country themselves. To simply fix a date for an early pullout mainly helps those who don't want peace in Afghanistan.
Author: Ratbil A. Shamel, Head of DW's Afghanistan Service / tb
Editor: Grahame Lucas