NATO's planned troop withdrawal from Afghanistan is looming, while the country is busily signing strategic partnership agreements with western states. Afghan President Karzai is to sign a deal with Germany on Wednesday.
When Afghan President Hamid Karzai and German Chancellor Angela Merkel sign a strategic partnership agreement on Wednesday in Berlin, they are cementing cooperation not only for this year and next, but also for the decade after NATO's withdrawal from Afghanistan in 2014.
German Foreign Ministry spokesman Andreas Peschke said Germany will support political change and reconstruction in Afghanistan, as agreed at the International Afghanistan Conference in Bonn in December 2011.
Defence Minister Thomas de Maiziere announced the bilateral deal during a visit with the German troops in Afghanistan in March. But NATO will arrange for military support, including the training of the Afghan Army by German troops.
"Germans should realize that for the next five or six years, hundreds of soldiers will still be busy in Afghanistan," Conrad Schetter, deputy director of the Bonn-based Center for Development Research (ZEF) and coordinator of the Crossroads Asia scientific network told DW. An estimated 500 to 1,000 German soldiers might be involved, he said.
Security is bound to remain a central focus for Afghanistan's future development after the troop withdrawal, Schetter said, and pointed out persistent shortcomings in police training. Often, he said, police are more or less "bandits in uniform who aren't committed to the state but to their warlords."
Afghan security forces currently control about 50 percent of the country; by the end of the year, they hope to control three-quarters.
The original security concept devised by the international community foresees leaving 350,000 soldiers behind after the ISAF troop withdrawal. But Germany's Spiegel Online news portal reported financial problems could reduce troop strengths significantly - to 230,000 soldiers. That could threaten the state's monopoly on security, Schetter said, if warlords - whose armories are well-stocked - fill the security gap. Renewed violence could flare up if the process can't be followed up, he said.
Supporting security policies is important, said Joachim Spatz, a member of the German parliament, the Bundestag - but so is involvement in civilian projects. Spatz believes that developing the education system is in fact just as important as building up infrastructure and guaranteeing good governance. All of these are prerequisites to make Afghanistan attractive for investors
Schetter welcomed the fact that Germany, Afghanistan's third-largest donor, has earmarked a budget for development cooperation with Afghanistan beyond 2014. Last year, development aid amounted to 430 million euros ($550 million) - almost twice as much as 2010.
He said that proved that the civilian aspect of future cooperation might improve once the troops have left. The presence of the military dramatically compromised the situation of German aid organizations active in Kunduz since Taliban times, Schetter said.
Spatz said Afghanistan's neighbors should be more closely involved in concepts for the country. "Security also depends on adequate relations among neighboring countries," he said.
Afghanistan's neighbors are already expanding their infrastructure in preparation for networking in Central Asia, an emerging region rich in raw materials. Backed by international support, Afghanistan should eventually catch up.
Author: Sabine Hartert-Mojdehi / db
Editor: Ben Knight