Germany's foreign minister and his counterparts from 30 nations are in Kabul to discuss Afghanistan's future. Apart from security, top of the agenda are good governance, economic prospects, health and education.
Once again, the topic is Afghanistan's future after the withdrawal of international troops in 2014. Thursday's conference is one of the many stepping stones on the path to Afghan autonomy.
German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle, who hosted the Bonn Conference about the same theme last November, knows that the path will be long and hard.
"Nothing is easy in Afghanistan," he said in a speech to parliament in December. "And nothing is yet as it should be. I fear it will remain difficult."
He also promised that although most German troops would leave Afghanistan, Germany would continue to shoulder a responsibility for the country.
"There will be no military solution, but rather only a political one," he said, adding that Germany would also help Afghanistan build up a competitive private sector so it could get off its feet.
Standing by Kabul
On Thursday in Kabul, the aim is to prepare for a longer donor conference taking place next month in Japan. Afghanistan is dependent on international aid - billions are pumped in annually for development and reconstruction.
There is little prospect of Afghanistan being able to go it alone any time soon, as German Chancellor Angela Merkel fully knows.
"You can rest assured that we will stand by Afghanistan's side not only until 2014 but afterwards too," she said a few weeks ago when signing a German-Afghan cooperation agreement with Afghan President Hamid Karzai.
Germanyhas spent 1.7 billion euros on reconstruction alone in the past 10 years. The government has already pledged 150 million euros a year to the Afghan security forces for after 2015. This could be supplemented by 240 million from the German ministry for economic development and cooperation but negotiations are still underway.
Development Minister Dirk Niebel has set certain conditions: "There is a serious deficit of good governance at all levels. The key problems include widespread corruption, inefficient state organs and inadequate legal structures. The government is focusing on these points in its talks."
In Germany's interest
Projects amounting to 180 million euros per year are funded by German's foreign ministry. A comparable amount will probably be invested in future.
As Defense Minister Thomas de Maizière recently pointed out, this is in Germany's interest: "We're not only doing this out of altruism but to uphold what has been done in the past 10 years. What we have done should not be in vain, but should have a long-lasting impact."
Observers warn there is a long way ahead and some doubt there will be success in the end. There are a series of barriers that need to be overcome first, including the lack of trust between Pakistan and Afghanistan, they say.
For his part, Guido Westerwelle hopes concrete trust-building measures will be implemented so that there can be security and stability in the region.
Christoph Grabenheinrich / act
Editor: Sarah Berning