The international community has pledged its support for Afghanistan until at least 2024. Delegates at the 2011 Bonn conference promised not to leave the country in the lurch after the withdrawal of NATO troops.
The delegates agreed to long-term engagement
The Afghanistan conference in the German city of Bonn has swept us into the future: there is to be a "decade of transformation" once the planned troop withdrawal has been completed in 2014. In the decade leading up to 2024, the international community has pledged its close support for Afghanistan. That's a promise made to Afghan delegates by representatives from 85 countries.
The Afghans had feared that they would disappear from view after the withdrawal of NATO troops. Now they've been given the psychologically important indication that they won't be left in the lurch.
"This was a golden day in the history of Afghanistan," said Afghan President Hamid Karzai at the end of the day of talks.
Hillary Clinton placed demands on Afghanistan
The Bonn conference showed how much Afghanistan and the west are dependent on one another. Karzai asked the international community for money to prevent his country's fragile political system from collapse. "We need financial support until 2024," he told the foreign ministers of the rich industrialized states that have already pumped many millions into Afghanistan.
Security in return
In return, the international community gets a certain amount of stability and security in the region, which used to be a breeding ground for terrorism and could become so again.
"We can't repeat the mistakes of the past and let Afghanistan become a secure retreat for international terrorists," warned US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in Bonn.
But the subsidies won't be unlimited. In times of financial crisis even rich states are keeping a close grip on their cheque books. The more so as the deployment of 130,000 NATO troops to stabilize Afghanistan costs such countries dearly. The deployment of Bundeswehr troops alone has cost the German tax payer some five billion euros.
Therefore the international community stuck to the more general pledge of a long-term engagement in Afghanistan. A donor conference to be held in Tokyo next year will decide on the concrete numbers. In just such general terms, the Afghan government promised to put an end to corruption and to create a strong leadership. "We're not just doing that for our foreign friends, we also owe it to our own people," said Afghan Foreign Minister Zalmay Rassoul, not without pathos.
Problems put to one side
It was surprising how little talk there was of the difficulties facing Afghanistan over the next three years. The withdrawal of NATO troops in the contested regions is not without risk. The foreign ministers gathered in Bonn created the impression that the successful end of the military mission was already guaranteed. But it is far from clear whether Afghan security forces will be able to handle the insurgents on their own.
Progress in the political sphere was discussed somewhat more critically. The withdrawal of foreign troops should in fact go hand in hand with a reconciliation process in the country. But the gap between the Taliban and the Karzai government seems bigger than ever.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel stressed the importance of reconciliation and power sharing. "All social and ethnic groups have to be included," she said. "We can help, but only the Afghans can solve this problem themselves."
The current tensions between the US and Pakistan, documented by Pakistan's refusal to attend the conference, don't make the task any easier.
"The success of the Bonn conference will not be reduced by Pakistan's absence," stressed German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle. He added that the Pakistani government agreed to share the responsibility.
While Westerwelle described the conference as a milestone, representatives of Afghan society said they were disappointed. They had wanted a clearer stance against, for example, human rights violations in the country.
Author: Nina Werkhäuser / ji
Editor: Andreas Illmer