Afghan conference opens with pledge for long-term help
Germany's foreign minister on Monday opened a major conference on Afghanistan's future, vowing that the international community won't abandon the country after NATO combat troops pull out in 2014.
"The goal of this conference will be to lay the groundwork for a free, secure and prosperous Afghanistan," Guido Westerwelle told about 1,000 delegates from around the world gathered in the western city of Bonn.
"We send a clear message to the people of Afghanistan: we will not leave you alone, you will not be abandoned. Afghanistan and its people need a clear and reliable commitment to a long-term engagement for the next decade beyond 2014."
Westerwelle said 10 years after the September 11 attacks on the United States, the world had a vested interest in a "stable and peaceful Afghanistan which does not pose a threat".
A previous conference in Bonn in December 2001 established an interim government for Afghanistan after US-led troops ousted the Taliban, which had offered safe harbour to Al-Qaeda.
Westerwelle noted there had been "setbacks" in the decade of NATO-led operations, adding that the world had learned there would be no "military solution" in Afghanistan.
"Not all our objectives and expectations have been realistic. And yet, we have achieved a lot," he said. "Most Afghans now enjoy more freedom, peace and security than at any time in the past 30 years."
He said that to ensure the transition to Afghan sovereignty in 2014 is "irreversible", Kabul "must focus on strengthening public administration, reinforcing the rule of law and fighting corruption."
Westerwelle said the conference would also send the message that political support for Afghan reconciliation must be maintained.
"Despite severe setbacks, reconciliation is the path to durable and inclusive peace," he said.
Finally, he said Afghanistan's allies aimed to outline their long-term engagement on the basis of "mutual credible commitments".
"This means continued civilian reconstruction, support for the Afghan national security forces for as long as necessary, and helping the country unlock its enormous economic potential," he said.
"The international community must stand ready for continued practical and financial support."
© 2011 AFP