European powers want to set new Afghanistan timeline
The meeting to be held in the coming months will attempt to quicken the transfer of responsibility to Afghans and look at speeding up the training of Afghan security forces, said Germany, France and Britain.Paris -- A planned international conference on Afghanistan should set new benchmarks and timelines for handing more responsibility to the Afghans, Britain, France and Germany said Wednesday.
The meeting to be held in the coming months should also look at speeding up the training of Afghan security forces, wrote Prime Minister Gordon Brown, President Nicolas Sarkozy and Chancellor Angela Merkel in a joint letter to the United Nations chief.
"We should agree on new benchmarks and timelines in order to formulate a joint framework for our transition phase in Afghanistan, i.e. to set our expectations of ownership and the clear view to hand over responsibility step by step to the Afghans, wherever possible," said the letter.
No date has been set yet for the conference to be held at a ministerial level, but it will take place after a new Afghan government takes office and be co-chaired by the United Nations and the new Kabul leadership.
Officials in London said the plan was to have the conference in two phases, with the first in Kabul, depending on security considerations, and the second in an "international city."
Britain has offered to host this second stage, a spokesman for Brown's office told AFP, adding that nothing has been finalised.
Britain, France and Germany all have troops serving in the international coalition that has been fighting the Taliban insurgency since the Islamic militia was driven out of power in late 2001.
The Europeans have repeatedly said they will stand by Afghanistan as it struggles on the road to stabilisation, but public opinion has been cooling over what is increasingly seen as an ill-defined and unwinnable campaign.
Merkel has called on coalition forces stationed in Afghanistan to speed up their mission in the country to achieve real progress by 2014.
Spanish Defence Minister Carme Chacon said Wednesday that it was "reasonable" to expect Afghanistan to be able to provide its own security in five years so that foreign forces can be withdrawn by then.
The United States, which has the largest contingent serving in the 100,000-strong force in Afghanistan, is reviewing its military strategy in Afghanistan.
This year has also seen a record number of foreign soldiers killed in Afghanistan since US forces ousted the Taliban following the September 11, 2001 attacks in the United States.