LONDON: World leaders meeting in London on Thursday agreed on a timetable for the handover of security duties in Afghan provinces starting in late 2010. In their final communique, the leaders also pledged funds for a plan aimed at persuading Taliban fighters to renounce violence, but offered no specific figures. The meeting backed Afghan President Hamid Karzai's plan to reintegrate Taliban willing to “cut ties with al-Qaida and other terrorist groups and pursue their political goals peacefully.'' It said handover of security responsibilities would begin this year, with the Afghan National Army “conducting the majority of operations in the insecure areas of Afghanistan within three years.” The conference was called to help world powers chart a roadmap out of Afghanistan amid rising U.S. and NATO casualties and falling public support.That is how the Pakistani newspaper 'The News' brought the news from the London Conference, where about 70 countries gathered at the invitation of British prmie minister Gordon Brown to discuss the future, or rather their contribution to the future, of Afghanistan. Very short, very factual. Apparently the outcome was no too thrilling for the people in Islamabad. And that is no surprise if you ask me. How would one stabilize a regime that consists of a president who was elected through election fraud and who, after more than two months, had only seven of the 17 cabinet ministers approved by the parliament (ena that after a first attempt during which only seven out of 24 were approved). Can Karzai's government, can Afghanistan be saved, by bringing in the Taliban?
The 70 nations say Karzai had promised to crack down on corruption and said a summit in Kabul later this year would offer specific plans to bolster his faltering government.
The text said discussions marked a “decisive step towards greater Afghan leadership to secure, stabilize and develop Afghanistan."
This is what Juan Cole wrote about the conference:
NATO to Provide $500 mn. to Bribe Taliban; Seeks Exit beginning 2011; Obama's Request for 10,000-troop NATO Surge Quietly RejectedBritish Prime Minister Gordon Brown may have called the London Conference on Afghanistan for domestic political purposes, as a sort of publicity stunt. But the nearly 70 nations that gathered there unexpectedly took advantage of the meet to plot out a NATO exit strategy. Of course, how realistic it is remains to be seen. The London conference saw as many plans put forward for dealing with the low-intensity war against the Taliban there as there were countries in attendance. (...)
President Hamid Karzai asked for 15 years more of a substantial NATO commitment and heavy investment of foreign training and aid in the country. Karzai also offered to open talks with the top echelons of the Old Taliban of Mullah Omar in hopes of bringing them in from the cold.(....) NATO was generally very unhappy at Karzai's mention of "15 years", and instead began speaking of 2011 as the beginning of a withdrawal of NATO troops, with the expectation that over time more and more of Afghanistan's provinces would be patrolled by the Afghan military without foreign assistance. (..) France says it will send no more troops to Afghanistan and criticized Karzai's 15-year timeline. Germany is sending only 500 more troops. The Dutch may pull out their 2000 troops soon. Obama is highly unlikely to get his 10,000 quota from NATO, though that piece of the troop escalation was key to his plan.
As c ould be expected the Taliban gave an angry response to the attempt to buy their services:
"Les tentatives de l'ennemi d'acheter les moudjahidine en leur offrant de l'argent et des emplois pour qu'ils abandonnent le jihad sont vaines", s'est empressé d'indiquer le Conseil du commandement des talibans afghans dans un communiqué mis en ligne jeudi sur un site islamiste, selon le centre de surveillance de sites islamistes SITE Intelligence.