The West in Afghanistan

NO SIGNIFICANCE need be attached to the visit by some top world leaders to Kabul, Afghanistan, this week, they being essentially a Christmas-eve exercise to cheer up Nato troops from their respective countries.

Yet the signals emanating from the meetings held by these leaders with President Hamid Karzai demonstrate that the West continues to stand solidly behind the land-locked nation that has been weathering many a turbulence and developmental set-backs.

France’s promise, as articulated by Nicholas Sarkozy, is not only that it will not back out from its commitment to Afghan campaign but it will also reinforce it with additional qualitative inputs and resources.

Australia’s new leader, Kevin Rudd might be keen to recall his troops from Iraq but not from Afghanistan. He clearly understands the seriousness of the Western engagement in Afghanistan as well as the high stakes it has in the Central Asian country.

Ditto Italy’s Romano Prodi who did not support the war on Iraq. Clearly, having lost Iraq, the Western coalition led by the US wants to make a success of Afghanistan, helping it get back on the road to peace, progress and prosperity. Which is Karzai’s in interest too; and in the interest of Afghan people as well.

This is time for the international community to back Afghanistan and Karzai all the way. And, this is also the time Afghanistan is looking as if it’s going to get out of control again — if only for the fact that this year has seen the worst violence since the US invasion in 2001, killing no less than 6500 people. However, for the international community, ending violence is only a part of the global engagement in Afghanistan. As the French president put it, the two major challenges facing Afghanistan and the world are the insecurity and the growth and trading in narcotics. Without doubt, these are interlinked, to the extent that money from narcotics trade finds its way to the weapons market, helping in the growth of the terror outfits there.

Under the circumstances, Karzai may be the best bet for Afghanistan. But his hands need to be strengthened enabling him to deal effectively with the problems at hand. Holding donor conferences now and then alone will not do. The offers of aid must be translated into realities and money reached into the right hands at the right time. The fact must be acknowledged that Karzai is on a difficult mission to effect a turn-around in the fortunes of his nation. That he is able to get sections of the Taleban on his side, and on a positive agenda, is to his added credit. He must be able to sustain the momentum that he has begun building up. It is here that international support is called for. The world mustn’t abandon Afghanistan.

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