/ 20 July 2010

Afghans seek control of security by 2014

Afghans want responsibility for the country’s security by 2014, President Hamid Karzai told an international donors’ conference on Tuesday, appealing for more control of $13-billion earmarked for development.

“I remain determined that our Afghan national security forces will be responsible for all military and law enforcement operations throughout our country by 2014,” he told the conference, called to discuss how much more responsibility to give Afghanistan for its own affairs.

Over $40-billion has been spent on Afghanistan since 2002, Oxfam says, and about half went towards training and equipping an army and police force to take over security as countries plan their withdrawals from the 150 000-strong Nato-led force.

But despite a foreign troop surge that aims to tackle the Taliban in their spiritual heartland, questions remain over the effectiveness of Afghan security forces to cope when they leave.

Karzai did not ask for more money on Tuesday, but instead for more control of that already earmarked for the country. He said Afghanistan had enough commitments to last for three years.

If Afghans see development projects coming from the government rather than foreigners, the thinking goes, they are more likely to support them. The country holds elections to Parliament in September.

Wary too that his Western allies want out sooner rather than later, Karzai sought support for a peace plan that aims to win over and reintegrate an estimated 36 000 insurgent foot soldiers while exploring talks with moderate Taliban leaders.

The Taliban have been emboldened by a perception that Washington is not committed to a drawn-out fight — the near nine-year-old war is already the America’s longest — and insist they will not stop fighting until all foreign forces leave.

The conference will later hear the government give fuller details of national programmes it hopes will bring economic benefit and security to the country’s 29-million people, who remain among the world’s poorest and least educated.

Some analysts and diplomats say the programmes are long on hope and short on detail, but all agree they come at a crucial time.

Highlights include:

  • Asking donors to increase aid through government channels from the current 20% to 50, promising better accounting in return and stepped up prosecution of graft and corruption cases involving officials through special courts.
  • Expanding the army to a strength of over 170 000 by October 2011, and the national police to 134 000 as well as the formation of a new local police force in insecure areas.
  • Introducing a programme that aims to reintegrate up to 36 000 ex-combatants within five years.
  • Increasing collection of domestic revenues to 9,4% of GDP by March next year.

A recent poll found 74% of Afghans believed working with foreign forces was wrong. About 65% wanted the Taliban and its leader, Mullah Mohammad Omar, to join the government.

In the West, polls regularly show citizens want their government to extricate themselves from Afghanistan as soon as possible. – Reuters