An international conference on Afghanistan will be held in Tokyo, Japan, on Sunday, July 08, 2012. The prime motive of the conference is to ensure the international support for Afghanistan in the post-withdrawal scenario – to make sure that the country is properly assisted in terms of funding both for its security and the development funds.
The aim of the Conference is to reaffirm the partnership between international community and Afghan government until 2014 and the Transformation Decade (2015-2024) and clarify the problems and challenges for Afghanistan and international community for a sustainable development strategy for Afghanistan and affirming long-term mutual commitments. There are great concerns that after the international troops' withdrawal from the country, the economic activities and financial supports may decrease to a great extent. In the words of Christine Roehrs, the spokeswoman for Save the Children, "The Tokyo conference will decide the lives of millions of people for years to come.
We know that when the troops leave the attention will leave." Therefore, commitments are needed to ensure that Afghanistan will not be left alone in such a scenario. Though the international community has already made commitments through different conferences, most notable of which was the Chicago Conference, and through individual strategic partnership agreements with Afghanistan, certain very important and definite commitments are yet to be made.
Afghanistan would need a total support of about $ 4.1 billion annually so as to maintain its security forces for first three years after withdrawal. Apart from that, for the non-security purposes, according to the calculations by World Bank, it would need $3.3 billion to $3.9 billion annually so as to cover a shortfall in its gross domestic product. However, President Karzai has mentioned that he would ask for $4 billion annually for the first three years of Transformation Decade from the international community in the Conference.
There is no doubt in the fact that Afghanistan would require the amount mentioned by President Karzai and the requirements that will be mentioned by Afghan government in the Conference. However, the main concern is whether Afghan authorities would be able to convince the international community to provide for such a large amount as the trust on the Afghan government's administrative capabilities and honest commitments is diminishing. Though Afghanistan has been able to make certain improvements through the aid money that has already been provided to the country, it has not been able to do as much as necessary.
Today, the countries involved in Afghanistan are not as willing to support as they would do a decade earlier. Afghanistan is ranked among the most corrupt countries of the world and a major portion of the funds and assistance that has moved in the country has been used by the ruling elite for its own self-centered desires and comforts. It is difficult for the international community to believe that there would be any difference if they are ready to support the country magnanimously.
Afghan government has not only failed in proving itself capable and trust-worthy government in eradicating the menace of corruption but also in establishing peace and tranquility and a strong political setup. The so-called reconciliation process, for which even a very expensive Council is maintained, has not been able to attract the Taliban to negotiation table. In fact, the government's overall approach towards the peace talks with Taliban has been flawed. The outcome of the process so far and its prospects are not very encouraging.
On the other hand, the government has not been able to handle the democratic processes and institutions properly and have not nurtured them in accordance to the demands of true democratization process; therefore, the system is still dominated by personality-worship and personality-centrism.
This has made the political parties and coalitions distrust the government and its intentions, which would create hurdles in the political integration of the nation. Many even fear that after the withdrawal of international forces from the country, it would once again become the victim of disorder and even a civil war.
Andrew Mitchell, Britain's international development secretary, during a trip in Kabul warned, "Afghanistan faces enormous challenges in the years ahead, and will require significant long term international development assistance. If that is not forthcoming the progress made so far with security and development will be put at risk, with repercussions for Afghans, the region and us."
It is important how Afghan government shows itself to the world in the Conference and in the times to come, but it would require a miracle to change the growing negative perception of the world about it. Some of the suggestions that have been presented by Afghanistan National Front (ANF) are worth consideration for the government and the international community to make the situation improve in Afghanistan. They are given as under (excerpts from the ANF press release);
1.Afghanistan's donor dependent economy needs to purge widespread corruption from government institutions. Afghanistan National Front demands the reopening of the corruption cases in the Kabul Bank and the Ghori Cement Factory, so that all facts can be brought into the open.
2.The fiscal self-reliance of Afghanistan depends on boosting our national revenues through the resource-based extractive industries. The constitution of Afghanistan defines our natural resources as national assets and prohibits the president and the high ranking officials from engaging in state owned businesses. But on the contrary, the families of the incumbent president and his vice-president have emerged as key beneficiaries of the sale of the Pul-e Khumri Cement Factory, other government properties and projects for oil exploration and extraction in the Amu River basin. Afghanistan National Front asks for a complete parliamentary investigation of the violations of the constitution and the relevant laws which have allowed a mafia to acquire public assets.
3.The structural factor which has deprived our people of their fundamental rights is the overly centralized political and administrative system, with an unelected local administration. Afghanistan National Front demands that high ranking officials respect the constitution, relevant laws and the natural rights of the people.
4.Political parties and civil society have noted an alarming trend towards promotion of tribalism and ethnocentrism and denial of the diversity of our society. Afghanistan National Front condemns this trend in the strongest terms and considers it a serious threat to National Unity and the integrity of Afghanistan.
5.The present power structure is incapable of satisfying the needs of our citizens. ANF demands devolution of power to empowerment the people to pursue development. The further democratization of our country and creation of an accountable administration require urgent constitutional reform.
6.Free, fair and timely elections will be an important marker of the government and international community's commitment to pursuit of democracy in Afghanistan. ANF considers that any move to postpone the elections would represent an attempt to cling onto power through illegitimate means.
7.The recent trilateral peace dialogue in Kyoto, Japan lacked weight because of the absence of the real opposition to Taliban and of civil society. It is emphasized that peace talks in future should be broad-based and inclusive.
8.The Afghanistan National Front invites political parties, Members of the Afghan Parliament and Provincial Councils, esteemed Ulema, civil society, youth, human rights campaigners, women rights activists and all other honorable patriots to step forward and join hands in the efforts to achieve real reform and to help the country out of the current deadlock and onto the path of transition.