Taking stock in Bonn and doubling down on Afghanistan
Conference in Germany to assess achievements in Afghanistan since war began and challenges that remain.
December 4th, 2011
10:44 PM ET

Taking stock in Bonn and doubling down on Afghanistan

From CNN Sr. State Department Producer Elise Labott in Bonn, Germany

Ten years ago, Afghan leaders met outside Bonn, Germany, to lay out a road map to establish and sustain Afghanistan's government after the fall of the Taliban.

On Monday, the nation's president for the last seven years, Hamid Karzai, will once again preside over a conference in the west German city to chart his nation's future. Yet this time, as opposed to just U.N. representatives facilitating the 2001 conference for a group of Afghan exiles and leaders, members of 85 delegations from various countries and 15 international organizations will join Afghans in the discussions.

Their goal is to take stock of accomplishments and assess continued challenges in Afghanistan over the past decade, as well as to plot a partnership with the Kabul government amid plans to withdraw all foreign combat troops from the country by 2014.

There has, admittedly, been notable progress in recent years. Afghanistan's economy has grown, albeit it at a slow rate. Despite reported corruption, Afghanistan has moved away from the repressive extremist rule of the Taliban and toward a more democratic political system, in which Afghans vote for their leaders. And the status of women - strictly controlled under the Taliban - has improved with a constitutional commitment guaranteeing equality, and 3 million girls are now in school.

But the international community knows many of these gains hang by a thread.

As it was in 2001, Afghanistan is still one of the world's poorest and corrupt nations. Even as international troops seek to wind down their involvement, the country faces a resilient Taliban insurgency, political instability and economic turmoil.

Attendees at this Bonn conference are expected to address prospects for long-term aid for Afghanistan. That could well include a promise of substantial resources from the international community, given concerns Afghanistan's economic stability may suffer after international troops leave and funding levels dwindle.

Karzai is officially in charge of the conference, seeking to demonstrate ownership over his nation's own affairs. Afghan officials are expected to make extensive presentations on plans to assume responsibility of security from NATO-led forces over the next three years and efforts to forge a political settlement with the Taliban, which some see as key to establishing security across the country.

Yet even with Afghanistan's ambitious plans to become self-sufficient in political and security matters, few expect it will be truly independent - especially economically - beyond the 2014 transition.

World Bank and American analyses state that the security situation will be pivotal to Afghanistan's ability to grow its economy. They estimate the withdrawal of troops and a resulting loss of foreign aid could reduce Afghanistan's growth rate by 50% or more - something the World Bank warned could cause the Afghan economy to collapse.

The U.S. has introduced its own plan, developed in coordination with the Afghan government, to shore up the Afghan economy. Washington hopes that increasing investment in Afghanistan's private sector and developing the country's agricultural and mining sectors will help the nation become less reliant on the United States.

U.S. officials acknowledge that it will be difficult for Afghanistan to make more progress economically, unless the governance and security situations improve. There are also other challenges, like the fact Afghanistan still ranks among the world's lowest literacy and health rates - factors that make it difficult to find skilled laborers need to fuel industry. Another problem is the state of Afghanistan's infrastructure.

One focus is to integrate Afghanistan's economy with its neighbors in south and central Asia, thus bolstering Afghanistan's self-sufficiency. To that end, the United States has introduced the New Silk Road initiative to promote Afghanistan as a hub for the free movement of goods, services, capital and people in the region.

The elephant in the room at Bonn - or, more accurately, not in the room - will be neighboring Pakistan. Islamabad opted not to send any representatives to the conference last week in reaction to November 27 cross-border strike by NATO that killed 24 of its soldiers. It has also closed NATO supply lines into Afghanistan in retaliation for the attack.

Pakistan is viewed as a critical player in the region, because of its perceived relationships with the Taliban and other insurgency groups - some of whom are based within Pakistani borders, from where they launch attacks on Afghan and foreign troops. Pakistan's government, itself, has argued for a larger role in regional efforts to stabilize the country and broker peace with the Taliban.

Washington had hoped the Bonn conference would produce momentum for peace talks with the Taliban, but reconciliation efforts have stalled since the September assassination of Burhanuddin Rabbani, a former Afghan president who was his government's chief negotiator in talks with insurgents. Those efforts have been further stymied by Pakistan's decision not to go to Germany.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who arrived in Bonn on Sunday night, has called Pakistan's decision to drop out of the conference "regrettable" and even called Pakistani Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani to ask his government to reconsider.

Still, U.S. officials - at least publicly - refuse to admit Pakistan will play spoiler either at the Bonn conference or in the larger U.S.-led plans to stabilize Afghanistan and bring forces home.

soundoff (9 Responses)
  1. Raymond Babcock

    for what karzai says why shoul;d we care about hes goverment we should pull are troops and just contain them the only time we hear from europe is when they are in troubel france made us fly around them to bomb libya we do not need any of them

    December 5, 2011 at 7:19 pm | Reply
  2. BANGASH

    THE ONLY SOLUTION TO AFGHAN ISSUE IS WITHDRAWAL OF FOREIGN MILITARY FORCES NOTHING ELSE. AFGHANISTAN AND PAKISTAN ARE TWO INDEPENDENT AND SOVEREIGN NATIONS BUT WEST HAS ALWAYS DEPRIVED BOTH STATES OF THEIR INDEPENDENCE AND SOVEREIGNTY THEREFORE TODAY WHOLE WORLD IS PAYING THE PRICE IN THE NAME OF TERRORISM. WEST SHOULD REALIZE THAT FOR THE LAST TWO CENTURIES THEY HAVE NOT SUCCEEDED IN SUBJUGATING THIS REGION OR ITS PEOPLE THEREFORE IT IS A TIME TO CHANGE OTHERWISE RISING HATE AGAINST THIS INHUMAN PRACTICE MAY LEAD TO MORE DEVASTATION.

    December 5, 2011 at 12:54 pm | Reply
  3. Asad Shah

    America should conduct fair investigation of the NATO attack on Pakistan, not like before when Raymond Devis murdered two Pakistani citizens and senator John Kerry promissed that there will be a fair investigation against him in America if Pakistan release him, but after release of Raymond Devis no investigation was conducted in America against him.

    December 5, 2011 at 11:04 am | Reply
  4. Sikandar Khan - Sr. Repotar, Abbotabad News Network

    Heloo falks. I hail from Faislabad Pakistan as freelund repotar to gave you blow by blow of what is go on behaind the back of Pakistan in Bonn German. It is sham USA kill many soljar on Afghan Pak boder forcing Pakistan to baycot Bonn. Some say this was USA grand plan from begining only. Only tame will tell. Anyway so far confrance is going ok no commant by any candidate. Soon as I com by they quite down and hush hush so I am not able to get inside info on anything.Rumor is Pakistan is not being missed much as Mr Krishna from India is showing off and become very chummy with Hillary, Kerzai and Euro leaders who is double crosser to Pakistan anyway. To make matters worstest, Germany served excellant lunch buffet of all Pakistani choice, to entice Pakistani offcials to change ther mind and come to this conference. This is an insult. Anyway the food was most delicious and included Shahi Biryani, Tandoori Chicken, Mughlai Lamb, Mutton Korma, Zafrani Pilaf with small raisins and big nuts, 26 different vegetable dishes of Indian names I can't pronounce, (of course to kiss up to India as usual). There was naan, raita and some pungent pickles. In dessert I had Rasgoola, Galab Jaman, Ras Malai and my favorat Feerni. The attendees have all left for more conference for the afternoon session. So far rumor is Pakistan should have bin here to at least fight with India for what they want before everything in Afghanistan is divid up and taken and all we get is scraps. But as usual Pak leaders do exact opposite of what world is doing. Anyway I am drowsy after this heavy meal so I will pretend to be sleeping with one eye and ear open to catch the gossip and repot back to you.
    Sikandar Khan – Bonn Germany, Pakistan Zindabad !!

    December 5, 2011 at 7:39 am | Reply
  5. TSneddon

    Good that Pakistan is out. We can hope for some peace and I do hope for a safe return of all the brave soldiers.

    Though it may sound counter intuitive, it is best to keep Pakistan completely out of the loop. Nothing constructive can come from a paranoid country bred on bigotry and hatred.

    December 5, 2011 at 4:05 am | Reply
  6. Glenn

    as all or most other sites have, I would love to see a button for printing somewhere here, so I can take this to my office and read it there.

    December 5, 2011 at 4:05 am | Reply
  7. Faisal

    This conference objectives are not in accordance with the wishes and aspiration of common Afghani peoples..so i would call it a fail fail situation both of western countries, as well as puppet Hamid Karazai

    December 4, 2011 at 11:57 pm | Reply

Post a comment


 

CNN welcomes a lively and courteous discussion as long as you follow the Rules of Conduct set forth in our Terms of Service. Comments are not pre-screened before they post. You agree that anything you post may be used, along with your name and profile picture, in accordance with our Privacy Policy and the license you have granted pursuant to our Terms of Service.