The 11th meeting of the International Contact Group (ICG) on Afghanistan was recently held in Kabul with the participation of over 50 donor countries from the international community. With the process of withdrawal of international forces from Afghanistan beginning soon, concerns and doubts have been rising as to whether the international community would continue its assistance to Afghanistan beyond 2014 on a scale that it has done so far. As the deadline of 2014 for the complete transfer of security responsibilities to the government of Afghanistan approaches, the international community is needed to demonstrate its continued commitment to Afghanistan over the long-term and beyond 2014.
This was one of the main issues discussed in the ICG meeting with the donor countries reaffirming their continued support to Afghanistan over a longer time horizon between 2014 and 2024. Michael Steiner and Marc Grossman, respectively Germany's and the U.S.'s special envoys for Afghanistan and a host of other representatives from various countries all emphasized their countries' intention to stand by Afghanistan after 2014. This is a welcome announcement by the international community since it is evident that Afghanistan needs many more years of active support in diverse areas in order to stand back on its feet and find the capability to sustain itself on its own.
Interestingly enough, the representatives in the meeting pointed to the historic mistake that the West made in Afghanistan by washing its hands off the country after the withdrawal of Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War; a mistake that was at the cost of Afghanistan becoming a breeding ground for international terrorism.
However, in spite of these assurances made by the international community regarding their long-term support to Afghanistan, history and experience tells us that such assurances need to be met and followed up with firm action. On the other hand, action on their part depends on good performance on the part of Afghanistan. This means that this announcement by the ICG and over 50 donor countries should not be taken for granted by the Government of Afghanistan whose responsibilities and duties in the post-2014 Afghanistan will double in volume and urgency.
We should keep in mind that the international community will insist on seeing actual and tangible progress in Afghanistan before they continue with their disbursal of cash and assistance. Therefore, the Government of Afghanistan under the stewardship of President Karzai needs to show with actual action that it is capable of meeting the faith that the international community has reposed in it. Efforts need to be redoubled by the government to win the trust of the international community by first dealing with the deteriorating security situation and the burgeoning militancy and later by taking bold steps towards overhauling the terrible state of government and governance in the country. These are imperatives that need to be accomplished if Afghanistan is to have the whole-hearted international backing over the long-term.