As the NATO summit is proceeding in Chicago, differ ent meetings and gatherings are taking place alongside the summit. One of the same kinds of meetings was between the Afghan President Hamid Karzai and US President Barack Obama on Sunday, May 20, 2012. Both the Presidents had an hour-long meeting to discuss the issues relevant to Afghanistan; especially the post withdrawal scenario in Afghanistan and the nature of the support that Afghanistan would require from US and NATO after the security transition is completed and the international forces withdraw in 2014.
It should not go unmentioned that there are many serious minds that see real concerns regarding the withdrawal procedure of the NATO countries, the indefiniteness of the support for Afghanistan after the withdrawal is complete and the incapacity of the Afghan government and the political system to provide stability in the times to come.
After the meeting with President Karzai, Obama told the reporters, "We recognize the hardship that the Afghan people have been through. Both of us recognize that we still have a lot of work to do. The loss of life continues in Afghanistan. There will be hard days ahead, but we are confident that we are on the right track… The NATO summit is going to be largely devoted to ratifying and reflecting the broad consensus that so many of our partners and ISAF (International Security Assistance Force) members have agreed to one in which we are working with our Afghan partners over the next several years to achieve a complete transition to Afghanistan… NATO will continue to provide support for Afghan security during this transition and Afghan forces have made excellent progress."
Major hardship that Afghanistan is going to face is the economic support for its security forces. The statistics suggest that Afghanistan would require an amount of about $ 4.1 billion annually to maintain its security forces. Though there have been specific commitments by some of the major countries, like UK, Germany and Australia, a large portion of the required sum is yet to be determined.
Definitely, US would be contributing a major portion of it but there are concerns that even the major powers in the world would hesitate to contribute extravagantly or even up to the requirement because of the impacts of the international economic crisis.
Already there are indications that major European countries are going to have reductions in their defense spending. Germany has plans of reduction in defense spending about a quarter of its current amount in the next four years.
Same is the case with UK – it may reduce its budget pertaining to defense by 7.5 percent till 2015. Most of the European countries are trying to save the Euro-zone from the current economic crisis, which can affect them directly, rather than spending its resources somewhere in other part of the world which, at the moment, is not influencing them to a great extent.
And then there is the situation raised by France. After his election as the new President of the country, and even before he was elected as a President, Francois Hollande announced that he would withdraw French troops from Afghanistan by the end of the ongoing year.
This decision will definitely have impact on the overall decision of NATO to withdraw by 2014. Though NATO, on various occasions, have emphasized that NATO members involved in Afghanistan would withdraw together, Hollande does not seem to compromise over his decision of withdrawing earlier.
President Karzai has mentioned that France may withdraw its forces but it can support Afghanistan in so many other ways. The same is suggested by leaders of many other countries as well. However, this decision will definitely have an important impact on the credibility of NATO as having the capacity to make its members respect the unanimous decision of the organization.
President Karzai, commenting on the meeting with Obama, said that they had "a good meeting" in which Afghanistan reaffirmed its commitment to the transition process and this was vital as his country would no longer be a burden for the global community. Karzai also agreed with Obama that Afghanistan was looking forward to an end to this war.
Emphasizing once again on the country's self reliance, he said that it was important that the allies ensured they help Afghanistan take steady steps to achieve the objective. Definitely, it is important that Afghanistan must not be considered as a burden; rather it should be perceived as a responsibility.
US has, on many occasions, mentioned that war against terrorism will be concluded responsibly; the same must be followed through action as well. On the other hand, if US, NATO and Afghan government are really interested in ending the war, it is necessary that they should try to solve the basic causes of conflict from the country.
They have not yet reached to an end regarding reconciliation with Taliban. In fact, they are not sure what sort of attitude they should maintain to deal with them. Taliban have vehemently rejected their invitations to negotiate and have kept their aggressive policies intact. US and Afghan governments do not have any other policy except trying to galvanize them for the talks through soft tone and warm welcomes.
For ending the war in Afghanistan, it is necessary that the causes of war should be controlled. Leaving the roots of the conflict intact, it would be useless to expect peace. US, NATO and Afghan government have to come up with a proper and unanimous policy regarding the reconciliation process with Taliban.
They need to bring about necessary changes within the Afghan political system to make it capable of absorbing the shocks of changes and establishing political order. Afghan government needs to address the concerns regarding good governance and growing corruption.
It has to make sure that the government is able to serve the people of Afghanistan and make the country a better place for them to live. It also needs to ensure that the ruling elite in the country does not utilize all the support and assistance to fulfill its own self-centered incentives. Otherwise, the expectations of peace and tranquility in the country and the region will be nothing more than woolgathering.