At the end of the NATO summit in Chicago, NATO members have emphasized that they would stick to their plans of the troops withdrawal from Afghanistan in 2014. However, they promised that they would be there even after withdrawal to ensure that Afghanistan does not fail to face the challenges of security. They approved the US President, Obama's exit strategy that suggests ending the combat role of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) next year and completing the withdrawal by the end of 2014.
They, however, ensured that the international assistance would be continued in the form of training and financial support for Afghan security forces. They in a joint statement said, "In line with the strategy which we agreed at the Lisbon Summit, ISAF's mission will be concluded by the end of 2014. But thereafter Afghanistan will not stand alone. We reaffirm that our close partnership will continue beyond the end of the transition period." NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen mentioned that after 2014 a new and different mission would advise, train and assist the Afghan forces. However, the important factor is that the international community must stick to the promises made.
Through the joint declaration at the end of the summit on Monday, May 21, the ISAF leaders said, "We agree to work towards establishing a new NATO-led mission. We will ensure that the new mission has a sound legal basis, such as a United Nations Security Council Resolution." It is also necessary that UN's role must be enhanced in the country regarding other matters as well. The upcoming elections in the country, which will have a crucial impact on the future of Afghanistan and on the circumstances after 2014 when the international forces withdraw their troops, must be carried out under the close observation of the UN in order to ensure its transparency. Definitely, the involvement of the other countries in the affairs of Afghanistan is interference but the role of UN for the betterment of the country cannot be considered interference.
One of the major concerns regarding the future of Afghanistan is the economic development in the country so that it should be able to bear its burden on its own shoulder. However, that may take a while. But it is also a reality that the international community cannot keep on assisting Afghanistan for an indefinite period of time.
There has to be a day when Afghanistan has to support its forces through its own economy. Commenting on the same issue, the joint declaration said, "As the economy and revenues of the government grow, Afghanistan's yearly share will increase progressively from at least $500 million in 2015, with the aim that it can assume, no later than 2024, full financial responsibility for its own security forces. In light of this, during the transformation decade, we expect international donors will reduce their financial contributions commensurate with the assumption by the Afghan government of increasing financial responsibility."
Nevertheless, it should not be forgotten that to have a strong economic infrastructure Afghanistan must have a decade or more of peace and tranquility. With the swelling security threats it would be really difficult and even impossible to expect that the economy would grow. In this context the declaration noted that a peaceful, stable and prosperous Afghanistan would positively contribute to economic and social development in the wider region, and deliver progress in the fight against narcotics trafficking, illegal migration, terrorism and crime.
The declaration also noted that regional cooperation and support for stability in the country was vital. US and NATO have been urging, and they also did in the summit, that Afghanistan's neighboring countries must play a positive role to help Afghanistan out of terrorism. Pakistan's role in this regard has been emphasized to be a major one. President Karzai commenting on the same role, has said, "Pakistan's constructive engagement and cooperation will be instrumental for bringing the Taliban leadership to the negotiating table.
We believe Afghanistan and Pakistan have strong mutual security interests to work together to defeat terrorists' intent on killing our people, undermining the sovereignty of our countries and destabilising our region… Over the past few years, we have closely engaged Pakistan to assist us with the peace process, and I am hopeful that the weeks and months ahead will witness more tangible measures in this regard."
Pakistan's President Asif Ali Zardari was also invited in the summit. However, it must be noted that currently the relations between US and Pakistan are not favorable. The incident of NATO's firing on Pakistani Military checkpoint, the blockade of NATO's supply route and Pakistan's alleged controversial role in Afghanistan have made the relations suffer. Nonetheless, it was also expected after the summit that US and Pakistan may reach to a conclusion regarding the blockade of NATO's supply route through Pakistan.
The ISAF leaders also stressed the need for good governance, effective fight against corruption, protection of human rights, particular of women and children, and called for free and fair elections. Afghan government has not been able to earn a reputable position in the areas mentioned above; therefore, the international community has to have even a stronger emphasize to make sure such issues are taken as seriously as possible.
In the concluding note, the declaration said, "The nations contributing to ISAF will therefore continue to support Afghanistan on its path towards self-reliance in security, improved governance, and economic and social development…
This will prevent Afghanistan from ever again becoming a safe haven for terrorists that threaten Afghanistan, the region, and the world. A secure and stable Afghanistan will make an important contribution to its region, in which security, stability and development are interlinked."
Obama commenting on the summit and the outcome of the transition period said, "NATO leaders are leaving Chicago with "a clear road map" to bring the war in Afghanistan to a "responsible end."… Transition and the eventual withdrawal in 2014 of the U.S. forces and other NATO forces from Afghanistan is good for Afghanistan and good for our allied countries."
But, his concerns are also worthy to consider seriously; "I don't think that there's ever going to be an optimal point where we say — this is all done, this is perfect, this is just the way we wanted it and now we can wrap up all our equipment and go home. This is a process, and it's sometimes a messy process, just as it was in Iraq." It is important to note that if there is better planning and management and determined efforts, it really unlikely that the process gets "messy".