U.S. will step up the tempo of handing security back from July 2011: Hillary Clinton
Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai on Tuesday signalled that he would prefer a complete withdrawal of the foreign forces from the country by 2014, in tune with a gradual takeover of security in the provinces by Afghan forces from next year.
In his opening remarks at an international conference on Afghanistan in Kabul, he proposed that by October 2011, the Afghan National Army should have 1,70,000 troops, and the police force should be boosted with the induction of 1,34,000 officers. He said 36,000 former militants would be integrated into the regular forces.
Mr. Karzai said a board would be established to identify the provinces where the Afghan forces could be sent on their own from 2011.
Corroborating Mr. Karzai's perception in part, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Washington would step up the tempo of turning over security to the Afghan forces from July 2011. “The July 2011 date captures both our sense of urgency and the strength of our resolve.” “The transition process is too important to push off indefinitely... But this date is the start of a new phase, not the end of our involvement,” she said.
As for the deadline for the withdrawal of the foreign forces, NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen emphasised that “conditions, not calendars” would govern the timetable for the takeover of security by the Afghan forces. In no way would the Taliban be allowed to topple the Afghan government, he said. “Our mission will end when — but only when — the Afghans are able to maintain security on their own.”
Mr. Karzai also called for routing half of the foreign aid for Afghanistan through governmental channels. So far, only 20 per cent of the aid has passed through the Afghan establishment. However, aid transfers are linked to the issue of corruption in the Afghan officialdom.
Ms. Clinton pointed out that there were “no shortcuts to fighting corruption and improving governance.” “On this front, both the Afghan people and the people of the international community expect results.”
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who is co-hosting the conference in which 70 countries are participating, said aid programmes needed to be “well-coordinated and fully transparent.”
Mr. Karzai also called on the Taliban and other armed opposition groups to give up militancy and join the peace process initiated by the government. “I wish all those have taken up arms against the country to give up militancy.”
But Ms. Clinton warned that the Afghan government should not try to make peace with the Taliban, the Al-Qaeda and other militant groups that the U.S. strongly opposed.