An international conference on Afghanistan here on Thursday paved the way for moderate Taliban to be lured into the peace process with offers of cash, jobs and security in what was seen as the last desperate throw of the dice to end violence in the war-ravaged country.
Donor countries, led by America and Britain, agreed to bankroll a multi-million pound “peace and reintegration fund” to be set up in return for an assurance from Afghan President Hamid Karzai to fight corruption and pursue a more coherent political strategy to push the peace process forward.
Mr. Karzai said he proposed to constitute a national council for peace, reconciliation and reintegration. It will be followed by a peace jirga.
“We must reach out to all of our countrymen, especially our disenchanted brothers, who are not part of Al-Qaeda, or other terrorist networks, who accept the Afghan Constitution,” said Mr. Karzai.
He appealed to Pakistan and Saudi Arabia to help the peace efforts.
Unveiling a six-point programme of rebuilding the country, he promised that good governance and fighting corruption would be its key focus.
Earlier, opening the conference, attended by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Foreign Ministers from more than 60 other countries including India, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said only those Taliban militants who agreed to renounce violence would be allowed to join the peace process.
They must “cut any ties with Al-Qaeda, respect the Constitution and pursue their political goals peacefully,” he said.
Setting a one-year deadline for “turning the tide” in Afghanistan, he said the process of handing over district-wise responsibility to the Afghan forces would start by the end of the year marking a “decisive” stage in the West’s exit strategy.
“By the middle of next year, we have to turn the tide in the fight against the insurgency,” he said.
Warning the Al-Qaeda, Mr. Brown said: “We will defeat you not just on the battlefield but in the hearts and minds of people of this world and particularly in Afghanistan. We will defeat you in any and every country in which you take refuge.”