The International Afghanistan Bonn Conference and an Unclear UK Strategy
The International Afghanistan Conference in Bonn, Germany was held this week. The conference, hosted by the Germans and chaired by the Afghans, served not only as an opportunity to reflect on the international community’s role in Afghanistan, but also as an opportunity for the international community to reinforce its views and commitment to the country. The ninety delegations and one thousand participants continued developing methods to ensure that the Afghan government is able to secure its people, future and security, and to help make certain Afghanistan never again becomes a safe haven for terrorists. Although the Bonn conference has brought Afghanistan back into the spotlight, it is important to note that the UK needs to discuss its future plans in Afghanistan more regularly and more transparently.
It is fair to concede that some individuals have tried to resurface the issues in Afghanistan. For example, Shadow Foreign Secretary Douglas Alexander appropriately labelled Afghanistan “Britain’s invisible conflict.” Not only has he reminded us that the last time the Prime Minister made a statement on the conflict was at the beginning of July, but he also reminded us that the Foreign Office did not even reveal the UK’s detailed position going into the Bonn conference. Furthermore, General James Bucknall also recently claimed that the UK has made “an investment in blood” and cannot simply turn its back on the conflict.
Unfortunately, the current UK government is not being clear enough in vocalizing its plans. In Hague’s speech at the conference he stated that the UK will “not abandon Afghanistan,” that “Afghanistan’s friends will continue to support her [Afghanistan],” that there is a “clear framework for cooperation between the Afghan Government and the international community.” However, the vagueness of these comments only reinforces the uncertainty surrounding the whole conflict.
Thus, it seems a necessary UK strategy to help end the conflict in Afghanistan has not yet been made clear. With estimates saying that £4.5bn is needed each year by 2020 for the country to sustain its current levels of development, and with broad speeches claiming that the UK will ‘be there for Afghanistan as its friend,’ a concrete way out seems to be out of reach at the moment.
Unfortunately, attacks today in Kabul have further hindered the possibility of a strong UK strategy in Afghanistan. President Hamid Karzai’s scheduled visit to the UK was cancelled because of a sectarian attack that took place today at a crowded Kabul shrine. In response to this the UK foreign secretary William Hague stated that the UK’s long term commitment to Afghanistan will ‘not be undermined by such acts of terrorism.’
Therefore, although the Bonn conference can be seen as a progressive step towards bettering Afghanistan’s security, no clear steps, particularly by the UK, have been made to assure us of a clear enough strategy going forward.