International community entails firm mutual commitments in the areas of governance, security, the peace process, economic and social development, and regional cooperation,”

A major conference Monday on Afghanistan’s future after NATO combat troops leave in 2014 pledged sustained support for another decade, in exchange for clear progress on good governance.

Participants including US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon vowed to stand by Afghanistan as it struggles to establish security and stability. “This renewed partnership between Afghanistan and the international community entails firm mutual commitments in the areas of governance, security, the peace process, economic and social development, and regional cooperation,” the conference’s final conclusions said.

“The protection of civilians, strengthening the rule of law and the fight against corruption in all its forms remain key priorities.” President Hamid Karzai told around 1,000 delegates gathered in the western German city of Bonn for the one-day meeting that his government needed long-term international backing. “We will need your steadfast support for at least another decade” after the troops pull out, he said.

Pakistan and the Taliban – both seen as pivotal to any end to the bloody strife in Afghanistan a decade on – decided to stay away from Bonn, dampening already modest hopes for real progress. Some 140,000 international troops are in Afghanistan, and all NATO-led combat forces are due to leave by the end of 2014, when Kabul will assume responsibility for the country’s security.

The event’s host, German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle, insisted there would be no rush to the exit, even as a looming global recession threatens to distract the West from the enormous challenges facing the strife-wracked nation. “We send a clear message to the people of Afghanistan: we will not leave you alone, you will not be abandoned,” he said, pledging help in comments echoed by Merkel in a brief address.

Clinton announced the United States was ending a freeze on hundreds of millions of dollars in development funds due to financial reforms by Kabul. Officials said Washington took its cue from the International Monetary Fund’s decision last month to approve a new loan for Afghanistan after a year of difficult talks stalled by the massive Kabul Bank scandal.

Clinton lamented the boycott in her speech to the conference. “The entire region has a stake in Afghanistan’s future and much to lose if the country again becomes a source of terrorism and instability – and that is why we would of course have benefited from Pakistan’s contribution to this conference,” she said.

“We continue to believe that Pakistan has a crucial role to play,” she told reporters later, adding that she was encouraged by remarks by a Pakistani government official that it will continue cooperation, including in the fight against terrorism. In a conciliatory gesture, the conference made special note of the strain on Pakistan and Iran in dealing with refugees from the war-ravaged country. “We acknowledge the burden of Afghanistan’s neighbours, in particular Pakistan and Iran, in providing temporary refuge to millions of Afghans in difficult times and are committed to further work towards their voluntary, safe and orderly return,” the conclusions said.

The Taliban, leaders of the country’s, decade-long insurgency, also stayed away from Bonn, saying the meeting would “further ensnare Afghanistan into the flames of occupation”. Karzai insisted he remained open to talks. “The political process will continue to be inclusive, open to Taliban and other militants who denounce violence, break ties with international terrorism, accept the Afghan constitution and defend peaceful life,” he said.

Clinton said the US was ready to support Afghanistan over the long haul but the country must carry through on reforms, take responsibility for its own security and build a democracy rooted in the rule of law, She added that the US would resume paying into a World Bank-administered trust fund for Afghanistan, a decision that US officials said would allow for the disbursement of roughly $650 million to $700 million in suspended US aid.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel told the conference that reconciliation – a term used to refer to talks among different Afghan groups as well as with insurgents – remained an important part of efforts to stabilise Afghanistan. “The political process will have great importance in future, this is the place where the questions of reconciliation and power sharing must be solved in a way that includes all parts and ethnic groups of the society,” she said.

British Foreign Secretary William Hague reiterated that any settlement with insurgents would require them to renounce violence, sever ties with al Qaeda and respect the Afghan constitution — “end conditions” which some argue effectively close the door to talks by determining the outcome in advance.

Indian Foreign Minister SM Krishna, whose country became the first to sign a strategic partnership agreement with Afghanistan, pledged India would keep up its heavy investment in a country whose mineral wealth and trade routes made it “a land of opportunity”.

Iran’s Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi Monday reiterated Iran’s opposition to the US keeping some forces in Afghanistan after 2014. “Certain Western countries seek to extend their military presence in Afghanistan beyond 2014 by maintaining their military bases there. We deem such an approach to be contradictory to efforts to sustain stability and security in Afghanistan,” he told the conference.

Spell Bounder

I'm journalist in Pakistan,And working in this field about 20 years.