Pledges of support mark Bonn’s success
About 100 countries and international organizations were represented among the 1000 delegates in Bonn, Germany, where Afghanistan received pledges of sustained support for a decade after NATO combat troops leave in 2014, on the condition that it continue to make clear progress on good governance. However, the event was overshadowed by Pakistan’s absence.
The many pledges of support mean that the conference has been successful in negotiating and assuring Afghanistan’s future, despite the difficulties that were expected to impair the international community’s willingness and ability to do so. In the words of German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle, this is a “clear message to the people of Afghanistan: we will not leave you alone, you will not be abandoned,” even as a global recession threatens to distract the West from the challenges facing the nation.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi were among those who vowed they would back Afghanistan in the coming years.
“We have no illusions about the enormous obstacles that remain ahead in Afghanistan,” Clinton acknowledged, and warned that the international community has “much to lose if the country again becomes a source of terrorism and instability.”
Echoing her sentiments, Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi emphasised that “peace and stability in Afghanistan is crucial to the peace and stability of the region and beyond.” He expressed China’s wish that the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) play a bigger role in Afghanistan’s peace and reconstruction process, signalling continued Chinese engagement with the region.
China has helped Afghan reconstruction since late 2001, and has offered at least $2.5 billion in aid to Kabul since 2002. Yang Jiechi’s speech followed immediately after that of US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, an arrangement which highlights the international community’s high hopes that China can play a role in Afghanistan’s recovery and transition to a normal state.
The Afghan government is “very satisfied with the outcome” of the Bonn conference and was glad for the “commitment of strong support and assistance” for the difficult times ahead.
Report: Bonn conference pledges long-term help for Afghanistan [Channel News Asia, 6 December 2011]
Report: SCO can play ‘bigger role’ in Afghanistan [China Daily, 6 December 2011]
Report: Taliban could return, Karzai warns Bonn Conference [CNN, December 5, 2011]
Pakistan’s Absence, Opposition to Bonn
The success of the Bonn conference was achieved despite the shadow cast by Pakistan’s absence from the event. Pakistan said it boycotted the conference to send a message and “assure the importance of its sovereignty.”
Various Pakistani news sites and their comments on the Bonn conference betray a deeper mistrust of especially US motives in the Bonn conference, which is seen as an attempt to destabilise Pakistan through Afghanistan and India. Professor Mohammad Ibraheem Khan of the Jamaat-e-Islami party of Pakistan said that the only solution to the Afghan imbroglio was early withdrawal of the occupation troops from the country. The Jamaat-e-Islami has since adopted a unanimous resolution demanding that the Pakistani government permanently close off NATO supply lines and immediately quit the so-called war against terrorism led by the US.
Delegates like Clinton and Yang commented upon Pakistan’s absence from Bonn, expressing their regret and their belief in Pakistan’s centrality to ensuring the stability of the region. The conference’s conclusions made the conciliatory gesture of noting the strain on Pakistan and Iran in dealing with refugees from Afghanistan. Pakistan has expressed its support for continued Afghan recovery and development.
Report: Bonn moot insignificant: JI [The News International, 6 December 2011]
Commentary: US interests thwart Bonn conference aims [Pakistan Observer, 2011]