Afghanistan to 2014 and beyond – Ask and Task
The Conference “Afghanistan to 2014 and beyond – Ask and Task” organised in Rome on 7-8 February 2013 by the NATO Defence College Foundation, in cooperation with IAI and NATO Defence College, convened experts from that country and its neighbourhood, as well as representatives from NATO, UN and EU.
The NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) deployed in Afghanistan since 2003 still represents the main military commitment for Allied governments, as well as the most demanding mission for NATO. The conference opening session analysed the state of the art of the transition process in Afghanistan, which is progressively transferring security responsibilities from NATO to Afghan armed forces and civilian authorities. Different views on the process path and effectiveness have been expressed, also considering the number of factors and actors relevant both at local and national level in Afghanistan.
The path to the end of 2014, when the ISAF mandate will expire and most NATO troops will be withdrawn from the country, has been explored by the second session of the conference. Also the post-2014 commitment by international community in Afghanistan has been discussed, including the need of economic support to the Afghan institutions and the NATO mission which will follow up ISAF to support Afghan military – for example in terms of intelligence, training and equipment. The next presidential elections will be crucial in shaping the post-2014 political equilibrium in Afghanistan, and will influence the fade of current talks with insurgents’ groups.
The regional dimension of Afghan transition has been considered crucial by panellists intervened in the third session. The attitude of Pakistan, Iran and Russia, but also of Turkey and India, may contribute to the stabilization or revive the ethnic conflicts in Afghanistan – whose population largely live close to the country’s borders and has always had strong ethnical, economic and religious ties with neighbouring countries. The scarce level of regional cooperation in Central Asia may represent a risk for Afghanistan’s future, particularly when the military commitment of NATO will be reduced, and the strategy of key actors in the region in this regard is not yet clear.
The stability and sustainability of Afghan state is deemed as a shared goal for the international community. It is widespread the view that Afghan institution, leaders and population will play a major role in defining the way forward for their country as they have the responsibility and the possibility to do so. However, it has also be re-stated that international organizations, states and the private sector including civil society groups, have a key role to play by anchoring Afghanistan to the international community and globalized society, in order prevent a setback to a situation of civil war.