Afghanistan faces a caesura: International combat troops to withdraw by 2014. The international community is refocusing its aid. But Kabul also has a duty, stressed Bonn conference on Afghanistan. Protests against the war in the Hindu Kush were held on the fringes of the conference.
Nothing is good in Afghanistan? President Hamid Karzai would not let the controversial statement by former Hanover bishop Margot Kabmann stand. At the Afghanistan conference in Bonn, he listed before the approximately 1.000 delegates successes of ten years:
Under the Taliban, women were completely excluded from public life, says Karzai.
Now, however, women make up 27 percent of the parliament and nearly 40 percent of the universities. Just under two-thirds of Afghans have access to health services – up from nine in 2002. 8.4 million children attend school – up from one million in 2002.
Continuing insecurity due to terror, corruption, widespread poverty
Exactly ten years after the first Afghanistan conference, progress in the Hindu Kush can be clearly measured. But the challenges have not diminished: Continued insecurity from terror, corruption, widespread poverty. Moreover, the meeting is overshadowed by the cancellation of Pakistan, which plays a key role in the region. The country stayed away in protest against a NATO air strike that killed 24 of its soldiers.
The international community is now looking for new answers to Afghanistan's problems. In 2001, decisions were made under the impact of the attacks on the World Trade Center on 11. September. The main ie was the establishment of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), with the reconstruction of Afghanistan's state and economy only a secondary concern.
This has changed fundamentally. There is no military, only a political solution for the country in the Hindu Kush, says German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle (FDP). Much of the foreign ministers' statements at the conference spoke of a "turning point" in international relations with Afghanistan: Security responsibility is to be handed over to the Afghans by 2014, and for the ten years after that, the world pledges support, especially in reconstruction and strengthening democratic structures. The final document speaks of a "decade of transformation".
It remains uncertain how much this will cost. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton makes clear, however, that the ie must be the effective use of resources – because the international community is also known to have financial problems. Concrete pledges are to be made at a donor conference in Tokyo in 2012.
Westerwelle coined a term for the way forward: "Mutual credible commitments". Support should only be given if Afghanistan also delivers. Karzai accordingly pledges a stronger fight against corruption and impunity, acknowledges deficits in governance and promises free and fair elections.
What sounds good does not convince everyone. It is important to commit the Afghan government to progress, says Thomas Ruttig of the Afghanistan Analyst Network: "But it has made such commitments at every conference so far, and at the same time the willingness to reform has tended to decline."
A generational task
Criticism of Karzai's conduct in office has been growing louder for some time – on the day of the conference, the "Bild" newspaper reported that he wanted to change the constitution and impose a third term after 2014, although a spokesman immediately denied this. Nevertheless:
Against the backdrop of such developments, Ruttig urges strengthening the role of civil society. It could be a "corrective" to the government and at the same time support it.
At least two representatives of Afghan civil society were able to speak to the plenum in Bonn – a first. Robert Lindner of the aid organization Oxfam sees the appearance of the two as a boost, even if it hardly goes beyond symbolism. How far the Bonn conference will go and what role civil society will be given in the future will only become clear in practice, he says. Lindner has his doubts that the "decade of transformation" will continue: "One could also speak of a generational task."
Opponents of war protest
The Afghanistan conference has been accompanied by several protests. About 70 opponents of war boarded a protest ship and passed the conference site several times on the Rhine River. They declared the intergovernmental conference "a failure from the outset". Already in the morning, the delegates were greeted with whistles and banners at the roadside. Throughout the weekend there had been rallies and protests. At a large demonstration on Saturday, around 4.500 participants took to the streets.
The peace activists are "representative of the entire peace movement and a broad majority opinion against the war in Afghanistan," said Manfred Stenner, executive director of the Peace Cooperation Network. "The peace movement was not present in the desired mass, but it was present in a substantive way," he said.
Strengthening women's rights
The general secretary of Pax Christi, Christine Hoffmann, criticized that the situation of Afghan women is too much out of the sight of politics. Women are threatened by sexual assaults by the police and a non-functioning judicial system. They would be in prison because they had to flee from domestic violence and could not claim their rights as laid down in the Afghan constitution. Here, too, the Afghanistan mission to enforce women's rights had not brought any improvement.
Peace and stability need the necessary conditions, explained Rainer Braun as one of the spokesmen of the protest alliance. This includes the immediate withdrawal of all intervention troops and an immediate ceasefire, support for civilian projects and dialogue with all parties involved in the conflict. If the Taliban, Afghanistan's ethnic groups and its immediate neighbors Iran, Pakistan, India and former Soviet republics such as Kazakhstan are not at the negotiating table, no real peace can emerge.
Compared to the large demonstration on Saturday, the rallies on the day of the conference were small. The police had been present since Friday with a total of 4.000 officers on duty. Numerous barriers caused traffic problems and traffic jams in the city center. Helicopters circled above the conference venue, the World Conference Center Bonn (WCCB). According to police, the protests were largely peaceful.