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Afghanistan: Another Diplomatic Conference, But What About Results?

A one-day event titled ‘Heart of Asia Ministerial Conference‘  was held in the Afghan capital, Kabul, on June 14, 2012, as part of the ongoing “Istanbul Process on Regional Security and Cooperation for a Secure and Stable Afghanistan.” On the Facebook page of a popular television show, netizen reactions to the initiative were tepid at best.

Representatives from 29 countries as well as from NATO, UN, and the European Union attended the conference which aimed to discuss the future of the war-torn country after the withdrawal of coalition troops in 2014.

In addition to regional strategies to combat terrorism and drug trafficking, tackle natural disasters, and strengthen trade and economic relations – all on the agenda of the conference – another issue dear to Afghan netizen hearts was raised at the conference – Pakistan.

The President of Afghanistan, Hamid Karzai, chaired the ‘Heart of Asia Ministerial Conference’ in Kabul. Image by Afghanistan's MFA, used with permission.

As delegates noted, in April 2012, a well coordinated attack was staged by militants in Kabul, which Washington blamed on the Haqqani network operating in Pakistan. That was then followed by a June 6 double suicide attack in Kandahar that US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta described as “much more organized than we've seen before”.

Even though Pakistan denies any support for Haqqani activities, it is still widely believed that the group’s leaders have strongholds in the semi-autonomous Pakistani border district of North Waziristan. A statement made by the Afghan President, Hamid Karzai, read that peace in Afghanistan could only be achieved via regional cooperation and destroying the safe havens of militant networks waging violence in his country. The Afghan leader expressed hope that Pakistan could help in this process.

Delegates at the ‘Heart of Asia Ministerial Conference’ were more blunt, stating ‘the need for joint and concerted efforts and cooperation among the regional countries to address the challenge of terrorism in all its forms and manifestations, including the dismantling of terrorist sanctuaries and safe havens.’

As a result of the one-day conference a declaration was issued where participants collectively called for enhancing regional cooperation to strengthen peace and security. The seventh article of the declaration reads:

We emphasize the importance of a political solution as the surest path to lasting peace in Afghanistan, and agree to actively facilitate the current Afghan-led process of reconciliation in Afghanistan. We endorse Afghanistan's efforts to reconcile the Taliban and other militant groups through an inclusive peace process that is based on the principles of renunciation of violence, cutting ties with all terrorist groups, preservation of Afghanistan's democratic achievements and respect for the Afghan Constitution, including its provisions for the human rights of men and women

Netizen reactions

Afghan netizens are no strangers to such grand statements of good intention and have seen a host of similar international forums fail to deliver improvements in the country's security situation. Following the conference, on June 14, the popular Afghan TV show ‘Kankash’ posted [fa] a question on its public page in Facebook asking people to express their opinions and share expectations of the conference for their country.

Discussion of the outcomes of the conference on the TV show Kankash's public Facebook page. Screenshot taken on June 18, 2012.

Responding to the question a Facebook user, Sayed Abdullah Ahmadi, said [fa]:

اگر دست اندرکاران دولت افغانستان از قبل برنامه ها و خواسته های مشخص خود از این کنفرانس را آماده کرده باشند و کنفرانس را به طرف خواسته های افغانستان رهبری نمایند نتیجه خوب خواهد بود. در غیر آن اگر رهبری کنفرانس غیر مستقیم به دست دیگران باشد و نماینده های افغانستان طرح و برنام مشخصی برای این نشست نداشته باشند نتیجه اش معلوم است. با توجه به تجربیات گذشته از نشستهای مشابه چنین میشود نتیجه گرفت که بیشترین سود از این نوع نشستها را کشورهای شرکت کننده منطقه میبرند – اگر چه به نام افغانستان و برای حمایت از افغانستان باشد- و کمتر اتفاق افتاده است که افغانستان از این نوع نشستها استفاده مطلوب نماید و نتیجه خوب بگیرد. امیدوارم که نتیجه خوب باشد و رهبری نشست در کل به دست نماینده های افغانستان باشد

If the government of Afghanistan in this conference will prepare a concrete program and will state its concrete desires then this conference could have some benefits and good results. However, if the conference is under the control of the other participating states, than it is obvious that the result will not be desirable. If we consider all the previous experiences with conferences held in the name of Afghanistan and in support [of Afghanistan] then we can notice that the biggest beneficiaries were other states. I hope [the outcome of] this conference will prove to be beneficial and Afghanistan will see the greatest advantages.

Another Facebook user, Parsa Kabuli, also responded [fa] to the question pessimistically:

 اګر نګاه کلی به شرایط افغانستان بیندازیم متوجه خواهید شد که با کسانی که امروز در دولت ما نقش دارند حتی اګر صدها نشست و صد سال دیګر هم کمک خارجی ها هم باشد هیچ کمکی به جامعه ما نمی کند

If we take a general look at the situation in Afghanistan today with all those people who presently are holding the power and have influence in the government, then we can notice that even a thousand more conferences and 100 more years of international support will bring no benefit for the country.

While Mujeeb Rahmani argued:

Till we don’t have a government without corruption and till we don’t have the right people for the right job I do not think that gatherings like today will work because the fund and support we are getting from international allies and partners won’t bring any changes to the lives of those people who are working so hard in order to survive and the current government do not respect their citizens rights as well. We are also expecting from our international partners to set a clear system of how to use and spend the funds so we Afghans see positive changes in our lives.

Another respondent, Faisal Amiri, blames [fa] the neighboring countries for Afghanistan's problems:

Pakistan namekhaya ke afghanistan pesh raft kuna. Pakistan az bain bobara United states of america bayat. kol e fesad dar Pakistan wa Iran ast….poshte qese mardom nabashen, ami kar ke shawa Afghanistan ba saw ye europe balk e azo europe kada ham khob mesha.

Pakistan doesn’t want Afghanistan to develop. United States of America should destroy Pakistan. The whole problem is in Pakistan and Iran….don’t think what people say, if it works Afghanistan not only will reach the level of Europe but rather will become better than Europe.

The next round of talks on the future of the war-torn country will be held in Tokyo in July and will focus on ways to ensure social progress such as governance, economic prospects, health and education in Afghanistan.

This post is part of the GV Central Asia Interns Project at the American University of Central Asia in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan.

1 comment

  • an

    Grandeur is a great things at such peace conferences, because thats what it is.But a little generousity could do more.First point women have been omitted from the list of speakers.Without them a country is not complete, without their voices.Its just about their voices, writing an article , taking part in a poll is really not that much.Can they do it?If they cant then why?Thats a question that has to be answered before the foreign participants take over.then the matter of censorship, who censors and what?And why?Then my favorite question why do they need firearms and who?

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