“Three British soldiers were killed last weekend at a police checkpoint in Helmand. In Tokyo this weekend, the international community will hold a conference to pledge billions of dollars for Afghanistan’s future. Is it worth it?
In a word, “Yes”. The international strategy for Afghanistan, summed-up by Hillary Clinton as “Fight, Build, Talk”, is working. But progress in Afghanistan is not yet irreversible. To make it so, one more verb needs to be added to “Fight, Build, Talk” - “Commit”.
The UK has already committed a great deal in both blood and treasure to Afghanistan since 2001. And these commitments have made a difference. The threat from Al-Qaeda operating from Afghanistan and Pakistan has been degraded. Where the Taleban once ruled through fear, there is now an elected Afghan Government who are gradually improving their ability to provide governance, services and justice for the Afghan people. The Afghan National Security Forces are more capable and taking more responsibility for security in more and more of the country, allowing international forces to move into a supporting role. Millions more children, including over two million girls, are now in school. Healthcare facilities are now available for 85% of the population. Afghanistan is no longer an international pariah.
To ensure Afghanistan continues on this positive trajectory, the commitment by the UK and international community needs to continue. The nature of the commitment will change. It is not large numbers of international troops that the Afghans need after 2014. Afghanistan does not yet generate enough revenue to meet its expenditure. The World Bank anticipates this funding gap will continue for a number of years after the withdrawal of international forces. Without international assistance Afghanistan will not be able to pay for its security, basic services and governance needs, which could have catastrophic consequences. The NATO summit in Chicago in May delivered commitments to guarantee Afghan security post 2014. At the Tokyo conference, the international community must do the same to guarantee Afghanistan’s economic position. The UK will continue to provide nearly £180m ($280m €224m) per year but in return the Afghan government must continue to deliver reforms to tackle corruption, ensure good governance and deliver for the people of Afghanistan.
As well as providing economic and security guarantees, Tokyo and Chicago are key elements of the peace process. By making these commitments, the international community will have done our job and set the political conditions for the Afghans - government, opposition and insurgency - to engage in meaningful peace talks and bring an end to decades of conflict.
That would be an outcome worthy of Guardsmen Apete Tuisovurua and Craig Roderick, Warrant Officer Class Two Leonard Thomas and all the British, Allied and Afghan soldiers and Afghan civilians who have lost their lives in this conflict. A stable Afghanistan means a safer world.”