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Central & South Asia
Afghan handover plan endorsed
Afghan president sets timeline for Afghan forces to take over at conference in Kabul.
Last Modified: 20 Jul 2010 15:51 GMT
Karzai and Clinton toured a market in Kabul after delivering their opening speeches [AFP]

Hamid Karzai, the Afghan president, has received international backing for plans that would see Afghan forces to take over security across the country in four years.

Karzai outlined the plans at an international conference in Kabul attended by ministers and diplomats from around the world.

"I remain determined that our Afghan national security forces will be responsible for all military and law enforcement operations throughout our country by 2014," Karzai told delegates at the meeting in the Afghan capital.

It was the ninth conference on Afghanistan since the US-led war began there in 2001. 

After hearing Karzai's speak, international leaders offered support for the plans he had outlined.

Hillary Clinton, the US secretary of state, described the plan as "comprehensive" and said the conference marked a "turning point," while David Cameron, the British prime minister, said plans for a transition in four years were "realistic".

'Conditions, not calendars'

Ban Ki-Moon, the UN secretary-general who chaired the conference with Karzai, said the final communique reflected the determination of the international community. "Now we must focus all our energies on making this vision a reality," he said.

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Meanwhile, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, the Nato secretary-general, said Nato would not withdraw from Afghanistan until Afghan security forces were able to provide their own security.

"Our mission will end when, only when, the Afghans are able to maintain security on their own," he said.

"Our transition will be based on conditions, not calendars."

In an interview with Al Jazeera, Rasmussen said he would not outline a timeline for when Nato forces might start to withdraw, or which provinces they would exit first.

Delegates had been expected to press Karzai to accelerate and improve the training of the Afghan army and police, to facilitate the withdrawal of thousands of Nato troops serving in the country.

Projects and programmes

Karzai also asked international donors to give his government more control over billions of dollars in aid. More than three-quarters of Afghan aid money is spent by NGOs and other organisations, not by the Afghan government.

The Afghan government wants 50 per cent of aid to be channeled through ministries in the next two years.

Nato secretary-general Anders Fogh Rasmussen talks to Al Jazeera's James Bays

"Delivering our resources through hundreds of isolated projects will not achieve the desired results," Karzai said. "It is time to concentrate our efforts on a limited number of projects and programmes."

Also high on the agenda at the conference was Karzai's plan to offer jobs and cash to Taliban members in exchange for them laying down their weapons.

That plan was endorsed at the last major conference on Afghanistan, held in London in January.

Clinton said the United States has seen "positive steps" from Karzai's outreach to insurgents.

Omar Zakhilwal, the Afghan finance minister, presented a list of "national priority programmes," which will be the focus for international aid efforts. He pledged to create 300,000 new jobs over three years through agricultural programmes; to expand women's access to education; and to create infrastructure to tap into Afghanistan's billions of dollars in mineral wealth.

"We are expecting your full support and alignment," Zakhilwal said.

'Concrete steps'

Ban Ki-moon, the United Nations secretary-general, has called for the Afghan president to unveil "concrete" steps to improve governance and promote national reconciliation.

"We expect President Karzai and his government would come up with a concrete action plan... about the way to enhance good governance, promote further reconciliation and also how he can improve the security situation in his country," Ban told the AFP news agency.

Karzai said the Afghan government currently has enough aid funding for the next three years. And Hillary Clinton, the US secretary of state, promised a lengthy international commitment to rebuilding Afghanistan.

"We have no intention of abandoning our long-term vision," Clinton said. "Too many nations... have suffered too many losses to let this country slide backwards."

Clinton arrived in the Afghan capital late on Monday, following a visit to neighbouring Pakistan. On that leg of the trip, Clinton announced the first part of a $7.5bn aid package for the country, including funds for energy and water projects.

Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
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