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London conference marks beginning of Afghan transition, says Brown

IRNA - Islamic Republic News Agency

London, Jan 28, IRNA -- The London conference on Afghanistan marks the beginning of the process of transition from international to Afghan control after a “difficult year,” British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said Thursday.

Addressing delegates from some 68 countries and international organisations at the opening of the one-day international conference, Brown said it was a "decisive time" for the future of Afghanistan.

"By the middle of next year, we have to turn the tide in the fight against the insurgency," he said, insisting that the western military surge was “turning the tide” against the Taliban-led insurgency.

“The balance will continue to shift to Afghan security control,” said Brown. The total number of Afghan police and military would rise to 300,000 by 2011, while there would be 135,000 foreign troops in the country.

But speaking ahead of the conference, Afghan President Hamid Karzai said that British troops could remain in Afghanistan for another 15 years.

Although Afghan police and soldiers could be trained and equipped within five to 10 years, "sustaining" them would take longer, Karzai said.

In an interview with the BBC, he suggested that the conference will emerge with a "clear agenda" for the next five years, and said Afghanistan would try its best to meet its end of the security bargain.

The outgoing UN Special Representative to Afghanistan, Kai Eide, cautioned that the Afghan military strategy would be doomed without big changes.

The international community must stop operating according to “strategies and decisions that are taken far away from Afghanistan,” Eide told the Times newspaper.

He warned that the military focus was at the expense of a “meaningful, Afghan-led political strategy” and that Western troops and governments had left Afghans feeling that they faced “cultural invasion.”

A main focus of the conference was the debate of trying to bring Taliban into the reconciliation process and controversy over the establishment of a "reintegration fund", which is likely to be controlled by Karzai's government.

Nato's new top civilian representative in Afghanistan has warned that a lasting peace will require talking to some "pretty unsavoury characters" with appalling human rights records, and bringing them within the Afghan political system administration.

The alternative “if you don't bring them within the system in some way,” Mark Sedwill warned, “you risk whatever fragile peace you build falling apart."

Sedwill, Britain’s former ambassador to Kabul, said that refusing to deal with Taliban leaders because of their past would be hypocritical when there were warlords responsible for "appalling abuses" in the government camp.

“We have got to be careful not to be making hypocritical moral judgements and saying one group are absolutely beyond the pale,” he said at London’s Frontline Club on Wednesday night.

The conference was being divided into three sessions, on security, governance and development and regional framework/international architecture before concluding with a general debate.

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End News / IRNA / News Code 925043



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