European Leaders Want Meeting on Afghanistan
European leaders under mounting public pressure, are calling for a conference on the future of Afghanistan, and their involvement in the conflict and peace keeping operation. Could their be worse time for this? What Afghanistan needs at the moment is backing and support. The Taliban are giving the allied forces a real fight. This is the time to show we are committed to making Afghanistan a safe, working country, not what the war torn regions it is today. It must be hard for politicians to offer goals that will hopefully be achieved after their terms in government are over. But for the fight against terrorism Afghanistan is a conflict that really needs to be won.
The leaders of France, Britain and Germany have called for a high-level international conference on Afghanistan, saying it is time to "take stock of progress . . . and to evaluate the challenges that lie ahead."
In a letter to U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, the leaders said the conference, which they suggested take place outside Afghanistan under U.N. and Afghan sponsorship, would facilitate agreement on "new benchmarks and timelines" for gradually turning responsibility for the country over to Afghans.
The letter, dated Tuesday and released Wednesday by the office of French President Nicolas Sarkozy, coincides with growing European concern about the direction and objectives of the international enterprise in Afghanistan. It clearly suggested that decisions should not be left solely to the United States, which fields about two-thirds of the nearly 100,000 foreign troops there.
Antiwar sentiment is strongest in Britain, where Prime Minister Gordon Brown last week delivered a major speech designed "to take head-on the arguments that suggest our strategy in Afghanistan is wrong and to answer those who question whether we should be in Afghanistan at all." In addition to Brown and Sarkozy, the letter was signed by Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany, where opposition has been fueled by an airstrike in northern Afghanistan last week that was initiated by German troops and that killed an unknown number of civilians.
In remarks prepared for delivery Wednesday at a military ceremony in Norfolk, Va., NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen expressed concern "that the public discourse on the effort in Afghanistan has started to go in the wrong direction," the Associated Press reported from Brussels.
No date was set for the proposed meeting of foreign ministers, although the leaders' letter said it should take place "before the end of this year right after the inauguration of the new Afghan government."