Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Looking forward in Afghanistan - FCO Blogger Simon Shercliff

Simon Shercliff, First Secretary Foreign Security and Policy Washington

Nearly there now - the Afghan Presidential and Provincial Council elections happen on Thursday this week. Plenty has been said and written about them already, so I will not add much more here. Suffice to say that President Obama has often described these elections as "the most important event in Afghanistan this year".

They are hugely important, for us all - elections that are perceived by the Afghan people as credible, inclusive and secure will provide momentum to the task that we are all engaged in: helping Afghanistan stand on its own as a self-confident, robust state which can repel the likes of Al Qaida from ever again taking root in their country. In spite of the mood of intimidation which the Taliban are trying desprately to forge (including those two terrible suicide attacks in Kabul over the last couple of days), I hope that the Afghan people will participate wholeheartedly, and with optimism that these elections will help them along their difficult path.

In addressing the ongoing insurgency and forthcoming elections, David Miliband wrote Monday in the Daily Telegraph that "whether military breakthroughs are translated into strategic success depends on politics". Essentially this means that "only legitimate, clean and competent Afghan government, recognising local tribal structures as well as national democratic ones, can provide an alternative focus for loyalty [for the Afghan people].

Effective protection and a better life is the best way to keep the insurgency at bay". And once the elections are over, that "there are three priorities for the new government if it is to defeat the insurgency and build a more stable and prosperous state".

These are:
  • a clear determination to protect the interests of ordinary Afghans - this means better governance.
  • a strategy to reconcile and reintegrate insurgents prepared to give up violence.
  • better cooperation with Afghanistan's neighbours, particularly Pakistan.

He concludes that "the next Afghan government has a duty to show its determination to root out corruption, the dedication to build a state that properly protects its people and the vision to build an inclusive political settlement. In that work they deserve strong international support. Britain's job is to be part of that effort".

Readers might like to link through to this new site just published by the British Government's Afghan unit in London. It pulls together all of our relevant material on the forthcoming Afghan elections, plus further links to other interesting articles, including a blog by Lisa Bandari, one of my political officer colleagues out in the British Embassy in Kabul, who has been following the elections build-up closely for several months.

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