EU Urged to Show Long Term Support for Afghanistan

A recent debate in Brussels between European and Afghan policymakers, civil society leaders and security specialists has seen a call for EU support to Afghanistan to continue following the withdrawal of international troops from the country. 

Afghan MP Shenkai Zahen Karokhil, who spoke at the event organised by the Security and Defence Agenda and Friends of Europe, shared her fears that "the international community lacks an interest in the long-term support of Afghanistan".  With Nato international security and assistance (Isaf) forces set to withdraw in 2014, and presidential and provincial elections taking place in the same year, Afghanistan faces a complicated array of security, development, and economic challenges. 

For Karokhil, "the upcoming elections are not only crucial for the country, but in particular for its women", and called upon the EU and the wider international community to send technical support to help set up and carry out free and open elections. Although she accepted that dealing with the security situation caused by the Taliban was the main concern for the international community, Karokhil called for more support for democratic institutions, and especially for women's rights. However, she warned against the international community pushing through a "speedy peace process with the Taliban which could fall apart quickly", once international troops had withdrawn.

Fellow Afghan MP Farkhunda Zahra Naderi also stressed the importance of the elections and she called upon the EU and the international community to continue supporting women's rights in the country post-2014. "A lot has been achieved for women's rights, but it is very fragile and needs much international support", she told delegates.

Chief of staff to the governor of Afghanistan's Nangarhar province Massood Azizi told delegates that, despite the negative media reports coming out of his country, much progress had been made since 2002. He accepted the country faced many challenges but he was "very positive for the future of Afghanistan."  

Hamid Saboory founder of the Afghanistan analysis and awareness programme also shared Azizi's positive outlook. Reflecting the progress Afghanistan has made politically, he said that Afghan tribal leaders, instead of taking power through violence, "now spoke of creating political coalitions."  Though he accepted casualties were high among Afghan soldiers when fighting the Taliban, "on a positive note this reflected a genuine sense of Afghans taking responsibility for their own security". However, he underlined that he did not want all international troops to leave immediately, but rather wanted to see a "proper and strategic transition, where all the gains of the last 10 years were not allowed to be lost".

All the Afghan delegates stressed the important role the EU needed to play post 2014. Although Hekmat Karzai, director of the centre for conflict and peace studies, welcomed the departure of international troops, he stressed that "the EU still has a major role to play in building up Afghanistan's defence". In particular he highlighted the need for training and advice for the Afghan army to shift from just tackling counter insurgency and terrorism threats to developing a force capable of securing Afghanistan's borders.

Other security capabilities in which the EU could help Afghanistan include assistance in medical evacuation of wounded soldiers, logistical support, and building up the capabilities of the country's air force. Additionally, in meetings with EU leaders in Brussels, he requested an additional €300m in aid to build up Afghanistan's military capabilities. Massood Azizi, meanwhile, also called on the EU to invest in education and schemes that create jobs for young people, and also wanted to see better trade relations with the EU, including more European countries investing in Afghanistan, particularly in relation to exploiting valuable materials. He concluded by calling on the EU and Nato to assist Afghanistan in its transition to peace. "After 12 years of war, there has been little to show for the violence, it is important that negotiations should start." 


Originally published at

Photo by bitospud.

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