Bucharest, 8 October 2011- NATO PARLIAMENTARIANS STRESS NEED FOR REGIONAL ENGAGEMENT IN AFGHAN SOLUTION
NATO’s commitment to Afghanistan after the Alliance winds down its frontline military mission from 2014 must include the development of closer ties with the country’s neighbours to build stability in the wider region, members of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly said Saturday.
"It will not be sufficient to focus our energy on Afghanistan alone", said Danish lawmaker John Dyrby Paulsen. "Instead we have to engage the whole region in demonstrating our lasting engagement and intentions for the future."
Afghanistanwas a dominant theme on the second day at the Parliamentary Assembly’s annual session on with several legislators stressing the importance of NATO’s continued engagement to the country after 2014.
Paulsen presented a report on the regional context to the Assembly’s Political Committee.
"As an alliance it is important for us not to commit the same mistakes that were made in the early ‘90s and disengage from the region prematurely," he insisted. "We need to articulate a vision of a secure and stable Afghanistan… we need to demonstrate to the Afghan people in clear and unambiguous terms our commitment to assist Afghan governance, development and reform."
The Assembly, which is comprised of over 250 parliamentarians from the 28 NATO nations, is scheduled to adopt a declaration on Monday urging allied governments to sustain international assistance beyond 2014 and strengthen political dialogue with neighbouring countries, particularly Pakistan.
Underscoring the difficulties, there was a pointed exchange between Afghan and Pakistani lawmakers invited to attend the session. Head of the Afghan delegation Khalid Pashtoon blamed Pakistan for granting safe havens for the Taliban. "This is not something the Pakistanis can deny, everybody knows that. For God’s sake, for one month, if you wanted to experiment, to stop interfering in Afghanistan, the security will return, I guarantee that,’’ he said.
Nawabzada Malik Amad Khan, Member of the National Assembly of Pakistan, replied that his country’s efforts to combat the Taliban went largely unrecognized even though the country has suffered 35,000 casualties in the struggle against the militants.
"Pakistan’s concerns should be given due consideration and Pakistan’s sacrifices should also be given due consideration, that would make our work easier," he told the committee. Amad Khan said NATO could help by stepping up controls by its troops on the Afghan side of the border and by stopping the flowof funds from militant networks based in Europe and North America which he said were fueling the insurgency.
The need for a regional settlement that involves both Pakistan and Iran, was the top priority for Afghanistan listed by Sultan Barakat, Director of the Post-war Reconstruction and Development Unit at York University.
Barakat presented the Assembly’s Economic and Security Committee with in-depth analysis ofAfghanistan’s most pressing needs which also included improvements in the rule of law, political reform, an economic development programme that favours the poorest Afghans and the launch of an effective peace and reconciliation process.
He presented a mixed picture of the country’s situation 10 years after the American-led invasion which overturned the Taliban government in 2001 with "a lot to be proud of" in health, education and economic development, but a worsening governance and security crisis.