Presenting the report “Afghanistan : A Turning Point?”, Frank Cook of the United Kingdom said that 2009 is a defining year for the international effort in Afghanistan. He sees a sense of hope in the Afghan presidential elections, the high-level US focus on Afghanistan, and the impulses provided by the NATO Summit in Strasbourg and Kehl and the International Conference on Afghanistan in The Hague.
But he also highlighted the challenges facing Afghanistan : eroding security, increasing corruption, the corrosive narcotics economy, and Pakistani safe havens. He is concerned about the potential impact on NATO of the Americanization of the war, the absence of new long-term troop commitments by countries other than the United States and the emergence of national exit strategies. He underlined that civilian casualties are unacceptable and warned of the risks of displacing the insurgency from highly-contested areas to regions which have hitherto been relatively secure and peaceful.
These issues will be studied further for the final version of the report to be presented at the NATO Parliamentary Assembly’s Plenary Session in Edinburgh in November. Cook said the lessons learned by the Alliance in Afghanistan will be reflected in discussions of NATO’s new Strategic Concept, in which Assembly members are involved.
A valuable first-hand account of the situation in Afghanistan was provided by Gentilini, who came especially from Kabul to brief the Defence and Security Committee, after which he returned to the Afghan capital.
Presenting the report “Pakistan : Test of Trans-Atlantic Co-operation”, Mike Ross of the United States said “Pakistan is of considerable importance for regional and international security and…should be higher on the agenda of the international community, including NATO and the EU.” The report calls on the Pakistani authorities to act decisively to counter the deteriorating security situation and to prevent the Talibanisation of the country. But Ross recognized “that Pakistan ’s capabilities are limited and that the current situation poses significant foreign and security policy challenges which can only be addressed by co-operation between Pakistan, Afghanistan and the Allies.” The report proposes a comprehensive strategy combining a regional approach to stability which integrates developments in Pakistan, Afghanistan, and India; stronger support for democracy in Pakistan; and continued but conditional support for the Pakistani military.
Participating in the discussions on Afghanistan and Pakistan were delegations from the two countries’ parliaments. The Afghan delegation was led by Khalid Pashtoon and the Pakistani delegation by Farooq H. Naek, Chairman of the Pakistani Senate.