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Bonn Conference: NATO will not abandon Afghanistan...
Bonn Conference: NATO will not abandon Afghanistan
On 5 December some 90 delegations from across the globe will meet in Bonn, Germany, to discuss Afghanistan. The conference takes place exactly ten years after the first Bonn Conference which set the framework for the recreation of the Afghan state in 2001. I expect this second Bonn meeting to deliver a strong confirmation of support for Afghanistan, not just until 2014 when ISAF's combat mission will come to an end, but afterwards as well.

This is important because even after the Afghan army and police have taken over control of the country's security, Afghanistan will not be able to manage without help. After all, it is one of the world's poorest countries - ravaged by thirty years of conflict which has destroyed infrastructure and institutions. So the international community will need to underwrite the costs of Afghan's security, including funding its army and police. Afghanistan will also need substantial amounts of development support - it is a tragedy that 19% of Afghan children die before their fifth birthday.

The Bonn Conference will be the occasion for countries to agree that they will take on this burden. Once we have this broad agreement, there will be meetings in 2012 at which further details of this support can be worked out: including the NATO Summit meeting in Chicago in May which will be a key step in defining NATO's partnership with Afghanistan beyond 2014 and how Afghan's security costs will be met.

Fortunately, the costs the international community will need to meet will be a fraction of the costs we bear at the moment because of the presence of so many ISAF troops in Afghanistan. Nor will our commitment be open-ended: the US Geological Service estimates that Afghanistan has mineral reserves worth over $900 billion - work is underway to begin their exploitation.

So the Bonn Conference will be a chance for us to look forward to our long-term partnership with Afghanistan. But I hope that we will also take a moment to look back at what has been achieved since the first Bonn Conference ten years ago. Since then, GDP per head has risen from $180 to $530. Infrastructure improvements mean that Afghans can travel between cities at a quarter of the time it took in 2001. There is better access to electricity, to telecommunications, to education and to health services.

There is still a long way to go. But Afghanistan is moving in the right direction. We will not abandon Afghanistan after our combat troops leave. Bonn will be the time to make that clear.

Ambassador Simon Gass is the NATO Senior Civilian Representative in Afghanistan.
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