» Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Afghanistan International Conference Letter

Asked when the letter from the Prime Minister, Chancellor Merkel and President Sarkozy to Ban Ki-Moon regarding an international conference on Afghanistan had been sent out, the PMS said that the letter had gone out in the last twenty-four hours.

Asked whether the conference would be an opportunity to discuss an exit strategy from Afghanistan, the PMS said that, as the Prime Minister made clear last week, exit strategies were very much linked to the whole process of Afghanisation, which would be a focal point for the conference. It was important to make sure that everyone understood how the resources on the ground would eventually enable Afghanistan to be able to return to its previous position. This was about making sure that all the relevant international partners were aware of our wish to hold this conference. The penultimate paragraph of the letter referenced the training of Afghanistan security forces and the importance of standing alongside the Afghan people and helping them achieve what they themselves were trying to do.

Put that the spirit of the letter was that the elections were done and dusted but that the PMS had previously said that we had to wait for the next stage until we drew any conclusions, the PMS said that one should not interpret the letter in that way; this letter was not intended to be infelicitous in any way, and it assumed that at some stage there would be a conclusive result to the elections. What the PMS had tried to explain before was that we always knew there would be bumps along the way given that this was the first election of its kind for thirty years. It was important that the national community looked beyond the elections and towards the rebuilding of Afghanistan.

Asked what benchmarks and timelines the letter to Ban Ki-Moon referred to, the PMS said that it would be premature to talk about details at this stage as the letter had only just gone out. It was important to know what we wanted to achieve at a micro level, but at this stage it was agenda setting rather than anything else.

Asked what inference we should draw from the fact that whoever drafted the letter didn t seem to be able to understand English very well and asked if the conference had been a German initiative, the PMS said that he had been trying to be helpful by circulating the letter and that the conference was a combined initiative.

Asked what the point of a joint initiative with Germany and France was, considering the fact that we were critical of them for not doing more to share the burden, the PMS said that we were in Afghanistan in significant numbers but both France and Germany were making appropriate contributions to the efforts. The war in Afghanistan should not be seen as just a UK or UK/US initiative, it was a NATO initiative, therefore all key players needed to be involved and that was what this conference was about; to make sure that people were bound into the next step.

Asked when the Prime Minister wanted the conference to take place, the PMS said we hoped it would take place by the end of this calendar year. There was also a possibility that the conference would be help in two stages; one part in Kabul (depending on security) and the other at a major international city.

Asked if we had offered to host the second part, the PMS said yes.

Put that the conference would not be able to go ahead until the election result was confirmed, the PMS said that we were talking about the end of the year so we had quite a while to go until we locked in the dates; we hoped that further progress would be made on the elections.

Asked what the Prime Minister hoped would be the outcome of the conference, the PMS said that it was early days; we were convening a conference but the full agenda had not yet been set. The Prime Minister felt very strongly that the process of Afghanisation was the most significant next step and that was something that would involve a lot of focus and thinking through in terms of how to build up the Afghan army, the police and the governance of the country. There were lots of things that needed to be done and an important part of the conference would be to set the benchmarks and timelines we had been discussing earlier. The letter was a confirmation of what had been agreed and more detail would follow in time.

Asked what the level of Government representation would be at the conference, the PMS said that it was too early to confirm, but it was likely to be Foreign Secretary level.

original source.

Briefing took place at 11:00 | Search for related news

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