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Politics & press news – Embassy 22 – January 2010

Afghan summit boosts resolve

London's diplomats were satisfied with the outcome of the Afghanistan Conference at which a military strategy, underpinned by a political process, was agreed.

At the gathering of 70 nations, more troops were pledged, complemented by boosting Afghan security forces from about 104,000 to 171,000 by October 2011.

Ambassadors, who had emphasised the need for a clear political strategy prior to the conference, were pleased with the commitment to a political process.

Talks with Taliban
An £86m 'reintegration fund' will be set up for low-level Taliban fighters who renounce violence and have no links to Al Qaeda.

President Karzai's announcement to open up a dialogue with the Taliban, within the framework of Afghanistan's constitution and mediated by Saudi King Abdullah, was also welcomed.

The High Commissioner for Pakistan told Embassy "every effort" should be made to address political issues "through dialogue". He stressed that the political process should be "steered" by the Afghan government with the international community lending its support.

Colombia, which successfully employed a similar strategy in its own war against insurgents, is the latest country to offer assistance. Colombian Ambassador Mauricio Rodriguez said the conference achieved "renewed and stronger commitment to  Afghanistan".

However, the Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal Al Saud said his government would only agree to broker talks if the Taliban severed its ties with terrorist organisations and refrained from giving sanctuary to Osama Bin Laden.

Concern over women
Women envoys also sounded a note of caution, stressing that the reintegration of the Taliban into mainstream Afghan politics should not come at the expense of women's rights in the country.

Rosalie Rivett, the chief executive of Women in Diplomatic Service, the professional association of senior women diplomats in London, urged Afghanistan's political leaders not to "overlook women".

She added that "progress in women's rights is national progress and this should be seriously considered with due sensitivity to culture and history."

"Too stage-managed"
Some diplomats remarked that the conference had been too carefully "stage-managed" in order to convey a united message that there was an exit strategy from the war, while glossing over the details.

"Whether these plans work and the Taliban plays along is another matter," said the diplomat.

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