NATO's Senior Civilian Representative in Afghanistan looks forward to 2013 and beyond
This year marks a milestone in Afghanistan – the final areas marked for security transition will be handed over to Afghan lead. The transition process itself will run until the end of 2014.
But progress in Afghanistan will not just depend on security. NATO's Senior Civilian Representative in the country, Ambassador Maurits Jochems, says he recognises the fear many Afghans express that they are being abandoned. But he stresses that long-term commitment from the international community will remain past the 2014 mark.
The transition period really means that the Afghan political leaders, Afghans in general are in the lead in their own country. That's how it should be, so in that sense, the international community has to let go. That said, Afghanistan still needs support,” he told the NATO Channel in a recent interview.
Ambassador Jochems is no stranger to Afghanistan. He previously served as NATO’s interim Senior Civilian Representative in Afghanistan in 2008, which, like this year, was the prelude to presidential elections. He says the upcoming elections, in which current President Karzai cannot be re-elected, will be more important than the security transition.
“This is one of the litmus tests for the political transition. It's really up to the Afghan leaders, both in the government, but also outside of the government, to give confidence to the Afghan population that the political transition will lead to a peaceful outcome.”
There is still more work to be done in terms of improving Afghans' everyday lives, says Ambassador Jochems, but it's important not to forget what's been achieved in the last decade.
“There's still a lot to be done in the government providing basic services. But that said, in the past ten years a lot has been accomplished. I mean, eight million students are now going to school, of which three million are girls. Health services are now accessible, I think, to 85 per cent of the population within an hour of where they live. So, all these are accomplishments, which we should not forget.”
Enduring support for Afghanistan also has a figure to back it up. Some 16 billion US dollars were pledged at the Tokyo conference for the four years following 2014. While there are conditions for that support, Ambassador Jochems says Afghanistan will never stand alone.
“In terms of governance, things like, for example, corruption should be tackled better. And also on the human rights score, for example, the position of women is being looked at by the international community as one of the conditions to be fulfilled by the Afghan government, post 2014. Afghanistan should be on its own, but not alone, as they say.”