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Turkey Hosts Regional Summit on Afghanistan

  • Dorian Jones

Turkey this week hosted a regional summit to discuss ways to support Afghanistan. The meeting comes before a conference hosted by Britain on January 28 in a bid to rebuild momentum for political reform in Afghanistan.

The two-day meeting brought together several international businessmen working in Afghanistan.

The private sector is playing a key role in helping rebuild the country after last year's controversial elections and widespread allegations of corruption.

Turkish construction contractor Hakan Unsal has worked on several projects sponsored by European countries.

Addressing the meeting, he painted a grim picture.

"In 2003, we had less resources and more development," said Hakan Unsal. "We had less soldiers and more security. In 2010, we have more resources and less development . We have soldiers, but less security. Our approach to Afghanistan needs to change. Whether its in the security field, whether its in development logistics, it needs to change."

Former Turkish foreign minister Hikmet Cetin was the former NATO senior civilian representative for Afghanistan. He says development is key to winning the war, but argues that success in the country requires a change in how forces deal with the Taliban.

"You cannot get rid of them by just killing them," said Hikmet Cetin. "If they agree to accept the constitution to accept the new set up in Afghanistan and then of course with the exception of the criminal one or the top leader of course it is quite possible to reconcile. But there is no strategy yet. I hope during this London conference and later on they will be able to find the political solution as well."

Several businessmen at the meeting agreed that success in Afghanistan meant showing that there was a clear strategy in place and that strategy must be led by the Afghan government.

There were some voices of optimism, with many of the contributors speaking of Afghanistan's vast economic potential.

Unsal agrees.

"Afghanistan is not a poor country," he said. "It has gold, silver and copper mines. It has oil and gas. Afghanistan is a rich country. If you cannot develop the economy the soldiers cannot fight this war alone."

While the United States and its allies are moving up to 40,000 additional troops into Afghanistan, a succession of senior military officers and intelligence analysts has warned that time is running out. The Taliban has already set up its own institutions of government, including courts, and even its own style of ombudsmen in areas under its control.

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