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Kabul Conference Endorses 2014 Afghan Security Takeover

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Representatives from countries around the world and international organizations have met in Kabul at a major donor conference for Afghanistan and endorsed the Afghan government's plan to take charge of security by 2014.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai told donors at the international conference in Kabul Tuesday that his government is moving in the right direction to take control of Afghanistan's destiny.

Representatives from more than 60 countries and organizations also backed President Karzai's call for the international community to channel at least 50 percent of development aid through the Afghan government.  More than $40 billion has been spent on Afghanistan since 2001.

"I remain determined that our Afghan National Security Forces will be responsible for all military and law enforcement operations throughout our country by 2014,"  Karzai said.

Record violence

Violence in Afghanistan has reached record levels in recent months.  There are around 140,000 troops from the US and NATO in Afghanistan, and NATO officials predict more to arrive soon.

President Karzai told the delegates he has a plan to legitimize his country's forces in the Afghan people's eyes in order to more effectively take control.

"I am therefore assigning priority to reforming and reorganizing our prison system, reviewing procedures for investigating alleged crimes by the state for special appeals and for the cases of detention without trial for citizens," he said.

Accomplishments

The donor conference in Kabul was the largest international meeting in Afghanistan since the 1970s.  Security was tight in the capital.  Coalition forces battled insurgents near Kabul the night before, but the conference proceeded peacefully.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon co-chaired the event with President Karzai.  Mr. Ban credited the Afghan government for making advancements since the last major donor conference six months ago in London.

"We recognize that the journey from London to Kabul is measured in more than miles, it is measured in the progress that you have made in delivering on the London commitment," he said.

At the previous conference, President Karzai pledged a commitment to improve security, governance and economic opportunities for Afghans.  Donor countries pledged to channel more resources through the Afghan government's budget.  

Since then, President Karzai pursued a national consensus through a traditional gathering called a jirga in June.  He also has requested the international community set up a joint commission with his government to investigate corruption.

Impact

Analysts say while there is still work to be done, the Kabul conference was President Karzai's chance to show the international community his government is ready.

Recently, many coalition partners have voiced their desire to begin transferring security control to the Afghan forces.  U.S. officials say they hope to start withdrawing forces next July.

But U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told delegates at the conference that this transition is not an ending, but rather, a new beginning.

"We have no intention of abandoning our long-term mission of achieving the kind of Afghanistan that President Karzai set forth in his speech," Clinton siad.

She added the United States intends to continue its economic assistance and training of Afghan security forces for a long time to come.

Support

Regional experts say the Afghan Taliban was able to rise to power in the 1990s after the Soviets withdrew from Afghanistan and the United States largely pulled out of the region.

During the conference, international donors also voiced their support for President Karzai's offer to reconcile and reintegrate elements of the Taliban who lay down their weapons, support the constitution and cut ties with terrorist organizations.

Related video report by Robert Raffaele:

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