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Afghanistan Compact Hits Snags One Year After Signing

In a statement issued in Berlin Wednesday, Afghanistan and its international donor partners called for stepped-up efforts to restore security and strengthen governance in Afghanistan. At a conference in London one year ago, Afghanistan and the donor countries agreed to a so-called Afghanistan Compact - a five-year plan of objectives for Afghanistan's post-Taleban government. As VOA correspondent Gary Thomas reports, the plan has run into some roadblocks.

A number of independent analysts say that in its first year of implementation, the Afghanistan Compact is in trouble.

The Compact is a five-year plan that lays down benchmarks for the Afghan government to reach. When the Afghanistan Compact was signed, some 60 nations and international organizations pledged to provide resources to enable the Afghan government to reach those goals.

Mark Schneider, senior vice president of the International Crisis Group, a research institution on world trouble spots, says the Compact is endangered by the unexpected resurgence of the Taleban and a lackluster performance by the Afghan government of President Hamid Karzai.

"The surge in the insurgency has made it more difficult to carry out the development projects that are absolutely essential in terms of the areas that are critical to the Compact, that is, governance, rule of law and human rights, and social and economic development," he said.

Michael Williams, director of the Transatlantic Program at the Royal United Services Institute for Defense and Security Studies in London, says the international promises of help have not lived up to the rhetoric.

"Well, I think there has been progress," he said. "But I would argue that in comparison with other post-conflict reconstruction scenarios, Afghanistan has been widely neglected. And there is a lot of rhetoric in London, a lot of money promised that never has materialized, a lot of troop commitments that have been promised that have been lacking. And so this has overall put the mission behind schedule and endangered, sort of, the future developments."

Analysts say that because of the slow pace of aid the Karzai government has been unable to deliver services to many areas, fuelling disappointment among the population. The International Crisis Group's Mark Schneider says poor services and rampant corruption have dashed the aspirations of many Afghans who hoped for a better life after the Taleban was driven from power in 2001.

"You can say, 'Well, it's only five years.' But five years is a long time for a population that saw an end to the Taleban as the beginning of their new future," he said. "And then there's frustration when that doesn't get translated into immediate changes. They don't want to see that same warlord in power. They don't want to see a corrupt police chief. And there has not been sufficient change."

On January 26, the Bush administration announced it would ask Congress for an additional $10.6 billion in aid for Afghanistan, $9 billion of which would go to security assistance. Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Nicholas Burns said NATO must also do more to counter the insurgency.

"We are doing this because we want to win in Afghanistan and we intend to win," he said. "And we believe that the endeavor there is one that requires a greater effort by the United States and by its NATO allies. And as I said before, we're doing it because we do expect a high level of intensity of fighting, which we have seen over the last six to eight months, to continue."

Kamran Bokhari, a senior Middle East analyst at the private intelligence company Stratfor, has just returned from a three-week trip to the region where he met key officials, including a private 35-minute meeting with Pakistan's president, General Pervez Musharraf. Bokhari says the Taleban and the Karzai government are locked in a stalemate, and that the Taleban and its allies in al-Qaida are betting that the United States and NATO will tire of Afghanistan and eventually leave.

"I can tell you that the jihadist perception is that it is only a matter of time when the U.S. is going to get sick of both Iraq and Afghanistan and they'll leave," he said. "Now, the Taleban fighter has orders from his commander that your efforts should be geared to making that happen sooner rather than later, make them more frustrated quickly so that we can accomplish that goal."

U.S. officials have voiced frustration over the restrictions that some European allies have put on their troops in Afghanistan that prevent them from operating in combat zones. Undersecretary Burns says those restrictions, known as "caveats," need to be lifted so NATO can operate more effectively against the Taleban.