19th May 2012 Washington DC, USA

What Chicago Means for Afghanistan

The road from the previous NATO Summit in Lisbon to Chicago has had some bumps, but what the NATO/ISAF Alliance will focus on this weekend is the degree to which we have stuck the course and remained committed to Afghanistan’s future. At Lisbon, NATO and ISAF allies agreed that we would remain in a combat role until 2014, and by doing so ensure a responsible transition to Afghan control . That is, demonstrably, what is happening. There are, of course, risks associated with transition and the withdrawal of ISAF forces. But with 75% of the Afghan population now under an Afghan security lead, with the completion of Tranche 3, we are making major strides. And, although there is more to do to ensure Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) are fully trained and tested, their performance during recent security incidents has impressed both their trainers and the Afghan people.

Much has been made of the idea of a “rush for the exits”. But it has not transpired. Despite the fact that we are all (allies and Afghans alike) weary of conflict, the coalition has stuck together. And we are all preparing for the next phase, with impressive commitment by international partners (going beyond ISAF) both to continue to provide trainers and funding to the ANSF. Although we fixate on 2014 as a turning point in our efforts in Afghanistan for good reason, what Chicago (and a later development conference in Tokyo) will agree will look well beyond that horizon. We are all acutely conscious of the lessons of history, and the need not to repeat them, so at Chicago members of the ISAF coalition and the region will make clear that they will standby Afghanistan for the “transformation decade” from 2014-2024.

Chicago is perhaps also a moment to reflect on the part that the UK has played. We are proud of what we have contributed alongside our allies. We have been the second largest troop contributor after the US, and deployed in some of the toughest areas of Afghanistan. We have also made a significant contribution to Afghanistan’s development, with our assistance budget (through DFID) standing at over £150m. And this commitment will continue. We have said, on security that after 2014 we will provide £70m per year for the sustainment of the ANSF, will continue to provide trainers, and that we will support the establishment of an Afghan Officers Academy. On the development side, we expect to continue our significant spending as well as looking for wider opportunities, for example through trade, to support Afghanistan. Chicago is a moment at which we can see both reflect on the past effort and on what more is needed to secure our shared objectives – in this we are confident that we sit alongside partners who have made the same sacrifices and share our determination to ensure Afghanistan sees the benefits of our shared efforts.

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3 comments on “What Chicago Means for Afghanistan

  1. The lack of clarity of the British Government on the NATO supply lines through Pakistan is mind boggling. Surely it is upto the 28 NATO members to put pressure on Pakistan to open the supply route. We should not be blackmailed however and I cannot understand why this is a issue only between the USA and Pakistan . Also perhaps NATO could request the Pakistanis to stop the false propaganda about the conflict by their state media namely PTV. What about safe havens for terrorists in Pakistan . The NATO motto states that harm done to one is harm done collectively to all member states. Surely we should be standing firmly behind the US on the Salala incident and other issues eg safe havens that are within Pakistan . We can stablise Afghanistan without Pakistan’s assistance if need be . We have to continue to support them post 2014. The country has come a long way . Be firmer with Pakistan . We can isolate them but we should never be blackmailed .

    1. Dr Dhillon —

      Thank you for your comment.

      Speaking at a press conference at the NATO Summit this past weekend, Prime Minister David Cameron addressed UK thinking on Pakistan and the opening of supply routes. A reporter asked:

      “President Obama’s clearly very vexed this morning by the refusal of Pakistan authorities to allow the ISAF supply checks across the border into Afghanistan. How vexed are you by this and what is being done about it at the moment?”

      The Prime Minister responded:

      “…of course it is clearly frustrating. Pakistan is a strong ally and friend of Britain. We have a large trading relationship, we have a big aid relationship. We have tremendous relationships between the Pakistani diaspora in Britain and Pakistan. Obviously we want those lines of control opened again. I believe that they will be. I’m confident that is the case from the discussions I have had. But clearly it’s not going to happen today-we need to carry on with those discussions and make sure it does happen in the future. I’m confident it will. As I said at the NATO dinner last night the Pakistani relationship is vital for NATO, vital for ISAF and vital for Afghanistan. We have to understand the difficult politics and political situation in Pakistan. We have to understand the enormous amount they have lost to terrorism- probably the country that has suffered more than any other. We have to have that real understanding and Britain’s deep relationship with Pakistan I think brings that understanding. In spite of the occasional frustrations we have to stick with that relationship and I believe it will deliver.”

      1. Dear Ms Willitts- King
        Thank you for your response ; at least I now understand the UK ( our governments) position better. You may recall during PM Gilani’s UK official visit just before the Chicago summit our PM and PM Gilani launched the Conservative Friends Of Pakistan at which PM Cameron stated and I quote ,’that a friend of Pakistan is our friend and a enemy of Pakistan is our enemy “.Clips of this statement were being played on Pakistani TV channels and are true. I wonder if the Haqqani’s are now a friend of the UK ? Are the Taliban too our mates as there is no doubt that parts of the Pakistani establishment continues to nurture them . I have sought clarification from the PMO about this comment and am still waiting for a response. I have also written to the Minister of State for NATO at the FCO about this matter but never got a response. Surely we must use our aid ( £600 million I gather from next year ) to get concessions. I understand that Pakistan has suffered but it was due to their own making as after the withdrawal of the Soviets from Afghanistan the Pakistanis nurtured the mujahideen and unleashed them to start a insurgency in Indian Kashmir and besides General Zia ul Haq generally supported radical Islam . The Pakistani state has made stupendous errors and they are now paying the price for their wrong policies. The Pentagon has today withdrawn its negotiating team from Islamabad . There has been no success. Will Cameron now change his stance . The time has come for NATO members to stand with the USA on this matter . If Pakistan does not want to reopen the supply line that is fine as there are so many ways in which we can penalise them . NATO could collectively withdraw diplomats ; stop aid ; stop trade concessions , stop trading , stop immigration ; stop foreign remittances etc . We have to act . We have to send a clear message that we are united and mean business. The false propaganda on their channels too has to countered . Everybody is frustrated with the Pakistanis and this includes the Afghans. I look forward to receiving more information on this matter from you .

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About Sophia Willitts-King

Sophia joined the British Embassy in Washington DC in January 2011 as First Secretary, Afghanistan and Pakistan in the Foreign, Security and Policy Group. Her previous work in the Foreign…

Sophia joined the British Embassy in Washington DC in January 2011 as First Secretary, Afghanistan and Pakistan in the Foreign, Security and Policy Group. Her previous work in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office includes a year working on policy towards Greece and Cyprus and 10 months studying Urdu, including seven months living with families in small villages in Pakistan. Taking up a post in the British High Commission in Islamabad, Sophia covered internal politics and human rights during a turbulent period (nuclear testing, the Kargil conflict, the military coup and the 9/11 attacks). During her time in Pakistan, Sophia had the opportunity to travel widely across the country; including to fascinating places such as Waziristan, Quetta, Gwadar, Peshawar and Multan that are now difficult to visit. Sophia then returned to London where she worked in the Iraq Policy Unit, before taking up a job covering the foreign policy aspects of UK defence industrial issues and UK input into the defence aspects of the “European Constitution”. She also worked in the Cabinet Office in charge of the Ministerial committee’s and inter-ministry co-ordination on Iraq, the Middle East and North Africa. She has also served in Kathmandu as the Deputy Head of Mission where she managed the Embassy and led the political team, which was working to support Nepal to complete its peace process, tackle the challenges of the conflict period, and put itself on a path of sustainable development.