12/02/2011 - The international conference on Afghanistan, which begins on Monday in Bonn, is supposed to convince Kabul that the West will not abandon it after foreign troops leave in 2014. But if the meeting is to be more than just a show, the international community needs to abandon its ideas of imposing Western values on the country.
The timing is deliberately symbolic. Ten years ago, after Western military forces drove the Taliban regime and al-Qaida forces out of Kabul, Germany hosted a conference of Afghan delegates aimed at choosing a transitional president at the Hotel Petersberg, the government-owned conference center on a hill overlooking Bonn that has been dubbed the "German Camp David."
The Americans nominated the Pashtun chieftain Hamid Karzai as their favorite. Cold and hungry as he hunkered down in a mountain hut outside Kandahar, Karzai, speaking on a satellite phone, agreed to assume the role. Next Monday, Afghanistan's future will once again be on the agenda in Bonn, the former German capital. This time around, though, Karzai will be attending in person as the Afghan head of state and the conference's chairman. His delegation will be staying up in the Hotel Petersberg. Down on the Rhine River, around 100 delegates will gather in Bonn in the former seat of the Bundestag, Germany's parliament. There, plans call for them to agree on a document that commits the international community to providing the country with support for at least another decade after the last foreign combat troops have withdrawn in 2014. Such activities would include additional civil-reconstruction assistance, the training and financing of security forces with around roughly 350,000 soldiers and police officers, and investments aimed at improving the country's long-term economic prospects.
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