I still come out on the positive side. I think we have seen fundamental changes in Afghan society. And I hope and I expect these changes to be sustainable. But a certain number of conditions will have to be fulfilled.
I hope the Chicago summit will result in clarity about a few things. First of all, when our combat operations are going to end: is that 2013 or 2014? That’s unclear. It’s important for the region, for Afghanistan and for NATO that we know exactly when combat operations are going to end.
Secondly, I expect that the Chicago summit will also discuss what residual combat force will stay in Afghanistan after 2014. You cannot just withdraw the last soldier and simply shut the door behind you.
And I would hope that those forces staying behind will not only be up to the United States. I would hope that some European allies will decide to participate in that residual force.
My third precondition is that there will be adequate financing for the Afghan national security forces, the Afghan National Army and Afghan National Police, because after the billions of dollars invested over the years, we cannot just say, it’s now 2014; excuse us, guys, but we’re leaving.
And last but certainly not least, we need some form of a political regional arrangement, to prevent history repeating itself. And history is against us in Afghanistan, as you know. Some form of regional arrangement, first of all with Pakistan. Afghanistan, when NATO has left, will still be the playground for all those nations: Pakistan, India, Iran, Russia, the Central Asian nations. You and I know what’s going to happen because history teaches us what is going to happen.
In other words, I hope this does not result in just a rush for the exit, but thinking seriously for what will happen afterwards and hoping that Afghanistan will see a government, let me try to phrase it carefully, with the lowest form of corruption possible. There’s also an important responsibility for the European Union to continue working on good governance, on the rule of law, on a legal system, which is not easy in the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, because the values aren’t the same, the norms aren’t the same. But nevertheless, that’s possible.
And I agree with Ahmed Rashid that there are a lot of factors that can influence this process in a very negative way. But let us work on the positive side. I think that’s President Obama’s intention, and that should be everyone’s intention.