Amid tight security, a major international conference on Afghanistan is underway in Kabul. The key meeting is the first to be held inside the war-torn country.
Security has been beefed up in Kabul ahead of the international conference
Afghanistan is holding its first major international conference on Tuesday, with pressing topics like corruption and the expansion of Afghan security forces on the agenda.
The Kabul conference, chaired by Afghan President Hamid Karzai and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, sees up to 40 foreign ministers and other international delegates in attendance, including US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
Afghan officials are due to give progress reports on what they have done so far in terms of pledges made in the past on issues such as rebuilding the country, better governance and rule of law and what they are likely to do next.
Karzai will chair the meeting
"What I hope is that they will be able to convince the international community about the feasibility of what they propose to the conference, about how they see the development projects proceeding in the country and how they will be able to produce something that is logical enough to show that the government is able to coordinate and push ahead with its programs for the coming years," said Omar Sharifi, a political analyst from Kabul.
Corruption and governance
The Karzai administration has been facing mounting criticism for its failure to tackle issues such as corruption. A recent report said that at least $4.2 billion (3.2 billion euros) in cash had been transferred from Kabul in the past three-and-a-half years, sparking anger and prompting a senior US official to freeze some aid to the country.
"It is certain that most of it is aid money. But it is the contractors', who got lucrative contracts of hundreds of millions of dollars. They received money here and they take it out through the Kabul airport," said Afghan Finance Minister Omar Zakhilwal.
Clinton will take part in the conference
The Karzai government is expected to ask international donors for at least 50 percent of the money already pledged for the country to be transferred through the Afghan budget rather than through various ministries and NGOs. So far only 20 percent of that amount is channeled through Kabul.
The move is crucial, says Sharifi. "The Afghan officials claim that one of the reasons for the corruption and mismanagement of the last couple of years is that the government had no control over the money that used to come to Afghanistan. So now they want to take hold of most of this money. So by having these resources they would be able to bring reforms and also deliver services."
Security and foreign troops
The expansion of the Afghan National Army and the national police by October 2011 is also likely to be on the agenda. At a London meeting in January, Karzai and other international delegates agreed that Afghan forces should take the lead role in providing security in some provinces by late 2010 or early 2011.
Now there has been some speculation that Afghanistan's international partners may well announce 2014 as the deadline for Afghanistan's armed forces to take on complete responsibility for national security.
An soldier with the Afghan National Army runs into position during training
However many doubt that the country's security forces will really be ready to do this by then, bearing in mind the mounting insurgency across the country. "One way or the other the government of Afghanistan must take control of the security issues, but on the other hand Afghanistan is not facing an indigenous insurgency, Afghanistan is facing multinational terrorist organizations," said Sharifi.
The Afghan government is at present planning to introduce a program to reintegrate Taliban fighters. If approved by Kabul's international partners, the program will aim to persuade up to 36,000 insurgents to lay down their arms in the next five years. The Taliban have however so far rejected any peace overtures by the Afghan government.
Author: Disha Uppal
Editor: Grahame Lucas