No quick exit from Afghanistan, EU ministers warn
There will be no quick exit from Afghanistan, even once the West's new strategy for the country is in place, European Union foreign ministers said Monday - ahead of major strategy conference on the conflict in London later this week, DPA reported.
European states are desperate to stabilize Afghanistan so that their soldiers in the country can home.
They hope that a conference with Afghan President Hamid Karzai in London on Thursday will approve a new strategy aimed at handing responsibility for the country over to Afghan forces.
"I would not be looking at any exit dates, we should be looking at a gradual transition from an engagement where the overall emphasis is military to an engagement where the emphasis is primarily civilian," Sweden's Foreign Minister Carl Bildt said as he arrived in Brussels for talks with EU counterparts.
"Any talk of an exit strategy in Afghanistan plays into the hands of the Taliban," Bildt stressed.
The EU has pinned its hopes for Afghanistan on Karzai's new government, after the president was re-elected in a vote in August seen in the West as deeply flawed.
Key to the strategy is a plan, drawn up by the top US general in Afghanistan, Stanley A McChrystal, to hand over responsibility step- by-step to the Afghan authorities.
"What we have to start is a transition strategy, not an exit strategy. We have now to start work in order that the new Afghan government ... can work with the international community to stabilize and look to the future," Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos said.
The London conference is expected to contribute to that mission by gathering support and funding for the Afghan efforts.
"We cannot win in Afghanistan only militarily, it has to involve building up the governance, the civilian infrastructure of the country, the political system," Bildt said.
"That will take money and time, and both money and time are commodities which are in sparse supply in the politics of the West. We must be prepared to pay more on the civilian side, no question of that," he said.