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Afghan future at stake as Pakistan boycotts Bonn talks

Pakistan will boycott an international conference on the future of Afghanistan taking place in Bonn on Monday following an accidental US attack on Pakistani military outposts last week that killed 24 soldiers.


Delegations from more than 100 countries are expected to attend a global conference on the future of Afghanistan on Monday in Bonn, Germany. Pakistan, however, will be conspicuously absent.

Pakistan’s decision comes after the blunder committed by NATO on November 25 in bombing two military outposts near the Afghan border, killing 24 Pakistani soldiers.

The main objective of the conference is to confirm the international community’s engagement to support Afghanistan following the withdrawl of NATO combat troops planned for the end of 2014.

‘Certain failure’

According to Karim Pakzad, a researcher specialised in Afghanistan and Pakistan at France’s Institute of International and Strategic Relations (IRIS), this latest conference on the development of Afghanistan will be “one of many”.

“It’s not in Bonn or elsewhere that we’re going to find a solution for the country,” Pakzad said. “We need to organise a regional conference with those who have direct interests in Afghanistan.”

If, according to Pakzad, the summit’s importance is mainly symbolic, it will also draw more media attention than the conference held ten years ago.

Shaken by the announcement of a possible Pakistani boycott, Afghan President Hamid Karzai and the US called on Pakistan to rethink its decision. Pakistan is considered an essential player in negotiations for a possible peace plan with the Taliban in order to avoid a civil war after the withdrawal of international troops in 2014.

“Pakistan is the major regional power in this situation,” assessed Gerard Chaliand, a prominent expert on international and strategic relations interviewed by FRANCE 24. “If the country does not attend the conference, we’re headed for certain failure.”

German Chancellor Angela Merkel noted, in an interview published in the German press on December 2: “We will continue to make sure that Pakistan is involved in all our efforts in preparing the future of Afghanistan.”

According to Chaliand, “The Pakistanis’ capacity to endanger this process is certain. If they accept to cancel their boycott of the conference, it will have to be in line with certain conditions, because US and Pakistani interests are fundamentally divergent.”

Relations with the US at the heart of the problem

US-Pakistani friction is indeed in the spotlight as the conference nears. “For the US, it is important that the Afghan national army and administration are capable of staying afloat in when troops leave in 2014,” Chaliand explained.

“As for the Pakistanis, they’re counting on a total withdrawal of US and allied troops, in order to reinforce their influence in the region.”

Relations between US and Pakistan have cooled considerably since the US raid that killed Osama bin Laden on May 2, which Pakistani authorities consider a violation of their territorial sovereignty and a humiliation of their army.

In the wake of the US army’s bombing of Pakistani military outposts last weekend, Islamabad turned away trucks full of supplies from the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force and announced the revision of its joint anti-terrorism efforts with the US.

According to Karim Pakzad, if the Pakistani government gave in to international pressure and reversed its announced boycott, it would lose a significant amount of credibility in the eyes of Pakistanis.

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