During their meeting in Helsinki on 25 January, Foreign Minister Alexander Stubb and Mark Sedwill, NATO’s Senior Civilian Representative in Afghanistan, discussed the achievements of the mission in Afghanistan and the country’s future.
According to Sedwill, this year the international community must begin to focus on the transfer of responsibility for security to Afghanistan’s own security forces, scheduled by agreement to take place in 2014. The base for this work is created by the military successes already achieved, but for the attainment of sustainable security and stability, political efforts and the work of civil society are also needed. “2014 sounds like it’s several years away, but actually it’s going to be a real sprint,” Sedwill stated.
Both Sedwill and Stubb stressed that the transfer of responsibility, however, does not mean the end of the mission. Cooperation between the international community and Afghanistan will be needed for a long time. “The year 2014 does not mean withdrawal, it only means the beginning of a new phase. We will be present in Afghanistan for as long as we are needed,” Minister Stubb said.
Sedwill also thanked Finland for the country’s contribution in Afghanistan. He said that a year ago, he was still concerned about the international community’s commitment to the mission. The past year, however, has restored his confidence in the alliance’s activities, and even countries that had announced their withdrawal are now returning to Afghanistan.
It is hoped that the Parliament of Afghanistan will be inaugurated on 26 January. In Sedwill’s view, the peaceful solution worked out following the uncertainties of the parliamentary election held last autumn is an indication of the resilience of the country’s political leadership. Minister Stubb added that all-inclusive democracy cannot be achieved overnight. The main thing is that progress takes place in a peaceful manner.
Sedwill also emphasized that permanent peace is not accomplished through backroom agreements; instead, it calls for the input of the whole society, women included. The rights of women and minorities are one of the fundamental pillars to a political solution.