On the sidelines of the January 28 conference in London on Afghanistan, Radio Free Europe correspondent Abubakar Siddique spoke to Kai Eide, who just stepped down as the UN's special envoy to Afghanistan.
RFE/RL: Is this a recommitment conference to Afghanistan or is it a signal to the Afghans that the international community wants to leave the country in haste?
Kai Eide: No, I think it is a recommitment, but a recommitment in a different way than before. I think it is a recommitment in the sense that we want the Afghan authorities, the Afghan government and the Afghan people to take more responsibility for their own future. That was demonstrated through the endorsement of the new figures for the police and the army. But we want the same to happen when it comes to civilian institution building and economic development.
We can't anymore be in a situation where tens of thousands of projects are being created, are being established by the international community, that the Afghan government will not be able to sustain when aid starts diminishing, which it will over some years. And we have to really embark on a new strategy now where we empower the Afghan government, support long-term development and institution-building instead of a strong emphasis on quick impact projects that often lead to quick collapse and certainly will do so if we cannot generate more economic revenues inside of Afghanistan. And that requires making use of Afghanistan's own economic resources."
RFE/RL: Do you see an Afghanistan fatigue setting in among the international community?
Eide: I think we must be clearly aware of the fact that Western public opinion, in particular last year, had question marks, had doubts about the level of continued involvement. I think that means that the Afghan government has to demonstrate that it is committed to the same objectives that we are. And I believe that what we are seeing today when it comes to development of Afghan plans is very satisfactory to the international community and will, I hope, convince the international public opinion that, first of all, a long-term commitment will still be required, but that commitment must turn more and more toward giving the Afghan government responsibility and authority.
RFE/RL: The Afghans often point out the presence of Taliban networks and leadership sanctuaries in Pakistan. Do you feel Islamabad is really on board to go after these networks?
Eide: What is important is the change we have seen in the relationship between Islamabad and Kabul over the last year or year and a half. There is a tremendous difference in the level of political dialogue, the level of cooperation compared to the megaphone diplomacy that we experienced a couple of years ago. And that is a tremendously positive development, and we all know that if we are to find a peaceful solution and are able to end the conflict in the region, Afghanistan and Pakistan must work together. The region must be on board, and the most important players here are Afghanistan and Pakistan.
RFE/RL: What do you make of Iran's absence from this conference?
Eide: I would have liked Iran to be here. I think it is an important regional player, and their participation here would have been very valuable.