EU to intensify support to Afghanistan, Karzai urged to speed up reforms
The Associated Press
By Paul Ames
BRUSSELS, Belgium (AP) - European Union leaders on Friday committed to stepping up support for Afghanistan but urged President Hamid Karzai's government to speed up the reforms needed to bring law and order to the country.
EU leaders said they were open to the possibility of sending a European police mission to Afghanistan to help expand the rule of law and train the local police and judiciary. "The EU stands ready to intensify its efforts," said a draft statement drawn up at an EU summit.
The EU is awaiting a report from a fact-finding mission that returned from Kabul on Wednesday before making any decision on the scale and scope of an EU police mission.
The bloc has been under pressure from NATO commanders to take on an increased civilian role, helping law enforcement in Afghanistan to back the 32,000-strong allied military mission that moved into the volatile southern and eastern parts of the country in recent months.
EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana said late Thursday it was likely the EU would set up a police mission, and said some non-EU countries, including Canada and Norway, had expressed interest in joining such an operation.
In their draft statement, the leaders stressed the need for "a stronger focus on governance and the rule of law" to reinforce action in other areas where the EU is channeling aid, such as rural development and health.
The EU already is a key donor to Afghanistan, providing US$4.9 billion since 2002. The European Commission said this week it will continue to provide US$198 million a year through 2013.
Several international observers have pointed to the weakness of the Afghan police and judiciary as a major obstacle to efforts to stabilize Afghanistan.
A joint report this month by the inspector generals of the U.S. State and Defence departments concluded that the police force's readiness to carry out law enforcement duties is "far from adequate." It said officers are paid less than the Taliban militants they are fighting and many are open to bribery.
While reaffirming their support for the government, EU leaders warned that Afghanistan was "at a critical juncture," and had a strong message on the need for Karzai's administration to move forward on reform. "The Afghan government ... is invited to take further urgent, co-ordinated action," the draft statement said.
EU leaders were scheduled to formally adopt the statement later Friday.
They also urged Afghanistan and Pakistan to co-operate in combatting insecurity along their border, where both sides accuse the other of not doing enough to combat the Taliban.
The EU summit follows a meeting of NATO leaders two weeks ago in Latvia where they urged greater co-ordination among international organizations, Afghan authorities and neighbouring nations to dovetail civilian and military stabilization efforts.