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Rebuilding the Afghan State: The EU’s Role

Rebuilding the Afghan State: The European Union’s Role


As a key contributor to the rebuilding of Afghanistan, the EU should produce a more cohesive policy and deliver more effective action.

Rebuilding the Afghan State: The European Union’s Role, the latest report from the International Crisis Group, examines the part played by the EU in reconstructing a war-ravaged country that could still easily slip back into being a danger for the world. The report notes the EU’s good standing in Afghanistan but also highlights its relative inability to influence the political process and the ad hoc nature of member states’ peacekeeping commitments.

“Europe is widely trusted by Afghans, but few, even at high levels, appreciate the full scale of EU commitments”, says Joanna Nathan, Crisis Group’s Senior Analyst in Kabul. “This is partly due to the UN’s coordinating role and the sheer scale of U.S. military and development involvement, but also to the complexity of EU foreign policy structures and lack of coherence among EU institutions and member states on and in Afghanistan”.

Since the fall of the Taliban in late 2001, the EU has been a major player in Afghanistan’s reconstruction, contributing to democratisation, development and security. The European Commission pledged €1 billion towards the reconstruction effort over five years (2002-2006) and together with member states is responsible for around one third of total aid. Member states also contribute over two thirds of the peacekeeping forces.

Europe’s commitments and influence have been dwarfed – and largely shaped – by those of the U.S. but with the recent National Assembly elections marking the formal conclusion of the Bonn process that was begun in 2001, the international community is in the process of deciding the next stage of political engagement. Four years after the Taliban’s ouster, as the Bush administration reviews its involvement and struggles with its larger and more difficult commitment in Iraq, the European role may well become even more essential.

The EU needs to remain heavily engaged in Afghanistan for the long haul – maintaining financial assistance around the present level for at least the next five years along with security and political commitments. Indeed, the links between payments and the Karzai government’s performance needs to become more explicit. Europe’s concerns over human rights issues should be translated into hard demands for good governance from an administration that has allowed a culture of impunity.

“The EU and its member states have an important place as the only international players with the potential to influence strongly the direction of U.S. policies towards Afghanistan”, says Alain Deletroz, Crisis Group’s Vice-President for Europe. “Europe should work in concert, putting good governance at the heart of its plans and commitments to help build a better and safer world”.

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