As we mark the completion of Afghanistan's first presidential election, the international community must recognize that greater international commitment to the country's reconstruction and democratic transformation is still crucial. Elections alone will not bring democracy, security or a functioning economy to Afghanistan.
The facts are clear. Taliban forces are mounting a deadly insurgency. Warlords and armed militias continue to wield influence across the country. Al Qaeda, far from defeated, has been planning and directing attacks in Afghanistan. And Afghanistan's booming opium industry—which accounts for 75 percent of global production—funnels funds to all of these groups.
As American and European leaders who have come together through "Building Global Alliances for the 21st Century"—an initiative that promotes progressive solutions to transnational challenges—we recommend the following three steps:
NATO member countries must provide more troops and equipment to the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF). ISAF has worked effectively to increase security within Kabul, but outside the capital, warlords operate with virtual impunity and insurgent forces continue to mount attacks. To spread real security beyond Kabul, NATO members should not only maintain the 9,000 troops in Afghanistan for the election, but also commit to fielding or financing an additional 5,000 troops over the near- to medium-term. They should also support the acceleration and improved training of Afghan army and police forces to increase domestic security capacity.
The United States and Europe must strengthen their financial and political commitment to reconstruction. Afghanistan has received far less reconstruction assistance per capita than other countries with recent nation-building operations, including Iraq, East Timor and Bosnia. The United States and Europe must better meet Afghanistan's reconstruction needs. They should also work to implement a comprehensive development strategy that decreases the Afghan economy's opium dependency by focusing law enforcement on major traffickers and their political protectors, while providing farmers with access to credit, agricultural extension services, a banking system and other necessary inputs for sustainable alternatives to poppy farming.
The international community must redouble efforts at militia disarmament, demobilization and reintegration (DDR). Armed militias remain one of the greatest obstacles to progress in Afghanistan, and the DDR effort has suffered numerous delays and shortfalls. The international community should commit to doing everything necessary—including providing additional manpower, financial resources or political backing as needed—to disarm and demobilize the tens of thousands of remaining militia members before the April 2005 parliamentary elections.
The failure to provide adequate security and support for reconstruction efforts at this critical juncture will undercut the prospects for a peaceful, democratic Afghanistan, and leave us all less safe. Now is the time for concrete action that can help ensure a more stable and more democratic Afghanistan: for the Afghan people, and the security of the United States and Europe.
Urban Ahlin, Chairman, Committee on Foreign Affairs, Parliament of Sweden
Madeleine K. Albright, former U.S. Secretary of State
Robin Cook, former British Foreign Secretary and Member of the British Parliament
António Manuel de Oliveira Guterres, former Prime Minister of Portugal
Morton H. Halperin, Senior Vice President and Director of Fellows, Center for American Progress
Lee H. Hamilton, former U.S. Congressman and Vice Chair of the 9-11 Commission
John Podesta, President and CEO, Center for American Progress
Poul Nyrup Rasmussen, former Prime Minister of Denmark
John Sweeney, President, American Federation of Labor-Congress of Industrial Organizations