The year 2014 is going to be a crucial one for the transition in Afghanistan, both from the political point of view as well as that of security management. Instead we risk making the mistake of thinking that with the end of ISAF we will not longer need to concern ourselves with that country, with its contradictions and its painstaking quest for democracy, peace and rights. For this reason I willingly respond to our Afghan friends, with whom I have collaborated in the past and thank for the support they have given to the civil society in Afghanistan over recent years.
What therefore will the government’s post-ISAF strategy be? First of all, I consider it fundamental to maintain our pledge to the international community — but first and foremost to Afghanistan — not to abandon that country once the ISAF mission comes to an end. Nevertheless, a change of perspective is necessary; every step must be decisive and implemented upon the Afghan’s request and with them. That will be the basis for our support to the Afghan civil society, institutions and security forces with a residual military presence predicated on Kabul’s request and that would, if needed, be limited to the functions of training and assistance. The path we intend to follow is exactly that indicated by Afghanistan. What’s more, I am convinced that this must be the distinguishing feature of our foreign policy in all crisis and transition areas, from Ukraine to Libya.
In order to make these pledges concrete, once a new president and government have been installed, I will be going to Kabul to join the Afghan foreign minister in chairing the first meeting of the joint commission envisaged in the bilateral partnership agreement, and to plan our shared efforts. Support for the civil society, on which we have already worked very hard, will become the main thrust of our commitment, in order that dialogue and reconciliation, on the one hand, and the defence of freedom and rights for all on the other, can rest on solid and ready terrain and on forms of real and widespread participation. We therefore intend to maintain and strengthen the commitment of the Italian Development Cooperation through direct initiatives and funding to NGOs, and I hope that, along with the Parliament, we will be able to increase and stabilise resources. We are well aware, however, of the need for serious international commitment; work is ongoing with the EU on a strategic plan, and we will be working throughout our duty presidency of the EU on implementing it. Finally, we know that we have to concentrate both on internal reconciliation, with the political involvement of all parties, on the broader regional dimension, and Italy will also be in China in late August for the meeting of the Istanbul process. The international community has the duty, and it is in its best interests, to continue to be concerned with Afghanistan, and in a new way, supporting a transition that must, before all else, be placed in the hands of the Afghans themselves.