Encouraging greater regional cohesion and looking to attract further support for Afghanistan as the NATO coalition withdraws, Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah attended the 13th gathering of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization this week along with top leaders of the other countries in the region.
Since the formation of National Unity Government, senior government officials have taken part in eight regional and international meetings. Afghanistan has been at the center of discussions in some of these meetings, and when it came to security issues in the region, that was the case in Shanghai.While speaking at the conference, Abdullah said that the security in Afghanistan is still threatened by the terrorist groups and regional cooperation is needed to addresses the challenges. The Chief Executive said that one of critical forces fueling insecurities and militant groups are poppy farming and drug smuggling in Afghanistan. He said the transnational nature of the challenge called for multilateral solutions."Security concerns us all, our security is impacted by non-state militant terrorists, criminal and separatist groups; they profit from illicit drug trades, smuggling and other types of transnational operations," Abdullah told the crowd of dignitaries at the conference. "Their aim is not only to destabilize our societies and damage our economies but also to spread fear in our societies and indoctrinate our youth."In a moment of modest recognition, Abdullah said that despite the fact that the NATO combat mission will end this month, the Afghan security forces remain in need of further training and technical support. "...It is also apparent that the mission to train and equip and assist and advise our security forces is not complete, and there is a critical need to pursue and end the diverse tasks within those bench marks based on ground conditions being met," Abdullah said.As Kabul's longtime Western allies begin to scale down their role in the country, however, it is expected that regional players will take on more important roles. Afghan leaders have long called on Pakistan, in particular, to be a better regional partner and cooperate honestly when it comes to addressing the threats posed by militant groups like the Taliban. Afghan as well as foreign experts general agree that much of the Taliban's recruiting, training and funding emanates from across the border in Pakistan.Nevertheless, also in attendance at the Shanghai meeting, Sartaj Aziz, Pakistan's National Security Advisor, applauded the success of the transition in Afghanistan so far and emphasized Pakistan's readiness and commitment to cooperating for peace and stability. "I am sure together we can finally eradicate the menace of terrorism from our region and foster the bonds of trust and confidence that are so essential for development and property," he said.Both Pakistan and India, two bitter rivals, have claimed to be friends of Afghanistan. In the vacuum that will be left by the withdraw of the U.S. and its NATO allies from the region, many analysts have wondered who will position themselves as Afghanistan's closest ally."Although Afghanistan has passed the political and security transition, insecurity is still widespread in the country and there is a need for the neighboring and regional countries to join hands to stabilize peace," said Indian General Vijay Kumar Singh, the Minister of State for External Affairs.