2010 has proved largely decisive for the International Security Assistance Force, or ISAF, in Afghanistan. The coalition has carried out a number of major operations and is now getting ready to pack up and go. The NATO-led armed force is due to start pulling out from Afghanistan in July next year.
The entire NATO force will certainly not leave in July. It will take NATO years to fully pull out of the Asian country. It is held that by 2014 the Kabul government will have been able to control the situation well enough to allow for the maximum reduction in external assistance. Meanwhile in 2010 the NATO-led coalition has been actively fighting Taliban. Yet it will take years before the Afghan Islamists are defeated. There are also other problems pending solution. Hamid Karzai is a legitimate president following last year’s election. No one can now claim that he’s been appointed by Americans. Afghanistan has also held parliamentary elections, recognized as valid despite the fact that they were at variance with civilized standards. So, the central Afghan government is clearly growing stronger. But Karzai has a powerless army, a weak police force and awfully corrupt functionaries. It is also part of national specifics that local leaders choose to display their independence from Kabul.
In 2010 the world community made enormous efforts to bring the situation in Afghanistan back to normal. Conferences were called in London in January and then in Kabul in summer to take up Afghanistan’s economic restoration and, more importantly, the country’s denarcotization. The burden of Afghanistan’s foreign debt has been eased. Russia alone has written off over 12 billion dollars in Afghanistan’s debt to the Soviet Union. This is what a Russian expert on oriental studies Igor Sotnikov told the Voice of Russia on this country’s aid in settling Afghan problems.
"Russia, Igor Sotnikov says, has been trying to vigorously play on the Afghan field by suggesting holding conferences in various formats and providing support for the Karzai government. Russia has offered to send military advisers to strengthen the Afghan police force and the army. Russia’s aid to Afghanistan is above all political in character, even though the western nations, basically the United States, would like Moscow to send a military force to Afghanistan."
One of Afghanistan’s main problems is fighting drug production. The international community seeks to put paid to Afghan drug trafficking, but it lacks a general strategy to this end. Russia insists on wiping out the opium poppy plantations, but the United States chooses to preserve them intact on allegations that this would deprive Afghan peasants of their permanent earnings. Although Russian and US special services did carry out a joint operation to wipe out a drug laboratory in Afghanistan some time ago, there’s still a long way to go before the problem is finally settled.
Given the situation, the US-announced troop withdrawal and the handover of control over the situation to the Afghan authorities may take years to become reality. NATO has failed to break Taliban’s resistance. The opium poppy plantation area has by no means diminished. The coalition losses are growing. More than 700 coffins with killed NATO servicemen have been sent home this year alone. In other words, Afghanistan’s problems will remain the world community’s headache for years to come.