View From Kabul: The Afghanistan Conference

ABC's Lama Hasan reports:

When we asked some Afghans in Kabul today about the London conference and what they hoped it would achieve, the majority of them looked baffled, because many of them didn’t know it was taking place. They’re too caught up in their everyday lives. There have also been a number of meetings on the state of the country and for most people they have made little or no difference.

The prevailing feeling amongst those who were told about the conference say they want to see something concrete, they want more action. Those who were already aware of the meeting were hopeful that it would provide benefits.

23-year-old college student Masood Alam told us he was ‘’optimistic.’’ Alam added that ‘’two things are very important security first and job opportunities. Fighting isn’t the solution, he said, ‘’I strongly support the idea of talks with the Taliban and Karzai should get rid of corrupt officials Afghanistan isn't in the position to afford lots of corruption.’’

Business man Qais Barakzai explained that he too was optimistic, ‘’I hope this time the money will reach the people in need not to the pockets of corrupt officials and big international companies. I hope the security will get better because currently it’s in its worst possible position. There were many conferences in the past but the outcome wasn't good.’’

One concern that kept rearing its head was corruption. One young man told us, ‘’corruption is the big problem here; Karzai is a good man, but the people around him are corrupt, all they are interested in is money and whatever is decided in London will not be implemented by these people for that reason [there is nothing in it for them]. However, the problem I’m most worried about is security. The situation here in Kabul it is bad and getting worse every day.’’

Daud Sultanzoy, an independent Afghan Member of Parliament, also echoed these sentiments saying that both the international community and the Karzai government are culprits in corruption. “The international community should point our problems but also they should listen to their problems when they are pointed out, I think in terms of procurement, in terms of bureaucracy, in terms of corruption. Both sides are suffering from this. The way the money has spent, the international community’s very bloated system that came to this country has created a problem for this country. They have to realize that.’’

But he also sounded a pessimistic note, ‘’several things should be noticed about this conference, the timing of course, two political leaders who have very weak positions going to this conference, Mr. Karzai and Mr. Brown. I hope this conference is not used as a propaganda tool, I hope it’s used in a meaningful way, for the problem that it is intended to be used.’’ Sultanzoy has a clear view about the direction in which the country needs to go, ‘’ the reconstruction efforts, we need to focus on projects that can create jobs for the people, create a livelihood for the people, if it’s related to the drug introduction cultivation of poppies, again it relates to the same thing, we need rural development projects have to be tied into agricultural projects and vice versa.’’

These measures, he says, will open up Kabul because ‘’people cannot move. Kabul as the heart of the country, almost all the arteries are blocked. This has created a resentment, this is not a small thing when I talk about resentment, we need to focus on these things. ‘’

According to Sultanzoy, there are many issues that haven’t been looked at and will need to be addressed, ‘’the regional aspect of solving our problem has been very anemic, no one wants to talk about the P word which is Pakistan, nobody wants to talk about Iran’s role in a fashion that we should, nobody wants to talk about India’s effects on Pakistan’s role. These are things that we need to talk about if [we] really want to start a new track.’’

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