Countries backing Afghanistan’s government are going to demand that it meet specific security benchmarks, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said Saturday, outlining a plan to let foreign troops gradually hand control to local forces.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai and foreign ministers from a number of countries are expected to attend a Jan. 28 conference in London to set a timetable for Afghanistan to train and deploy thousands more soldiers and police, Brown said at a news conference in Trinidad and Tobago, where he is attending the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting.
“President Karzai has got to accept that there will be milestones by which he’s going to be judged, and he’s got to accept that there will be benchmarks which the international community will set,” the prime minister said.
The London conference also will focus on marshaling resources to help Afghanistan meet those benchmarks, Brown said. The United Nations and other international groups are expected to attend.
Brown said the first benchmark would come three months after the conference: The Afghan government will be expected to identify additional troops to send to Helmand province for training.
Within six months, the government should have a clear plan for training more police and reducing corruption among officers, Brown said, and within nine months, Karzai’s administration should have appointed nearly 400 provincial and district governors.
By the end of 2010, Brown said, the government should have trained an additional 50,000 troops and transferred at least five districts to Afghan control from that of the 43-nation NATO-led force.
The prime minister also said he would announce this week whether conditions have been met to send an additional 500 British troops, bringing the total to 9,500.
In Washington, White House National Security Council spokesman Mike Hammer said the London meeting “will be an opportunity for the international community and the Afghan government to discuss security transition, governance, economic development, reintegration and reconciliation, and civilian leadership issues.”
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon issued a statement Saturday calling the planned conference “a very timely initiative.”
Together with a later meeting in Afghanistan, it “would outline the framework for an increased lead role for the Afghans in the shaping of their destiny,” Ban said. He called the meetings “defining moments in the reconfiguration of the relationship between Afghanistan and the international community.”
The immediate focus for the U.S., Britain and their allies, however, is how best to fight a tenacious insurgency by Taliban and Al Qaeda militants.
President Obama is to address Americans in a prime-time speech Tuesday to chart the way toward an “endgame” in the conflict.
He is expected to say he is sending about 30,000 more U.S. troops as part of a strategy to accelerate the training of Afghan forces and to press Karzai to improve governance.