The London Conference on Afghanistan represents an important stage and a challenge for the United States and the international community: an important stage for it will mark the ending of the Bonn process, and a challenge for it will mark the beginning of the next critical stage in the rebirth of the country after decades of war and destruction.
A lot has been achieved since the moment the Talibans were defeated four years ago by troops commanded by the United States. However, it’s also true that Afghanistan is still in danger. The insurrection led by Taliban elements and Al Qaeda is far from being over. Afghanistan is still the world largest producer of opium for drugs. Corruption is at its highest levels and many Afghans wonder, four years after the disembarkment of the international community contingents, where the promised roads, schools, hospitals, electricity, and running water are.
On the other hand, out of the 13 billion dollars promised by the international community, only some 4 billion has been used to finance projects. This is just a part of much more considerable sums which have been given to finance the reconstruction efforts in Iraq or the Balkans. We have been mean with Afghanistan. The first goal of the London Conference must be to correct the existing disparity between the Afghan needs and the sums promised by the donors and, in view of this, the United States should be the first to undertake a compromise.
There are three other urgent priorities that the London Conference must discussed. First, insurrection. The planned reduction of the American troops in Afghanistan worries Kabul. Its replacement by NATO’s forces is a sign of a welcomed extension of the international responsibility; its outcome should not be the weakening of the military forces. International soldiers should adopt measures to carry on aggressive counterinsurgency operations and guarantee the necessary protection to allow the reconstruction of the country.
Then, we have the weakening of the government. Without competent and honest officers at the local level, Kabul can’t meet the needs of the population. The legal system, without which policies can’t be implemented, must be redefined.
Third, we have the drug trade. Afghan farmers’ standard of living must be the same when producing legal crops than when cultivating opium. This means that the irrigation systems should be improved, that new seeds should be used, that the highway network should be developed and that micro-credits should be used by all. In the same way the United States accepted the moral responsibility of the consequences of its drug consumption for Colombia, the European countries should understand that their consumption of narcotic drugs contributes to the destruction of the Afghan society; therefore, they should do their best.

International Herald Tribune (France)
The International Herald Tribune is a version of the New York Times adapted for the European public. It works in direct association with Haaretz (Israel), Kathimerini (Greece), Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (Germany), JoongAng Daily (South Korea), Asahi Shimbun (Japan), The Daily Star (Lebanon) and El País (Spain). It also works, through its head office, in indirect association with Le Monde (France).

«Don’t shortchange Afghanistan again», by Karl F. Inderfurth, S. Frederick Starr and Marvin G. Weinbaum, International Herald Tribune, January 22, 2006.