Afghanistan to be given timetable for progress

AP News
Posted: Nov 29, 2009 1:40 AM

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 to set a timetable for Afghanistan to train and deploy thousands more soldiers and police, Brown said at a news conference in the Caribbean nation of Trinidad & 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 conference also will focus on marshaling resources to help Afghanistan meet those benchmarks, Brown said. The United Nations and other international organizations are expected to attend.

Brown said the first benchmark will 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 must take control of at least five districts to Afghan control from the 43-nation NATO-led force.

The prime minister also said he would announce next week whether conditions have been met to send an additional 500 British troops, bringing the total to 9,500.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon issued a statement Saturday calling the planned conference in London "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," he said, and called them "defining moments in the reconfiguration of the relationship between Afghanistan and the international community."