Troops pullout from Afghanistan to start by late 2010 (Lead)

January 28th, 2010 - 11:39 pm ICT by IANS  

Taliban By Dipankar De Sarkar
London, Jan 28 (IANS) An international conference on Afghanistan ended here Thursday by agreeing to begin pulling out Western troops in late 2010 while setting up a multi-million dollar trust fund to wean away Taliban militants who renounce violence.

The final communique of the conference attended by ministers and officials from 70 countries said a process of handing over a “number of provinces” to Afghan security forces will begin, “providing conditions are met, by late 2010/early 2011″.

The offer of financial inducements to Taliban foot soldiers was coupled with a pledge by British Prime Minister Gordon Brown to defeat the Al Qaeda “anywhere and everywhere”.

Brown told gathered ministers, including Indian External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna, that the fund will offer a “way forward to those prepared to renounce violence, abandon past activities and choose to join the political process.”

Those funds will be offered under a peace and reintegration programme to insurgents who are prepared to renounce violence, cut ties with the Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups, and respect the Afghan Constitution.

The announcement of the Trust Fund, reportedly worth $500mn, followed the removal of five former Taliban militants from a UN sanctions list.

They include Wakil Ahmad Muttawakil, a former foreign minister and confidant of Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar.

Muttawakil was Taliban foreign minister when an Indian Airlines flight was hijacked to Kandahar, Afghanistan, on Christmas Eve, 1999, and claims to have facilitated the hostage exchange.

Alongside, Brown said the number of Afghan National Army troops will rise to 171,600 and police to 134,000 by October 2011, taking the total number of national security forces to 300,000.

Brown declared: “Today our message to Al Qaeda must be clear. It is the same message we send to all those who pursue violent and extremist ideologies: We will defeat you and we will defeat you not just on the battlefield but in the hearts and minds of the peoples of this world. And we will defeat you in any and every country where you seek refuge.”

He said the world community will need “more international police trainers” to facilitate the Afghanisation process, and that the number of military mentoring teams was being doubled in April this year.

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