The Obama administration is working out a strategy to stabilize Afghanistan, where the level of violence has risen due to a resurgence of the Taliban. A high level of cooperation in the international community will be key to the successful reconstruction of the nation.

The Taliban is growing stronger in eastern and southern parts of Afghanistan. According to the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan, 2,118 civilians were killed in military conflicts in 2008 — about 40 percent more than in 2007 and the most since the Taliban government was driven from power in 2001. Up to 828 deaths are attributed to “collateral damage.”

About 35,000 U.S. troops and 55,000 International Security Assistance Force troops under the command of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization are now in Afghanistan. The U.S. will send 17,000 more troops, and plans to eventually increase its force strength to about 60,000 troops.

Some people fear that Afghanistan could become another “Vietnam” for the United States. U.S. President Barack Obama acknowledges that the Afghan situation is “more complex” and that military power alone cannot stabilize the nation. He reportedly hopes to engage moderate elements in the Taliban.

Strengthening the Afghan Army and police, and ending corruption in the Karzai government are prerequisites for stabilizing the nation. Prime Minister Taro Aso’s special envoy Sadako Ogata, whose role is to coordinate polices related to Afghanistan and Pakistan, told the U.S. that Japan will provide $124 million to cover a half year’s pay for Afghanistan’s 80,000 police officers. While this measure is welcome, Japan should boost its contributions in other areas that will improve the lives of the Afghan people, such as the construction of infrastructure.

A high-level international conference on the stabilization of Afghanistan is expected to be held at the end of this month in the Netherlands, and a conference of donor nations assisting Pakistan will be held in Tokyo in mid-April.

Iran’s Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said Iran is “considering whether to attend” the first meeting. We hope Iran decides to go. Both Iran and Pakistan’s involvement are key to efforts to improve the situation in Afghanistan.

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