BERLIN — A global conference in Germany to discuss Afghanistan's future beyond 2014 comes as the country faces political instability, an enduring Taliban-led insurgency and possible financial collapse following the planned drawdown of international troops and foreign aid.
About 100 countries and international organizations will be represented at the gathering today, with about 60 foreign ministers in attendance, including Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.
But one of the most important countries for Afghanistan's future, its eastern, nuclear-armed neighbor Pakistan, said it will boycott the conference to protest last month's NATO air assault carried out from Afghan territory that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers.
Pakistan is a crucial player in the region because of its influence on insurgent groups that are battling Afghan government and foreign troops.
The Bonn conference is expected to address the transfer of security responsibility from international forces to Afghan security forces over the next three years, long-term prospects for international aid and a possible political settlement with the Taliban.
"Our objective is a peaceful Afghanistan that will never again become a safe haven for international terrorism," German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said.
The United States had once hoped to use the Bonn gathering to announce news about the prospect for peace talks with the Taliban, but neither an Afghan nor a U.S. outreach effort has borne fruit.
The reconciliation efforts suffered a major setback after the September assassination of former Afghan President Burhanuddin Rabbani, who was leading the Afghan government's effort to broker peace with the insurgents.
The final declaration of the conference is expected to outline principles and red lines for the political reconciliation with the Taliban, a project that several leading participants in the conference increasingly predict will outlast the NATO time line for withdrawal in 2014.