Japan and Afghanistan
Japan’s determination to offer new, non-military solutions to Afghanistan’s problems was evident at the weekend when the foreign minister, Katsuya Okada, made a surprise visit to Kabul to discuss long-term reconstruction with the Afghan president, Hamid Karzai. Japan has already committed itself to paying the Afghan police force’s salaries for six months and is funding several education projects that it hopes will weaken the lure of the Taliban among disaffected Afghan men.
Although the US and Britain have urged Japan to extend its refuelling mission beyond January, Washington has indicated it will accept a withdrawal in return for deeper involvement in Afghanistan’s reconstruction. Among the extra measures being considered by Japan, which has pledged $2bn in aid over the last eight years, is job training for former Taliban fighters.
For foreign affairs nerds, the changes coming out of Japan post-election are really fascinating. Japan and the US have had a pretty interdependent relationship since post-WWII, and it looks like PM Yukio Hatoyama’s DJP are committed to shaking things up. But it’s worth noting that Japan has had a monetary investment in Afghanistan from 2002, and this would represent a fairly significant uptick in Japan’s involvement there, particularly since it would include personnel.
And furthermore, Japan is looking to boot out more of the US presence in its own nation; it’s something that has been talked about for years but never implemented. Hatoyama seems so far to be sticking to his political commitments.