VIENNA, April 25 (Xinhua) -- Afghanistan is ready for the withdrawal of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) as planned by the end of 2014, experts said at a panel discussion in Vienna on Thursday evening.
The panel was sponsored by the Institute for Peace Research and Conflict Management, according to the Austria Press Agency.
Michael Fredholm, a Central Asia expert from Stockholm University, said foreign troops in Afghanistan are at present "mainly protecting themselves."
Echoing Fredholm, Georg-Sebastian Holzer from the German Society for International Cooperation said that of the 4,500 German troops stationed in the country, only 500 regularly ventured outside of the base camp.
Expert Rasuly Sarajuddin said peace in the civil war-stricken country could be maintained "with fewer foreign troops but more funding of the national security forces."
There are now 65,000 ISAF soldiers and 344,000 Afghan security forces in the country, along with 25,000 police and 74,000 private security personnel.
The security agreement, which regulates conditions for a smaller NATO force mainly responsible for training and supporting the Afghan forces from 2015, has not yet been signed by outgoing President Hamid Karzai, despite pressure from both in and outside of Afghanistan.
The experts also agreed that the troop withdrawal would bring some major challenges to the new upcoming Afghan leadership. Holzer said 85 percent of economic activity in the country currently comes on the back of the foreign troop presence and foreign business.
The experts also said that there is strong potential in the field of agriculture, as only 50 percent of suitable land in the country is currently being used and there's an abundance of natural resources, though these would require foreign help to be fully tapped into.