An international summit on the future of Afghanistan was Gordon Browns answer last night as the clamour for an exit strategy from the conflict grew louder. With President Karzai ready to claim outright victory in Afghanistans flawed elections, the Prime Minister announced his plans for the meeting, which could take place this year in either London or Kabul. Speaking in Berlin after he met Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor, Mr Brown said that the international conference would seek to ensure that the effort to build up the police and army was properly supported. Ms Merkel, who faces general elections this month, is under growing political pressure over Afghanistan after a German commander called in an airstrike that killed dozens of civilians last week. Downing Street officials said that the venue of the conference was a matter for discussion. We are prepared to host it in London but Kabul has also been mentioned. The conference would take place as soon as the Afghan political process has been completed, the source said. The Prime Minister is now expected to send a joint letter with Ms Merkel and President Sarkozy of France to Ban Ki Moon, the UN Secretary-General, urging him to back the summit. Mr Brown is likely to try to press the idea when he visits the UN in New York this month on his way to the G20 meeting in Pittsburgh. Ms Merkel appears to have agreed to lend her support for the idea after Germanys involvement in the Nato-led engagement exploded into the countrys election campaign in recent days. Gerhard Schrder, the former Chancellor, demanded that all international forces should be out of Afghanistan by the year 2015. We cannot stay there forever, Mr Schrder shouted on the stump in the north German town of Lbbecke. We need a cut-off date 2015 and we have to tell the Afghan President you cannot rely on us for all time, you have to take responsibility for yourselves. The Afghanistan mission it was called war for the first time in the German media yesterday has become a matter of passionate debate because of the US bombing of two large fuel trucks that had been hijacked by the Taleban in the Kunduz region of northern Afghanistan. The aircraft had been called in by the German commander, Colonel Georg Klein, who, apparently on the basis of a single intelligence source, assumed that the trucks were accompanied by a large number of Taleban fighters and that they could be used as powerful bombs-on-wheels against Nato forces. But the resulting explosion killed 125 people, including at least two dozen civilians who were siphoning off petrol from the trucks. Mr Schrder is helping Ms Merkels Social Democrat political opponents to exploit hardening public opinion against the conflict, despite the partys being part of the current coalition. Mr Brown was expected to drive home to Ms Merkel last night the need for more burden-sharing in the Afghanistan operation. The Germans have earmarked 4,200 soldiers; the United States and Britain would like to see more, perhaps 6,000. Ms Merkel made clear, however, that her priority was cutting Germanys contribution. We will help with training and civilian reconstruction but the goal is not to lose sight of a sustainable security structure in Afghanistan, she said. We must move forward decisively on this, and as the Afghans take on more responsibility for their security, then the international engagement can be reduced. It would be electoral suicide for Ms Merkel to commit herself to boosting troop levels before September 27. The advantage of an international conference is that it should help her to secure an extension of the parliamentary mandate when it comes before the Bundestag in December. The Wests search for an escape route out of the Afghan quagmire has been spurred by last months presidential elections, which were marred by widespread ballot-rigging. Although Mr Karzai looks set to be confirmed as the winner, the Independent Election Commission (IEC) has delayed the release of preliminary final results and cancelled hundreds of thousands of ballots. Mr Karzais main rival, Abdullah Abdullah, has accused him of foisting a state-engineered fraud on the country, and warned that the patience of the disenfranchised was wearing thin in a country full of guns and already weakened by a determined Taleban insurgency. A Western official in Kabul also insisted that the industrial-strength fraud allegedly perpetrated by Mr Karzais supporters was too big for the international community to ignore. The IEC said that it had delayed the release of preliminary results, expected to show an outright win for Mr Karzai without the need for a run-off vote, but gave no explanation. It also said that ballots had been thrown out from 447 polling stations because they were suspected of being tainted by fraud, estimating that 200,000 votes could be annulled. Almost 4,300,000 votes have been counted. Dr Abdullah, the leading opposition candidate, said that the scale of the fraud was even greater than the IEC was acknowledging. He accused the IEC, in charge of organising the polls and counting the votes, of being stacked with Mr Karzais cronies. Partial results released yesterday showed that, with 73 per cent of ballots counted, Mr Karzai had won 48.6 per cent of the votes, just a hairs breadth from the crucial 50 per cent threshold that would allow him to avoid a run-off. We have insecurity in this country. We have bad government. We have corruption. We have narcotics. We have a war. We have an insurgency, Dr Abdullah said. On top of that, if a leadership is imposed on the people based on fraudulent elections, what will happen? What will happen to Afghanistan? (The Times)