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Donors pledge 20 billion dollars for Afghanistan

Latest update : 2008-06-13

Donors led by the United States pledged about $20 billion in aid to Afghanistan on Thursday but said Kabul must do far more to fight corruption. Cyril Vanier and Armen Georgian explain.

Check out our exclusive interview with Kai Eide, head of the UN's aid mission in Afghanistan.



PARIS - Donors led by the United States pledged about $20 billion in aid to Afghanistan on Thursday but said Kabul must do far more to fight corruption.


The lion's share of the assistance, $10.2 billion, was put forward by the United States at a Paris conference that exposed frustrations both at the inefficiency of the Afghan government and the failure of donors themselves to coordinate their aid.


Six-and-a-half years after U.S.-led forces toppled the Islamist Taliban government, Afghanistan is still grappling with an insurgency, drug trafficking, corruption and poverty.


French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner initially said the meeting raised $19.95 billion from the 68 countries and more than 15 international organisations that attended.


He then provided a second estimate of $21.416 billion and said it was best to put the figure at "around" $20 billion.


"We did not expect such a considerable sum," Kouchner told a closing news conference. "We hoped, in our wildest dreams, that the total might be around $17 billion."


While the conference was designed to showcase international support for Afghanistan, it was not immediately clear how much of the money pledged represented fresh contributions, nor how much was in the form of grants or loans.


U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Afghanistan has made strides since the Taliban was ousted but she, like many officials at the meeting, "strongly urged" Kabul to clean up corruption and improve its governance.


"We must continue to commit to increasing the effectiveness and coherence of our assistance while ensuring that it reaches Afghans and addresses their most urgent needs," she said. "This means successfully fighting corruption, improving accountability and it means Afghan ownership of development."


At the news conference, Kouchner said it was naive to expect the country to eliminate corruption overnight. "I am certain that they will fight against corruption and we have ... to watch," he added.






Afghanistan asked the donors to help fund a $50 billion five-year development plan and Afghan President Hamid Karzai said his country needed aid to be better coordinated as well as more help in institution-building to fight corruption.


"The current development process that is marred by confusion and parallel structures undermines institution building," Karzai said. "While Afghanistan needs large amounts of aid, precisely how aid is spent is just as important."


Afghanistan depends on aid for 90 percent of its spending. But international donors have fallen behind in paying what they have already pledged, and much of the money goes straight back to donor countries in salaries, purchase of goods and profits.


Some Afghans were sceptical about the meeting, reflecting the view that vast sums have been wasted by inept or venal officials and little has trickled down to ordinary people.


"I haven't been paid for several months. I have children to feed, salaries are very low there is no control on prices, no good security, no water, no protection," said Karima Sediqi, a teacher on her way to work in the West of Kabul.


"Young Afghans join the insurgency and Taliban because they don't have jobs and income."


More than 12,000 people have been killed in Afghanistan during the past two years and the Islamist Taliban movement has vowed to step up a campaign of suicide bombings to try to break the will of Western nations that have forces in the nation.


More than 60,000 foreign troops in the country are trying to restore stability following the 2001 ousting of the Taliban after it refused to hand over Osama bin Laden, whose al Qaeda group carried out the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States.


Date created : 2008-06-12