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International Community Pledges $10.5 Billion for Afghanistan

British Prime Minister Tony Blair has hailed the signing of an international agreement to help Afghanistan by boosting human rights and fueling the economy. He described it as essential in fighting global terrorism.

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Delegates emerged with a five-year blueprint for the troubled Central Asian country

The two-day conference on stabilizing Afghanistan has resulted in a pledge of 8.75 billion euros ($10.5 billion) by the more than 60 nations present, which would to toward sparking the economy but also establishing the rule of law in this country ravaged by two decades of war and extremist governance.

Speaking in parliament as the second day of talks on the so-called Afghanistan Compact resumed in London, Blair said the pledge to help was vital for the move to democracy, making a link to similar developments in Iraq.

"I think its right to reflect on how important it is for the international community to help those countries (Afghanistan and Iraq) become different because when they were left in that failed state they were a threat to the whole of the world," he said.

Providing security in Afghanistan and Iraq will help people there but would also be a "direct benefit" to British security, he said in his weekly question-and-answer session in the House of Commons.

"(This) is why it's important we stay the course and see it through", he added.

Five-year agreement

Afghanistan and its international partners signed a new five-year deal in the British capital on Monday to help the destitute central Asian nation defeat a resurgent Taliban and drug traffickers.

Chief among the proposals was for a boost to security in the country, particularly in the volatile south, to create stability for economic and social development. Other key elements of the compact set out specific targets for improving governance, strengthening the rule of law and human rights.

Afghanistan Konferenz London Tony Blair und Hamid Karsei

UK Prime Minister Blair, left, and Afhgan President Karzai exchange an agreement on the future of Afghanistan

The United States pledged an extra $1.1 billion in financial aid for the coming US fiscal year from October.

Observers spoke of the need for joined-up action from the international community to help cement democracy in Afghanistan, which has been plagued by three decades of foreign occupation, civil war and Islamic extremism.

Farzana Shaikh, an associate fellow at the London-based international affairs think-tank Chatham House, told AFP that Western and other world powers needed to be committed long-term to the issue.

"It's going to take some time before Karzai can really strengthen his government to a point where it can stand on its own two feet," she added, pointing also to the need to root out corruption in Afghan politics.

Meanwhile, the Afghan Minister of Counter-Narcotics Habibullah Qaderi welcomed the revised anti-drug strategy as a "major step on the journey ahead of us."

More than military might needed

Delegates from Afghanistan, hosts Britain and more than 60 foreign partners were bringing proceedings to a close Wednesday following discussions on governance, the rule of law and human rights, as well as economic and social development.

Bundeswehr Afghanistan Camp Warehouse in Kabul

A German tank used by peacekeepers in the Afghan capital, Kabul

Britain's Armed Forces Minister Adam Ingram said security in Afghanistan cannot be achieved by military means alone, adding economic development, good governance and the rule of law will all contribute to lasting stability.

"For every day that passes Afghanistan becomes more governmentally self-sufficient, less reliant on direct intervention by allies, and nearer to the day when it can be responsible for its own security," he said.

Speaking alongside General Abdul Rahim Wardak, the Afghan defense minister, Ingram insisted that Afghanistan must never again be allowed to become a staging post for international terrorism. US-led forces toppled Afghanistan's Islamist Taliban regime, which was funded by and sheltered al Qaeda, for refusing to hand over Osama bin Laden following the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States.

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