Donors Pledge Over $21 Billion for Afghan Reconstruction | Europe| News and current affairs from around the continent | DW | 12.06.2008
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Donors Pledge Over $21 Billion for Afghan Reconstruction

Donors pledged over $21 billion in aid money at a conference on Afghanistan in Paris on Thursday. Kabul, however, was hoping for up to $50 billion in extra aid to implement an ambitious reconstruction strategy.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai shakes hands with French President Nicolas Sarkozy

Sarkozy doubled France's pledge, but Karzai came with high expectations

French President Nicolas Sarkozy opened the conference by promising to more than double French aid to 107 million euros ($166 million) over three years, saying the aim of the donation was to "rid Afghanistan of terrorists and drugs."

The United States, represented by first lady Laura Bush, promised nearly half of the total donations, with a $10.2 billion (6.6 billion euro) pledge over the next two years that still has to be approved by Congress.

Picture of a suicide bombing in Kabul

The security situation remains precarious

"Afghanistan has reached a decisive moment for its future. We must not turn our back on this opportunity," Bush told the representatives of 67 nations and 17 international organizations gathered at the conference.

Germany had announced ahead of Thursday's conference that it would contribute 420 million euros ($651 million) in aid to the war-torn country. Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier also urged Kabul to fight corruption more vigorously.

Ambitious five-year plan

Afghan President Hamid Karzai on Thursday tabled a sweeping $50-billion, five-year plan for the reconstruction of his country. Energy and agriculture are important needs, he said, but infrastructure and security are the main focus of the strategy, requiring some $17 billion and $14 billion in aid respectively.

Karzai asked the international community to improve the coordination of aid with his government in Kabul. "The current development process that is marred by confusion and parallel structures undermines institution building," he said.

World Bank base

The World Bank has called for more transparency about the use of the funds

The five-year plan acknowledges some successes since the removal of the Taliban, such as the staging of democratic elections and moves toward building an army and getting more children back to school.

Oxfam Policy and Advocacy Adviser Matt Waldman said the country's reconstruction plan was the most candid so far in its description of the immense challenges facing the country. He said the one omission was "peace building" at local levels to address instability, while the emphasis on private sector-led development did not sufficiently consider the difficult business environment there.

"It is not going to change things overnight but it is a reasonably good foundation for future work," he told AFP news agency.

Corruption concerns

Human rights and international aid groups are skeptical about the ability of the Afghan authorities to properly manage incoming donations.

The World Bank, which pledged $1.1 billion over five years, released a report earlier this week urging Kabul to assume more accountability and requesting assurances that aid money would be properly spent.

Silhouette of Afghan soldier at dawn

The future cannot just rely on force

A recent finance ministry report said the Afghan government spent only 55 percent of available development funds in the last fiscal year, one reason being a lack of capacity.

Aid organizations have said that much donated money and other aid never reaches the Afghan population.

Getting the Taliban involved

French President Nicolas Sarkozy has called for increasing the use of civil organizations in Afghan reconstruction, in order to integrate the radical Islamic Taliban in the effort.

He has said the military approach, which costs $100 million a day, must not be the sole method used in Afghanistan.

Currently, some 47,000 foreign soldiers, mostly from NATO member states, are stationed in Afghanistan, to support the 63,000-strong Afghan army.

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