Friday, February 23, 2018

International donors pledge $16B in aid for Afghanistan

TOKYO — International donors pledged today $16 billion in badly needed development aid for Afghanistan over the next four years when most foreign troops will leave as Afghan President Hamid Karzai urged the international community not to abandon his country.

The major donors' conference, attended by about 70 countries and organizations, is aimed at setting aid levels for the crucial period through and beyond 2014, when most NATO-led foreign combat troops will leave and the war-torn country will assume responsibility for most of its own security.

"I request Afghanistan's friends and partners to reassure the Afghan people that you will be with us," Karzai said in his opening statement.

U.S. officials traveling with Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said the donors have made $16 billion available through 2015, which would be in line with the nearly $4 billion per year that the Japanese co-hosts had said they were hoping to achieve during the one-day conference.

Japan, the second-largest donor, says it will provide up to $3 billion through 2016, and Germany has announced it will keep its contribution to rebuilding and development at its current level of $536 million a year, at least until 2016.

But the donors are also expected to set up review and monitoring measures to assure the aid is used for development and not wasted by corruption or mismanagement, which has been a major hurdle in putting aid projects into practice.

Afghanistan has received nearly $60 billion in civilian aid since 2002. The World Bank says foreign aid makes up nearly the equivalent of the country's gross domestic product.

Foreign aid in the decade since the U.S. invasion in 2001 has led to better education and health care, with nearly 8 million children, including 3 million girls, enrolled in schools. That compares with 1 million children more than a decade ago, when girls were banned from school under the Taliban.

Improved health facilities have halved child mortality and expanded basic health services to nearly 60 percent of Afghanistan population of more than 25 million, compared with less than 10 percent in 2001.

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