Donors pledging $16B in Afghan aid
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TOKYO -- International donors will pledge $16 billion in aid for Afghanistan over the next four years in hopes of stabilizing the country after most foreign combat troops return home, a U.S. diplomat said early today, but the money will come with conditions to ensure it doesn't fall victim to rampant Afghan corruption and mismanagement.
The announcement was expected later today at a Tokyo conference attended by about 70 countries and organizations. The American official traveling with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton spoke ahead of the event on condition of anonymity and said $4 billion per year would be promised from 2012 through 2015.
The U.S. portion is expected to be in the decade-long annual range of $1 billion to this year's $2.3 billion. Officials declined to outline the future annual U.S. allotments going forward, but the Obama administration has requested a similarly high figure for next year as it draws down American troops and hands over greater authority to Afghan forces.
The total amount of international civilian support represents a slight trailing off from the current annual level of around $5 billion, a number somewhat inflated by U.S. efforts to effect a "civilian surge" for Afghan reconstruction, mirroring President Barack Obama's decision in 2009 to ramp up military manpower in the hopes of routing the Taliban insurgency.
Still, it is a large sum of cash designed to allay fears that Afghanistan will be abandoned when NATO and other international soldiers leave the country. It will come with conditions, as well, with the donors' meeting in Japan expected to establish a road map of accountability to ensure that Afghanistan does more to improve governance and finance management, and to safeguard the democratic process, rule of law and human rights -- especially those of women.
The international donors' conference convened a day after the United States declared Afghanistan a major, non-NATO ally, with Ms. Clinton personally delivering the news of Afghanistan's entry into a club that includes Israel, Japan, Pakistan and other close Asian and Middle Eastern allies.
The move, announced on Saturday as Ms. Clinton stood with Afghan President Hamid Karzai amid the rose beds and towering trees on the grounds of the presidential palace in Kabul, was part of a broad strategic partnership deal signed by the United States and Afghanistan in May, she said. The pact went into effect last week.
"Please know that the United States will be your friend," she told Mr. Karzai. "We are not even imagining abandoning Afghanistan. Quite the opposite. We are building a partnership with Afghanistan that will endure far into the future."
The designation by the United States grants a country special privileges, like access to U.S. military training and excess military supplies, Ms. Clinton said.
In a separate statement, the State Department said Afghanistan would also be able to obtain loans of equipment from the United States and financing for leasing equipment. The agreement does not, however, "entail any security commitment" by the United States to Afghanistan, the State Department said.
Iraq was never given the status of a major ally, and U.S. troops withdrew last year.
Foreign aid to Afghanistan 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.
But donors have become wary of corruption-busting pledges that have not always been delivered. Some highly placed Afghan officials have been investigated for corruption but seldom prosecuted, and some of the graft investigations have come close to the president himself.
First Published July 8, 2012 12:28 am