Donors expected to pledge $16 bln in Afghan aid

KABUL Sat Jul 7, 2012 11:26pm IST

1 of 2. A delegate wearing an Afghanistan traditional costume, attends a greeting reception ahead of the ministerial level international conference on the reconstruction of Afghanistan, in Tokyo July 7, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Kim Kyung-Hoon

KABUL (Reuters) - Donors are expected to pledge $16 billion in aid for Afghanistan over the next four years, a U.S. official said on Saturday, as Washington kept a promise to declare the country a major non-NATO ally.

The upgrade in Afghanistan's security status, a largely symbolic move for now, and a donors' conference to be held in Tokyo on Sunday both aim to reinforce the U.S. message to Afghans that they will not be abandoned as the war winds down.

The new status may help Afghanistan acquire U.S. defence supplies and have greater access to U.S. training as the Afghan army takes more responsibility for the country's security ahead of the 2014 withdrawal of most NATO combat troops.

Donor fatigue and war weariness are taking their toll on how long the global community is willing to support Afghanistan and there are fears that without financial backing, the country could slip back into chaos when foreign troops withdraw.

"Please know that the United States will be your friend and your partner. We are not even imagining abandoning Afghanistan. Quite the opposite," U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told a news conference with Afghan President Hamid Karzai during an unannounced visit to Kabul before flying to Tokyo.

The decision, formally taken by U.S. President Barack Obama, keeps a promise that he made on a visit to Afghanistan this year to upgrade Kabul to a special security status given to only a limited number of U.S. partners - including Israel and Japan - which are not members of the NATO alliance.

However, it is not expected to have any immediate practical effect, a U.S. official said on condition of anonymity, saying the large presence of NATO forces in the country already confers some similar benefits.

Participants at Sunday's donors' conference in Tokyo are expected to pledge $4 billion annually in development aid for Afghanistan over the 2012-2015 period, a U.S. official told reporters as Clinton flew to Japan.

The figure is well below the sum of at least $6 billion a year that the Afghan central bank has estimated is needed to foster economic growth over the next decade.

The development aid would come on top of the $4.1 billion committed annually by NATO and its partners for Afghanistan's security forces, pledged at a Chicago summit in May.

U.S. officials with Clinton declined to say how much economic assistance would be pledged by Washington, which has significantly reduced aid since the peak year of 2010 when it provided two-thirds of the more than $6 billion given.

CORRUPTION CONCERNS

"The United States will be making a substantial commitment in line with what we have been providing in the past. We want to continue at or near that level," Clinton said in Kabul without elaborating.

A U.S. official said Washington had given $2.3 billion in the current U.S. fiscal year that ends on September 30, while a decade ago the amount was closer to $1 billion.

U.S. officials acknowledged that the trend lines for development aid were now heading down.

Major donors and aid organisations have warned that weak political will and corruption could prevent funds reaching the right people at a critical time, when fragile gains in health and education could be lost.

For Afghanistan to one day stand on its own two feet, donors hope Sunday's Tokyo conference will win guarantees from Kabul to tackle graft and ensure accountability.

Transparency International ranks Afghanistan as one of the world's most corrupt nations and despite Karzai's recent campaign to tackle graft within government, a high-level corruption case is yet to be prosecuted.

There are also growing fears among ordinary Afghans that a vacuum of cash could lead to greater insecurity.

Comparisons are frequently being drawn to the Soviets' 1989 humiliating defeat after a decade of fighting mujahideen insurgents. When Moscow stopped giving aid a year after the Soviet Union collapsed, in 1992, civil war engulfed the country.

U.S. officials may be reluctant to cite a specific pledge because the sum given is ultimately controlled by Congress, which holds the U.S. government's purse strings.

Enthusiasm for foreign aid has waned in Congress because of massive U.S. budget deficits.

(Writing by Amie Ferris-Rotman and Arshad Mohammed; Editing by Jeremy Laurence and Pravin Char)

FILED UNDER:
Comments (0)
This discussion is now closed. We welcome comments on our articles for a limited period after their publication.

  • Most Popular
  • Most Shared

REUTERS SHOWCASE

Diwali Sales

Diwali Sales

Gold sales jump about 20 pct for Diwali - trade body  Full Article 

World Bank Rival

World Bank Rival

Three major nations absent as China launches W.Bank rival in Asia  Full Article 

Wal-Mart India

Wal-Mart India

Murali Lanka appointed as Wal-Mart India operations chief  Full Article 

Microsoft Earnings

Microsoft Earnings

Microsoft sales beat Street hopes, cloud profits up.  Full Article 

Special Report

Special Report

Why Madrid's poor fear Goldman Sachs and Blackstone  Full Article 

U.S. Economy

U.S. Economy

Spectre of no-inflation world looms over Fed's return to normal  Full Article 

Insider Trading

Insider Trading

Rengan Rajaratnam, SEC to settle civil insider trading charge.  Full Article 

Market Watch

Market Watch

Betting on the beaten up? Investors pin hopes on stocks in Europe, Japan.  Full Article 

India Insight

India Insight

Kalki Koechlin on her role as a disabled girl in “Margarita, With a Straw”  Full Article 

Reuters India Mobile

Reuters India Mobile

Get the latest news on the go. Visit Reuters India on your mobile device.  Full Coverage