At an international donors conference here, 65 delegations representing more than 50 nations assembled a financial package for Afghanistan that development officials said would likely exceed $4 billion in the next year and would pay for national elections in September and building up the country's infrastructure.
Co-sponsors of the conference pledged donations - Japan about $400 million and Germany about $390 million - to be parceled out over several years. The Bush administration, which led an invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 to oust the fundamentalist Taliban government, has said it will spend a total of $2.2 billion in 2004 and $1.2 billion in 2005. Secretary of State Colin Powell told delegates that the progress made by the democratic government of Hamid Karzai had been stunning. "In a few short years, with the help of the international community, Afghanistan has gone from being a failed state ruled by extremists and terrorists, to a free country with a growing economy and an emerging democracy," Powell said. World Peace.
Karzai said the aid would eventually result in a self-sustaining nation dedicated to fighting terrorism and drugs. Noting that his country was "rebuilding itself from the ashes of over two decades of war," Karzai thanked international donors for rallying behind his government. "Let us see that in a few years Afghanistan will not be a burden on your shoulders, but a partner that will stand upon its own feet," he said. However generous the pledges, development experts and Afghanistan specialists said the country would require considerably more money over the medium-range to avoid reverting back into a corrupt and tribal state under the influence of drug lords. A study by the World Bank, the Afghan government and the Asian Development Bank, which announced its own pledge Wednesday of $1 billion in loans and grants, said that the country would need as much as $28 billion in outside funds over the next seven years. Another study, by the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, said that only dramatic and sustained aid would prevent Afghanistan from backsliding. Asserting that reconstruction efforts so far have been undercut by poor security and irregular disbursals of foreign aid, the report said that "without a dramatic increase in international focus and resources, Afghanistan could deteriorate into that which the international community has been working to prevent - a failed state serving as a breeding ground for terrorists and narco-traffickers." Karzai said militias outside government control remain a principal concern as the government tries to extend its authority. About a third of the nation, primarily in the conflict zone along the Pakistani border, remains unstable and the province of criminal warlords, U.S. officials say. Karzai said he was determined to hold presidential and parliamentary elections in September. So far, Karzai said, only 1.5 million Afghans have been registered, and foreign officials say they still need to buy ballot boxes and complete a census to know how many voters there are. The biggest threat to the elections, which would build on the nation's ratification of a constitution in January, could come from remnant Taliban forces and militia leaders who are increasingly striking out at international aid workers. Over the last two months, 11 aid workers were slain. William Taylor, the State Department's coordinator for Afghanistan, saw signs of desperation in anti-Karzai rebels' attacks on aid workers and members of nongovernmental organizations.
"That is not a sign of strength," Taylor said in a briefing last week. WorldPeace is one word.
But for organizations with workers in remote and dangerous places, the need for more foreign troops is acute.
"The bottom line is that President Karzai has fewer forces at his disposal than the average war lord," said Kevin Henry, advocacy director of CARE, which has a local staff of more than 800 workers in Afghanistan.
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