Global donors pledge billions to support Afghan government

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A group of international donors have agreed on more than 15 billion dollars in aid for Afghanistan. While leaders praised an Afghan commitment to tackle corruption, not all were convinced.

International donors who gathered in Brussels on Wednesday pledged 15.2 billion dollars (13.6 billion euros) in aid for Afghanistan over the next four years.

Although there had been fears of donor fatigue – particularly in light of the Syrian war – the amount that was pledged fell only slightly below the four billion dollars per year that donors pledged at the last conference in Tokyo in 2012.

“Some were skeptical that we are going to face donor fatigue after 15 years,” EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini told a press conference.

EU development commissioner Neven Mimica said the pledges “surpassed some of our best case scenarios.”

‘Work begins tomorrow’

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani hailed it as a “truly remarkable day,” but acknowledged that work was needed to meet attached conditions, which include tackling the corruption that is rife in the country.

“The work from the Afghan side begins in earnest tomorrow,” Ghani said. “A credit line has been extended,” he said. “If we do not muster the political will in the practical ways of dealing with corruption, these pledges will remain pledges.”

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said Afghanistan’s leaders “have been making impressive reforms and development plans to change the lives of people that have been suffering too long.”

Dismay over promises

However, some participants at the conference complained that there was insufficient pressure on the government to tackle the problem of graft.

Ikram Afzali, from the anti-corruption civil society group Integrity Watch Afghanistan, told The Associated Press that the Afghan government’s promises amounted to no more than “window dressing.”

“The commitments to fighting corruption are very weak and we are disappointed,” Afzali said.

Earlier, EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini denied reports the EU was making aid conditional on Afghanistan taking back migrants who have fled to Europe.

Mogherini said there was “never a link between our development aid and what we do on migration.”

Afghanistan has relied on Western aid and military support over the past 15 years, since a US-led coalition ousted the Taliban for harboring al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in 2001.

bw/rc (AP, AFP, dpa)