In Tokyo, the International Community Pledges $16bn for Afghanistan

July 14, 2012

A close-up of an opium poppy in Afghanistan. Photo by Zalmai/UN Photo/UNODC

The major donor’s conference on Afghanistan in Tokyo attempted to shore up a slew of issues in Afghanistan as the 2014 deadline approaches when coalition forces are scheduled to leave, ostensibly leaving Afghanistan’s nascent security forces on there own.

The donor’s conference aimed at setting aid levels for the crucial post-2014 period.

The “Tokyo Declaration” adopted at the end of the conference, pledged $16 billion for development projects over the next four years, when most NATO- led foreign combat troops will leave.

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

Similarly, India committed $2 billion including $500 million committed during Manmohan Singh’s visit to Kabul last year out of which a large portion of this assistance has been disbursed or is committed to ongoing projects.

Since 2002 Afghanistan has received nearly $60 billion in civilian aid. The World Bank estimates that external assistance accounted for nearly the equivalent of the country’s gross domestic product. Foreign aid has led to better health care and access to education with nearly eight million children including three million girls, enrolled in schools. That compares with one million children more than decade ago when girls were banned from attending school under the Taliban. In fact, improved health facilities have halved child mortality rates and expanded basic health services to nearly 60 percent of the Afghan population, compared with less than 10 percent in 2001.

Undoubtedly Afghanistan is still very much in need of reforms, despite the progress made in the past 10 years, including improved governance, consolidating the rule of law, eliminating drug smuggling and fighting against all prevailing levels of corruption, Afghanistan still faces monumental challenges.

At the start of the conference, Afghan President Hamid Karzai pledged that Kabul would “fight corruption with strong resolve.”

“It will take many years of hard work on our part as Afghans, as well as continued empowering support from our international partners before Afghanistan can achieve prosperity and self-reliance,” Karzai said.

“We must do what we can to deepen the roots of security and make the transition irreversible.”

For her part, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton emphasized reforms that must be undertaken. “That must include fighting corruption, improving governance, strengthening the rule of law, increasing access to economic opportunity for all Afghans, especially for women.”

The Tokyo conference, while asserting that the peace and security were the foundation on which a stable and prosperous society is built, the participating nations recognized that the main threat to Afghanistan’s future primarily comes from terrorist groups like the Taliban and al-Qaeda.

This threat endangeres Afghanistan’s regional partners like Pakistan and India and because of that, Afghanistan’s fate very much rests on the ability of Pakistan and India to resolve their long running tensions over a whole host of issues.

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