Donors Pledge $13 Billion for Afghanistan as U.S. Looks to Exit
(Bloomberg) -- International donors have pledged about $13 billion over the next four years for war-stricken Afghanistan -- about $2 billion less than the last pledge in 2016 -- at a time when the U.S. is accelerating its plan to exit the country following a peace deal with Taliban militants.
About 70 countries and more than 30 international organizations during a one-day meeting in Geneva on Tuesday offered $3.3 billion for 2021 “with annual commitments expected to stay at the same level year-on-year” for the next four years, the United Nations said in a statement in Kabul.
International donors set conditions including protection of human rights, tackling corruption, rule of law and gender equality for contributing $13 billion through 2024, Shamruz Khan Masjidi, the spokesman of Afghan Finance Ministry said in a WhatsApp message.
Almost half of the nation’s annual budget of 452 billion Afghani ($5.9 billion) comes from international donors, Masjidi added. Despite billions of dollars in foreign aid in the past two decades, the country has failed to reach economic self-reliance in terms of funding its own administration and development projects amid unrelenting attacks by terrorist groups that have only increased since peace talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government began in September.
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“I want to be clear that the choices made in peace negotiations will affect the size and scope of future international support and assistance,” U.S. Secretary of State Michael Pompeo said in a statement.
The largest contributor, the U.S., provides 47% of the Afghan budget’s foreign aid. India has so far given $3 billion to help Afghanistan. In 2016, a similar donor conference helped Afghanistan raise $15 billion.
The latest financial pledges come as the U.S. is planning to reduce troops from about 4,500 to 2,500 by Jan. 15 and to fully withdraw by May 2021 under a Feb. 29 peace agreement with the Taliban militants. The troops drawdown is likely to embolden the Taliban and other militant groups.
Some $19 billion of U.S. funding for the country’s reconstruction since 2002 was lost to “waste, fraud, and abuse,” a recent report by the U.S. watchdog Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, or SIGAR, said.
Meanwhile, peace talks between the government and the Taliban has resulted in increased violence, ranging from attacks on Afghan army bases to attempts to capture key cities including Kandahar. Attacks on Kabul University and other educational centers have killed dozens of students.
As the donor conference was underway two bombs jolted the city of Bamyan, killing at least 14 people and wounding 45 others, according to the ministry of interior spokesman Tariq Arian on Twitter. No group has claimed responsibility for the attacks.
“I am also deeply concerned about continued high levels of violence, particularly the recent heinous attacks on civilians, including students,” U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres said at the donor conference asking for an “immediate unconditional cease-fire” between the Taliban and Afghan government. “The Afghan people have suffered for far too long.”
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