Afghanistan to need financial support until 2024

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U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, center, meets with delegates from an Afghan women’s civil society during an international conference on the future of Afghanistan, in Bonn, Germany, Monday, Dec. 5, 2011. Representatives of more than 90 countries and organizations are gathering to discuss the future of Afghanistan after the eventual withdrawal of foreign military forces.

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

BONN, Germany — Afghanistan will need the financial support of other countries for at least another decade beyond the 2014 departure of foreign troops, Afghan President Hamid Karzai said Monday at an international conference.

But the conference on the future of Afghanistan in Bonn was overshadowed by a public display of bad blood between the United States and Pakistan, the two nations with the greatest stake and say in making Afghanistan safe and solvent.

Pakistan boycotted the meeting to protest an apparently errant U.S. air strike last month that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers along the rough border with Afghanistan. The strike furthered the perception in Pakistan that NATO and the U.S. are its true enemies, not the Taliban militants that operate on both sides of the border.

Pakistan is seen as instrumental to ending the insurgency in Afghanistan because of its links to militant groups and its unwillingness, from the NATO perspective, to drive insurgents from safe havens on its soil where they regroup and rearm.

During the one-day conference, about 100 nations and international organizations jointly pledged political and financial long-term support for war-torn Afghanistan to prevent it from falling back into chaos or becoming a safe haven for terrorists.

“Together we have spent blood and treasure in fighting terrorism,” Karzai said. “Your continued solidarity, your commitment and support will be crucial so that we can consolidate our gains and continue to address the challenges that remain.”

Donor nations did not commit to specific figures but pledged that economic and other advances in Afghanistan since the ouster of the Taliban government in 2001 should be safeguarded with continued funding.

The United States announced it would free more than $650 million in support for small community-based development projects in Afghanistan, frozen because of financial irregularities in Afghanistan’s key Kabul Bank.

Afghanistan estimates it will need roughly $10 billion in 2015 and onward, slightly less than half the country’s annual gross national product, to pay for its security forces which are slated to increase to 352,000 personnel by the end of 2014.

Organizer Germany and the United States had once hoped this week’s conference would showcase progress toward a political settlement between Afghanistan and the Taliban-led insurgency that 10 years of fighting by international forces has failed to dislodge. Instead, it became a status report on halting progress on other fronts and a glaring reminder that neither the Taliban nor Pakistan is ready to sign up to the international agenda for Afghanistan.

Participating nations pledged their support for an inclusive Afghan-led reconciliation process on condition that any outcome must reject violence, terrorism and endorse the Afghan constitution and its guarantee of human rights.