Afghanistan Asks for Long-Term Aid

December 17, 2002

Afghan President Hamid Karzai has asked international donors at a conference in Norway to focus on long-term infrastructure projects rather than short-term aid such as food and medicine.

Members of the Afghan Support Group pledged about $1.7bn in aid for next year, the same amount pledged for 2002 and significantly more than the United Nations requested.

Separately, in Islamabad the Pakistani leader, General Pervez Musharraf promised Afghan Vice President Hedayat Amin Arsala that his country would also contribute to rebuilding Afghanistan. Two US soldiers and an Afghan interpreter were wounded in a grenade attack in Kabul as the international donors' conference took place in Oslo on Tuesday.

The attack came on the same day that senior Afghan defence officials said Mr Karzai ordered the government to disarm the Afghan population in six months. Mr Karzai addressed the 16-nation Afghan Support Group, which has co-ordinated assistance for Afghanistan since the fall of the hardline Islamic Taleban last year, on the first day of its two-day Oslo summit.

Infrastructure and agriculture

"We would like to ask the member states to continue to assist us with rehabilitation and reconstruction by funding long-term recovery," he said. The country needs help building roads and infrastructure and restoring farming, as well as creating or rebuilding government structures and services, he said.

He also addressed the subject of women's rights after two international organisations criticised Afghanistan's post-Taleban record. He said he did not think the situation of women had deteriorated since the hardline Islamic government was toppled, as some Human Rights Watch recently charged.

"Schools are open, colleges are open for women to study," he said. Drugs Mr Karzai also promised to crack down on drug trafficking. "In our view, drug money goes hand in hand with terrorism and extremism," he said.

Afghanistan has received most of the $2bn promised by the international community in 2002 for rebuilding the country, Afghan and Norwegian officials say. The United Nations has estimated Afghanistan will need $815m for reconstruction and assistance programmes in 2003.

Donors have already pledged $4.5bn over the next five years. Mr Karzai says that part of the aid will go towards the creation of a 70,000-strong army which will have recruits from all of Afghanistan's ethnic groups and regions.

Kabul has expressed hope that aid will continue to flow into the country even if world attention is diverted away from Afghanistan by a possible war with Iraq.


Mr Karzai said he did not know if Osama bin Laden, the al Qaeda leader who is held responsible for the 11 September attacks on the US, was still alive. "If he is alive we will look for him and find him eventually," he said, following talks with the Norwegian Foreign Minister, Jan Petersen.

Norway is head of the Afghanistan Support Group which is meeting for two days amid tight security. Mr Karzai survived an assassination attempt in September in the southern Afghan city of Kandahar when gunman opened fire on his car.

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