Nations offer Afghanistan aid, demand accountability
Afghans sought help for its $50 billion five-year plan as donors met in Paris June 12.
The people and villages of troubled Afghanistan will get substantial new aid – up to $16 billion – provided Kabul and President Hamid Karzai agree to greater United Nations oversight and clampdown measures on Afghan corruption and waste, world leaders said here Thursday.Skip to next paragraph
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
The one-day 70-nation meeting in Paris arose out of deepening concern this spring that the NATO Afghan mission is too important to fail – amid Taliban resurgence – and that billions of dollars for civil and civic structures must actually reach ordinary Afghans and into small villages. It is a "hearts and minds" strategy – that stability depends as much on nation-building as on NATO security.
Yet the word "accountability" hung in the Paris air as much as the word "pledge," as Mr. Karzai's embattled government sought $50 billion over five years. The day opened with a frank UN report on progress since 2006 issued to the press – describing "deteriorating" security, increased opium production, the burning of schools, corruption. The famed "Afghan Compact" shaped in London two years ago "turned out to be overly ambitious due to changing circumstances," it read.
The meeting comes "at a time of serious doubts about Afghanistan… and we have to show determination and considerable patience," said Bernard Kouchner, French foreign minister. His boss, Nicolas Sarkozy, offered that it is time "to put the Afghan people in charge of their fate and future."
'We will support, but ...'
Diplomats in Paris intimated that aid will be tied to Karzai's promises – affirmed here Thursday – to work in partnership with new UN special representative Kai Eide. The point was echoed most loudly in the hallways by Europeans, who trust Mr. Eide after his reform of operations in Kosovo. But US ambassador also termed Eide a needed "traffic cop" for aid.
Karzai himself echoed both praise and criticism. "We need aid, but how it is spent is important.... We give ... Kai Eide our full backing and support," Karzai told a round table that included host president Nicolas Sarkozy, US First Lady Laura Bush, and UN General Secretary Ban Ki Moon.
Some 90 percent of the Afghan budget comes from donors – though the country is in the bottom tenth on most transparency rankings.
"Karzai won't get new pledges without greater accounting for it," says Greg Sullivan, a US Department of State spokesman. "But they are in Paris with a 19-page fact sheet that is the best we've ever seen. The gaps in Afghanistan are huge. In Khost you can use a Blackberry, and in Helmund are the Taliban. So Paris is sort of a shareholders' meeting, where donors must be convinced. That's a philosophical change."