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United States Pledges $1.1 Billion More for Afghan Reconstruction

31 January 2006

Afghanistan, international community announce new development plan

By Phillip Kurata
Washington File Staff Writer

Washington -- The United States has pledged $1.1 billion in additional aid to support reconstruction in Afghanistan as it enters a new phase of its development under a democratically elected government.

The pledge, announced by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice at an international conference in London January 31, would add to the more than $10.3 billion in U.S. security and reconstruction assistance to Afghanistan between fiscal years 2001 and year 2006.

Rice unveiled the latest U.S. assistance package as more than 60 governments gathered in London to endorse Afghanistan's development plan for the coming five years. The plan is known as the Compact.

The Compact involves commitments to specific, achievable goals in security, governance, economic and social development and counter-narcotics.

"The Compact that we endorse here today sets out an inspiring vision for the future of Afghanistan -- a future of liberty and tolerance, and permanent peace," Rice said.  "Today, we renew the purpose of our multilateral partnership: to empower the Afghan people to guarantee democracy's enduring success -- not just as a form of governance, but as a way of life."

Rice said that the transformation of Afghanistan from tyranny to democracy following the toppling of the Taliban regime in 2001 is "a monumental achievement of our young century" but the task is not completed.

"The United States is fully devoted to the long-term success of Afghanistan," Rice said.

By the end of 2005, Afghanistan had become a fully functional democracy with a popularly elected president and a legislature chosen under universal suffrage laws.  Forty-three percent of the Afghans who cast ballots in the legislative elections in late 2005 were women.  Under the constitution, women are allotted a substantial portion of the seats in the legislative bodies.  

PRIVATE-SECTOR INITIATIVE FOR SUSTAINABLE GROWTH

To create sustainable growth in Afghanistan, the United States is launching an initiative called Businesses Building Bridges to foster the private sector of the Afghan economy.

Under the initiative, U.S. business leaders will mentor Afghan entrepreneurs, including women.  The U.S. mentors plan to travel to Afghanistan and invite senior Afghan business executives to the United States during the coming year.  The initiative, which is funded by a $500,000 grant from the U.S. Trade and Development Agency, aims to strengthen economic and commercial linkages between the United States and Afghanistan and make Afghanistan an attractive target for foreign investment. (See related article.)

"[T]he engine of growth for any society, for any free country, democratic country especially, is the private sector," Afghan President Hamid Karzai said in London January 30.  "That ultimately means a wealthier Afghanistan, a well-to-do Afghan society."

Since the ouster of the Taliban, Afghanistan, with international help, has established a new currency, managed inflation, improved the business climate with new economic laws, developed the banking sector, implemented customs and tax reform and increased fiscal accountability.

Economic growth for 2005-2006 is projected to reach 14 percent with high activity in the sectors of construction, telecommunications and hotels/services.  Exports during the same time frame are expected to rise to $500 million as Afghanistan works to improve its trade relations and develop energy and transportation corridors with its neighbors.

DRUG TRADE TO BE ATTACKED UNDER INITIATIVE

A huge blight on Afghanistan's development is the narcotics trade that is larger than the country's legal economy.  The area under opium poppy cultivation has declined significantly since 2004 but improved cultivation methods have kept production high.

The drug trade generates criminal activity and security threats, fuels public sector corruption and undermines efforts to rebuild the Afghan economy. 

Under the Compact, Afghanistan will attack the scourge on five fronts -- public information, eradication, interdiction, law enforcement and justice reform and alternative livelihoods.

To wean the Afghan economy from opium poppy production, the United States is supporting programs that provide cash for work opportunities, distribute seeds and fertilizer and train farmers in the production of high-value crops such as fruits and nuts, according to the State Department. (See fact sheet.)

Other U.S.-backed programs aim to rehabilitate rural infrastructure such as roads and irrigation canals and establish processing, storage, and financing organizations to support rural markets, according to the fact sheet.

Underpinning the effort to create a prosperous, just and democratic society in Afghanistan is the drive to develop security forces that preserve the country from again falling under the influence of warlords and terrorists.

The international community has trained and equipped approximately 26,900 troops in the Afghan National Army, of whom 14,500 are combat troops.  The Afghan army is deployed in five regional commands located at Kabul, Gardez, Kandahar, Herat and Mazar-e Sharif and supports multinational coalition forces in combat operations.  The Afghan army participated in regional security operations to assist Pakistan following the devastating earthquake of 2005.

The United States has provided training for more than 57,000 members of the Afghan national police, highway police and border police at U.S. facilities.  More than 12,000 Afghan police have completed advanced training in specialized areas such as firearms, crowd control, investigative techniques and domestic violence.

As part of a pay and rank reform program, the Afghan national police is building a merit-based leadership and discipline structure to assure that police officers operate as respected public servants who enforce rule of law.

The international component of Afghanistan security structure, meanwhile, is undergoing evolution.  The NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) plans to increase its troop strength above the current figure of 9,000 and assume command of security and stabilization operations in the southern region in 2006.  Currently, ISAF handles security and stabilization in the northern and western portions of the country.

The ISAF's expanded role will allow the more than 22,000 multinational coalition troops led by the United States to bring greater focus to rooting out remnants of the Taliban and other extremists and strengthening coordination with Pakistan along the Afghan-Pakistan border.

For additional information, see Rebuilding Afghanistan and London Conference on Afghanistan. A transcript of Rice’s remarks at the London conference is available on the State Department Web site.

(The Washington File is a product of the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)



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