Donors pledge $15.2 billion to help Afghan government
BRUSSELS — International donors pledged $15.2 billion Wednesday to help keep Afghanistan’s beleaguered government afloat for the next four years, despite growing reluctance to pour more money into a corruption-plagued country wracked by conflict.
The promised funds from more than 70 nations fell short of commitments made last time donors met in Tokyo in 2012. But the European Union’s development commissioner, Neven Mimica, said the pledges “surpassed some of our best-case scenarios ”
As the donors met, Afghan forces, backed by American helicopters, battled the Taliban in the northern city of Kunduz for the third straight day Wednesday, following a multipronged attack launched by insurgents earlier this week.
Beyond the insurgency, the Afghan government is estimated to be capable of meeting only 20 percent of its budget, and about 39 percent of the Afghan population lives on less than $1.35 a day.
But Afghanistan has survived off Western aid and military support for 15 years, since a U.S.-led coalition ousted the Taliban for harboring Osama bin Laden in 2001. The European Union, co-hosting the donor conference in Brussels, struggled to raise the funds that Kabul so sorely needs, given the increasingly powerful insurgency there and rampant corruption.
In the end, the EU and its 28 member states pledged $5.6 billion in total until 2017, making it the biggest donor.
“It is truly a remarkable day,” Afghan President Ashraf Ghani told reporters.
Speaking to reporters as the donors’ conference got underway, EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini denied reports the bloc is making aid conditional on Afghanistan taking back people who have fled to Men look out from a broken window Wednesday after an attack in Kabul, Afghanistan. Europe, saying there is “never a link between our development aid and what we do on migration.”
But there is clear pressure on the authorities in Kabul to do more to stop people fleeing and take back those who leave
The head of the International Organization for Migration, William Lacy Swing, told the AP that around 6,000 people are flooding back into Afghanistan from Pakistan and Iran every day, and that any increased returns from Eu- rope would put additional pressure on the country’s fragile institutions.
“This is a very vulnerable society with very limited capacity to receive these people, in terms of health facilities, education facilities and training facilities,” Swing said.
Announced with little fanfare, Europe just got Afghanistan to agree to accept an unlimited number of deportations of Afghan citizens. Volumes are expected to be so high that as part of the deal, “both sides will explore the possibility to build a dedicated terminal for return in Kabul airport.”
EU nations may want to deport up to 80,000 Afghan citizens whose applications for asylum have been rejected, according to internal documents that were leaked earlier this year.