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Afghanistan gets troops,USD 8.2bn aid in Berlin

1 April 2004

BERLIN – Rich nations lined up Thursday behind Afghanistan in its battle to fight drugs and terrorism with pledges of additional international troops and aid worth USD 8.2 billion (EUR 6.4 billion).

“I am standing before you a satisfied man … this conference was good success,” said Afghan President Hamid Karzai, wrapping up a two-day Afghanistan conference in Berlin.

The Afghan leader paid tribute to the global effort saying “Afghanistan is a magnificent example of international cooperation and the cooperation of civilisations.”

Security issues dominated the final day of talks with senior officials from 56 nations agreeing add a further five military Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRTs) in Afghanistan to the 11 teams already operating.

Based in regional cities, PRTs have between 50 and 300 soldiers and technicians and are aimed at boosting security, rebuilding infrastructure in what is one of the world’s poorest countries.

It was unclear how many more soldiers would be deployed under the NATO-led ISAF peacekeeping forces in the run-up to Afghanistan’s September elections.

“I cannot tell you how many additional troops and police officers are required,” said Karzai, adding: “More steps will be required before elections.”

Diplomats said forces will likely be sent under the current ISAF mandate which allows a maximum of 6,500 troops. At present ISAF has about 5,500 soldiers in Afghanistan.

There are also 13,500 United States-led soldiers in Afghanistan still battling remnants of the Taliban and al-Qaeda forces in remote areas.

The Afghan army has only about 8,000 soldiers, compared with over 100,000 men serving in the often ruthless and powerful private warlord militias.

Money was the main focus of the Berlin summit and the three-year USD 8.2 billion aid pledge was thrashed out after talks late Wednesday.

This was less than the USD 27.5 billion Afghan officials had been seeking for the next seven years but President Karzai said his country was “very, very grateful” to all countries which had made pledges.

A statement issued by Germany said major donors through 2006 are the US with USD 2.9 billion; the European Union countries with USD 2.2 billion; Japan with USD 400 million; the World Bank USD 900 million; the Asian Development Bank (ADB) USD 560 million; Canada USD195 million and India USD 224 million.

Afghanistan’s role as a top global producer of illegal drugs was the other main focus of the meeting.

Karzai warned that opium production was funding warlords and threatening to tear apart the country.

“The problem is too huge to allow us to face alone … Drugs are undermining the very existence of the Afghan state,” said Karzai in earlier comments.

Afghanistan and six neighbouring countries – China, Iran, Pakistan, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan – signed a declaration at the meeting aimed at fighting the illegal drugs trade.

The agreement calls on signatory states to forge a coordinated anti-narcotics strategy to combat cultivation, production and export of opium and other related substances.

Poppy production for opium has increased and now yields more than 50 percent of Afghanistan’s total GDP. German officials say 80,000 hectares in Afghanistan are devoted to opium production. Up to 90 percent of the heroin consumed in Europe comes from the country.

Karzai admitted the war on drugs would take a long time to win.

“This is not a short term thing … This is a long-term struggle,” he said. “But we will fight it and we will eradicate it”, he added.

The drugs trade has emerged as the major source of income in a country blighted by poverty with conference delegates unanimous that urgent steps were needed to open up other ways to make a living.

A World Bank report says Afghanistan remains one of the poorest nations in the world with the current death rate of children aged under five per 1,000 in Afghanistan at 257 versus 50 in the country’s immediate neighbourhood and 155 in sub-Saharan Africa.

For every 100,000 births, 1,600 women die in Afghanistan compared with 115 in the neighbourhood and 1,100 in sub-Saharan Africa, says the World Bank.

A mere 6 per cent of the Afghan population has access to electricity and access to clean water and sanitation is just 13 and 12 percent, the Bank says.


Subject: German news