Karzai warns drug ‘menace’too big for Kabul alone
31 March 2004
BERLIN – Afghan President Hamid Karzai warned in Berlin Wednesday that illegal drugs and private militias remained acute threats to his government and appealed for global aid at an Afghanistan conference which is seeking pledges worth billions of dollars.
“The problem is too huge to allow us to face (it) alone,” said Karzai in speech opening the two-day meeting which underlined what he termed a dual “menace” of warlords linked to opium production.
Karzai called on the international community to stay the course in Afghanistan, adding: “Drugs … are undermining the very existence of the Afghan state.”
Poppy production for opium has increased and now yields over 50 percent of Afghanistan’s total GDP, according to international studies.
President Karzai is using the conference to underline calls for USD 27.5 billion (EUR 22.5 billion) in Afghan rebuilding aid over the next seven years as set out in a report by his government, the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank and the United Nations.
The Afghan leader insisted this investment would allow Afghanistan to stand on its own two feet within the next seven to 10 years.
But the meeting – attended by senior officials from over 50 nations including 30 foreign ministers – is expected to offer Karzai less than he is seeking.
Officials from Germany, which is co-hosting the meeting with Afghanistan, Japan and the UN, predict some USD 9 billion will be offered to Afghanistan for the coming three years.
Afghan Finance Minister Ashraf Ghani seemed satisfied with the lower figure, noting that donors would see how Kabul used the initial funds before making follow-up pledges.
Japan was the first country to announce more aid Wednesday with Tokyo’s special Afghan representative Sadako Ogata saying Tokyo would pay a further USD 400 million in the coming two years.
Germany announced last month it will pay EUR 320 million in the coming four years to Afghanistan.
Earlier, German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder noting much had been achieved in Afghanistan but that a great deal still needed to be done.
“The security situation has improved but it’s not as it should be in all parts of the country,” said Schroeder.
Schroeder said breaking ” the cycle of violence” would require a long presence in Afghanistan by the international community.
“Our military engagement is linked to a long-term rebuilding concept,” the Chancellor said.
United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan, who was unable to attend the meeting due to talks on reunification of Cyprus, sent a message underlining the vital nature of an international military presence in Afghanistan.
“Security assistance remains … the most important contribution the international community can make,” said Annan in a statement read by UN Special Representative for Afghanistan Lakhdar Brahimi.
High on the conference agenda are calls to boost the number of international troops in Afghanistan.
There are currently about 6,000 NATO-led ISAF peacekeeping troops in Afghanistan as well as 13,500 United States-led soldiers seeking to engage Taliban and al-Qaeda forces in remote areas.
German officials say 20 percent of the country still is dominated by Taliban and al-Qaeda remnants.
A Taliban leader, interviewed by the German newspaper Die Welt, claimed 6,000 to 7,000 Taliban soldiers were fighting US forces in southeast Afghanistan.
The Berlin meeting is a follow-up to Afghan rebuilding conferences held in Bonn in 2001 and 2002 after the US-led military intervention ousted Afghanistan’s former ruling Taliban.
Talks are taking place amid intense security at a central Berlin hotel.
Subject: German News