Economic Growth Key to Afghanistan’s Stability, Clinton Says

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Afghanistan’s future will depend on its economic stability and accountability, as international donors pledged $16 billion in aid for the country.

“We all know that Afghanistan’s security will not be measured only by the absence of war,” Clinton said at a conference in Tokyo today to plan the economic transition after NATO troops pull out at the end of 2014.“It will also be measured by the presence of jobs and economic opportunity.”

The Tokyo conference marks the culmination of two years of work by NATO countries and their allies to plan Afghanistan’s security and economic transition. More than 70 countries gathered to discuss funding, private sector investment and the contributions of Pakistan and India, rivals that vie for influence in Afghanistan.

The pledged $16 billion will be available immediately. The U.S. will ask Congress to provide assistance at or near the levels of the past decade through the year 2017, Clinton said. Based on a World Bank assessment that Afghanistan will need $3.9 billion a year, the amount pledged at the conference will meet the country’s needs through 2015.

Fighting Corruption

The funds will come with provisions to encourage the Afghanistan government to stick to commitments to battle corruption that has eroded progress there.

Afghan Foreign Minister Zalmai Rassoul acknowledged the emphasis that donor countries have put on accountability. “Good governance is at the heart of meaningful progress,” he told the conference, adding that the government will continue its reform programs.

During a stop in Kabul yesterday, Clinton acknowledged that Afghanistan’s security situation is still “far from ideal.” Even so, she noted that progress is being made. The Tokyo conference also celebrated some of the ways that NATO countries and their allies have improved the lives of Afghan people and their economic prospects in concrete and sometimes stark ways.

“Real progress has been made,” British Foreign Minister William Hague said. “We promise the Afghan people we’ll build on these gains.”

Since 2006, life expectancy for men and women has jumped to over 60 years from 44 years. In 2001, only 9 percent of the population of more than 30 million could walk to a health facility within an hour. More than 60 percent can today.

In 2002, only 6 percent of Afghans had access to reliable electricity. That figure has risen to 18 percent today, with more than 2 million Kabul residents enjoying electric power 24 hours a day.

Mobile Phones

Mobile phone use has soared to 16 million subscribers from 21,000 in 2001. And while few roads existed 11 years ago, today there are more than 2,000 kilometers (1,243 miles) of paved roads, giving roughly 80 percent of the population greater access to markets, schools, clinics, and government services.

In 2002, an estimated 900,000 boys were in school and virtually no girls, according to State Department statistics. There are now 8 million students enrolled in school, almost 40 percent of them girls.

Clinton has made the equality of Afghanistan’s women a centerpiece of her approach to the country. “Let me emphasize that the United States will continue to stand by the women of Afghanistan because no nation can achieve peace, reconciliation, stability and economic growth while leaving out half the population,” she said today.

To contact the reporter on this story: Nicole Gaouette in Washington at ngaouette@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Paul Tighe at ptighe@bloomberg.net

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