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Karzai Appeals for Support, Says Afghan Gains Remain Fragile

Afghan President Hamid Karzai called on the international community to maintain financial and security support for his government after NATO troops leave in 2014, citing the threat of terrorism.

Speaking in Bonn, Germany, today at an international meeting on Afghanistan, Karzai cited achievements in health, education and infrastructure, including building more roads in the last decade than in the country’s history.

The Bonn conference drew more than 1,000 participants, including U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, to discuss how to help Afghanistan after NATO troops pull out, taking billions of dollars in aid with them. Pakistan’s decision to boycott the meeting, after a NATO raid left 24 of its soldiers dead, has underscored the doubts Karzai and his country face.

“Our shared goal of a stable, self-reliant and democratic Afghanistan is still far from being achieved,” Karzai said in opening remarks. “The challenges that remain are significant and have the potential to derail our progress and reverse our achievements.”

Clinton urged Afghanistan’s neighbors to reduce trade barriers and follow through on commitments, warning that the region has “much to lose if the country again becomes a source of terrorism and instability.” That is why, the top U.S. diplomat added, “we, of course, would have benefited from Pakistan’s contribution to this conference.”

U.S. Funding Resumes

She announced that in the wake of Afghan financial changes, the U.S. will resume payments to the Afghanistan Reconstruction Fund. They had been suspended due to the Kabul Bank scandal, in which bank officials lost billions through illegal loans. The U.S. committed $700 million this year, according to the State Department.

The Afghan government envisions that the nation will need international economic aid until 2025 and help paying for its security forces until 2030 to avoid having progress “come undone,” according to its Economic Transition Strategy report, a copy of which was obtained by Bloomberg News.

“This conference has established a blueprint for the international community’s long term engagement with Afghanistan beyond 2014,” U.K. Foreign Secretary William Hague said in an e-mailed statement. He said that Karzai will visit the U.K. immediately after the Bonn conference to sign a “long-term partnership” agreement.

Economic Support

“We have committed ourselves to provide economic support to Afghanistan for the decade after 2014, until Afghanistan becomes economically self-sustainable,” Hague said. “Alongside this, the Afghan Government has committed itself to reinvigorating the progress on key development priorities, including governance, anti-corruption and rule of law.”

“We have also agreed to produce a clear plan for the future funding for the Afghan National Security Forces in advance of the NATO Chicago summit next May,” he said.

Clinton said it was especially significant that an Afghan Loya Jirga, a council of advisers recently convened by Karzai, decided to continue with the reconciliation process. The gathering was criticized as being weighted with Karzai loyalists and therefore not broadly representative.

“Ultimately, the decision about peace and reconciliation is up to the Afghan people,” Clinton said when asked how she reconciled an emphasis on human rights and the U.S. policy of supporting reconciliation with the Taliban.

‘Very Firm Guidelines’

The Taliban must renounce violence, abandon their alliance with al-Qaeda, obey the laws and constitution of Afghanistan, including guarantees of the rights of women and ethnic minorities, Clinton said. “We have a set of very firm guidelines,” she said.

Karzai said the Afghan “political process will continue to be inclusive,” as he works to bring representatives of the Taliban into the government on the condition that that they renounce violence, adhere to the Afghan constitution and meet other requirements.

“The Afghan people want us to continue the peace process,” Karzai said.

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