Afghanistan Future Requires Economic Stability, Clinton Says

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton attends a plenary session of the Tokyo Conference on Afghanistan in Tokyo on Sunday. Photographer: Itsuo Inouye/AFP/Getty Images

U.S. 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 in Tokyo yesterday at a conference 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.”

President Hamid Karzai’s government is almost wholly reliant on foreign assistance as it struggles to build a sustainable economy in a country devastated by decades-old ethnic rivalries and corruption. Billions of dollars are leaving on concerns Afghanistan will be further split by the U.S. withdrawal from its 11-year war with the Taliban.

Karzai said at a press conference today in Tokyo that responsibility for stamping out corruption lies with donors as well as his government.

“Two hands must clap, one hand will not do it,” he said.

About 97 percent of Afghanistan’s economy comes from spending on foreign troops and aid, the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee said in a report last year. According to a November report by the World Bank and the Afghan Finance Ministry, international aid came to $15.7 billion in the 2011 financial year.

Clinton met with other ministers while attending the conference, sitting down with Pakistani Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar and her Afghan counterpart Zalmai Rassoul. She also met with Japanese Foreign Minister Koichiro Gemba for lunch to discuss North Korea, regional tensions over the South China Sea and Japanese concerns over U.S. military bases on Okinawa.

Afghan Security

Both Clinton and Gemba expressed confidence that the Afghanistan conference would help stabilize that country.

“With this agreement it’s finally possible to follow-up on the use of funds for development and ensure Afghanistan’s independence,” Gemba said at a separate briefing yesterday.

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 U.K. will host the next ministerial meeting in 2014 to review progress, International Development Secretary Andrew Mitchell said in a statement. Britain has also pledged to maintain funding at its current level through to 2017, he said.

U.S. Aid

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.

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 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 July 7, 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’

“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.

Only 6 percent of Afghans had access to reliable electricity in 2002. That figure has risen to 18 percent today, with more than 2 million Kabul residents enjoying electric power 24 hours a day. Ten years ago, there were about 900,000 boys were in school and almost no girls, according to State Department statistics. There are now 8 million students enrolled in school, almost 40 percent of them girls.

“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,” Clinton said yesterday.

Osprey Aircraft

She and Gemba also discussed the U.S. decision to deploy V-22 Osprey transport aircraft to Japan, even though there is opposition from residents over safety issues following two recent crashes in Morocco and the U.S. state of Florida. The planes will be deployed in Okinawa, long a flashpoint in Japanese-U.S. relations because of local sensitivities about the 19,000 Marines based there.

Gemba said he sought “continued cooperation” from the U.S. in providing information about accidents involving the Osprey aircraft. Clinton countered by saying that security requirements call for “the right equipment,” though she added that the U.S. understands Japan’s concern about the safety records of the tilt-rotor military aircraft.

The two also discussed the realignment of U.S. forces stationed in Japan and the relocation of Marines on Okinawa, as well as regional tensions about claims in the oil-rich South China Sea.

Clinton urged China and members of the the Association of Southeast Asian Nations to continue negotiations over territorial claims, expressing hopes they will make progress at this week’s Asean meeting in Cambodia.

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