Powell Urges Donors to 'Continue Commitment' to Afghanistan
By Kathleen T. Rhem
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Sep. 27, 2002 With nearly two million refugees returning to Afghanistan, the country's fledgling government needs continuing help from the international community, Secretary of State Colin Powell said Sept. 26.
"The gains made in just one year have indeed been dramatic, but we all know they are still fragile," Powell told representatives from 60 countries attending meetings this week at the World Bank headquarters here.
He highlighted recent attacks on civilians in Kabul and Afghan President Hamid Karzai.
"There are those in Afghanistan who stand to profit from continued instability and who seek to empower themselves by exploiting the country's weaknesses," Powell said. "Afghanistan has not survived foreign invasion, civil war and Taliban oppression only to be torn apart by warlordism. We will not allow that to happen. We must not allow that to happen."
The international community must come forth with additional "resources and expertise to help the new human rights, judicial and constitutional commissions lay the groundwork for a vibrant civil society, the rule of law, and accountable and transparent government," he told the Afghanistan Reconstruction Steering Group.
During a January meeting in Tokyo, members of the group pledged $4.5 billion over five years to reconstruct Afghanistan. Powell said $2 billion was committed for use in 2002. Of that $2 billion, $1.3 billion has been spent or is "moving down the pipeline," on track to be available this year.
"In other words, 65 percent has moved in eight months," he said. "It's not bad, but it's not nearly as good as it needs to be."
The secretary noted the United States' procedures for disbursing donated funds are "unduly complicated." But, he said, he's proud to report the United States has dispersed 95 percent of the money it pledged. Now it's important to "identify where the bottlenecks are" and get that money to Afghanistan where it's needed.
"It is absolutely critical that we intensify our collective partnership with (Afghanistan's) transitional administration and find ways to increase its reach and effectiveness," Powell said. "There will be no second chances. We cannot fail. This is Afghanistan's best hope. People of Afghanistan are looking to us to meet our commitments."
Next, Powell said, members of the steering group need to "take a hard look" at whether the money already pledged is enough. The United States has pledged an additional $280 million for Afghan reconstruction efforts. "I hope this meeting will lead to additional pledges from other donors," he said.
The United States has tried to channel its donations to areas that will have the "highest impact," Powell said. These include:
- Providing 7,000 metric tons of seed and 15,000 metric tons of fertilizer for the spring 2002 planting, reaching an estimated 140,000 farmers.
- Providing 10 million textbooks and 4,000 teacher- training kits, and helping critical services, such as education, health care and transportation, resume functioning.
- Contributing to vaccinating more than four million children against measles, helping meet the water and sanitation needs of roughly four million Afghans.
- Providing grants to rebuild schools, universities, training centers, public ministry buildings, hospitals, clinics, and playing a major role in repairing roads, bridges and waterways.
Earlier this month the United States, Japan and Saudi Arabia announced financial support to rebuild the Kabul- Kandahar-Heart highway, the traditional trade route between eastern and western Afghanistan.
"Such high-visibility projects boost trade and commerce, and provide desperately needed jobs," Powell said. He asked other countries to support such projects, including a proposed bridge between Tajikistan and Afghanistan.
These projects are "a clear symbol of national unity and governmental effectiveness," he said. "Eventually they will help knit together the entire country. "
Less than a year ago, prospects looked bleak in Afghanistan, Powell said. Today the Afghan people are working to rebuild a better future.
"With our sustained assistances they will succeed. Without it they will surely fail," Powell said. "We have seen what an Afghanistan abandoned to chaos can do to international peace and security. It is in all our interests to keep critical resources flowing and to stay the course."