Afghanistan pledged $20.9 billion by world powers

  • 06/10/2016
The Afghan government is facing a resurgent Taliban 15 years after US forces helped oust the militants (Reuters)
The Afghan government is facing a resurgent Taliban 15 years after US forces helped oust the militants (Reuters)

World powers have raised US$15 billion (NZ$20.9 billion) for Afghanistan to fund the country over the next four years, while the European Union says it has won support to revive a stalled peace process after almost 40 years of conflict.

With the government in Kabul facing a resurgent Taliban 15 years after US forces helped oust the militants, more than 70 governments in Brussels led by the United States and the European Union promised more financial support for a country that governments see as strategic to global security.

"The war for the future is being fought in Asia. We must stand our ground in Afghanistan," India's deputy foreign minister, M.J. Akbar, told the donor conference, which raised more than the US$13 billion the United States initially expected.

"India does not believe in an exit option," he said, echoing a growing recognition that there is no immediate end in sight to the US-led coalition's involvement in Afghanistan.

Despite such largesse, Afghanistan is required to sign up to a host of political, economic and social reforms in return for the money.

Most contentious, the European Union wants Kabul to take back its nationals who are not considered refugees, although EU donor money is not linked to such demands.

Several hundred members of Afghanistan's mainly Shi'ite Hazara minority, which has been targeted by Taliban and Islamic State militants, protested outside the conference venue, rejecting a new agreement between the EU and Afghanistan that makes it easier to return Afghans whose asylum requests fail.

"[President] Ashraf Ghani and his government is here for European and other countries' aid in return for accepting a deal to send us back to a war zone," said Ali Reza, holding a banner with the words: "We Will Not Go Back".

European governments, facing increasing opposition from voters to immigration at home, have pressed Afghanistan to accept more repatriations, saying that many parts of the country, including the capital Kabul, are safe.

"I hope that the newly signed repatriation agreement with Afghanistan will be implemented in practice," German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier told reporters.

The policy has faced sharp criticism from aid groups and others who point to the widening Taliban insurgency across the country and the frequent suicide attacks that hit Kabul.

In the margins of the conference, the EU focused on getting peace negotiations back on track by bringing together the US, China, India, and Pakistan at a dinner on Tuesday night.

Federica Mogherini, who coordinates EU foreign policy, said there was an understanding "to work on a common basis for regional political support for the peace and reconciliation process in Afghanistan."

Without the militants at the table, experts say it is hard to envisage a meaningful solution.

Militants briefly reached the centre of the northern city of Kunduz on Monday, and they are testing the defences of two other provincial capitals in the south of the country.