Afghans get $1.5 billion in pledges at Tokyo

New Delhi, January 21: | Updated: Jan 22 2002, 05:30am hrs
Japan and the European Union have gone way ahead of commitments made by the US in the re-building of war-ravaged Afghanistan. At a conference of 60 donor nations in Tokyo, the Saudies pledged $200 million, in addition to $20 million they had announced as emergency relief late last week when Hamid Karzai, the cash strapped head of Afghanistan’s interim government, had paid them a visit. Mr Karzai is down to his last $10 million.

Though the tenures of different aid packages vary, and pledges made may yet not get translated into cash, the total money committed at Tokyo added up to some $1.5 billion on Monday. Host Japan emerged on top of the table, with a pledge of $500 million over the next two years. The EU followed closely at 550 million Euros. India and Pakistan re-iterated their intent to offer $100 million each.

US secretary of state Colin Powell announced a package worth $296 million over the year, and promised more in the time to come. Queering the pitch on behalf of his country was Mr Karzai, who gave passionate accounts of “disaster, wars, brutality and depravation against the Afghan people”. The Afghan leader assured the world community that he would try and reign any corrupt practices in his country, and would, in fact, engage international auditor firms to certify that all spendings were in order. He also sought help in creation of administrative structures and stringent tendering norms in his country.

UN secretary general Kofi Annan gave out an official estimate on Afghanistan’s needs, estimating that some $10 billion were needed over the coming decade. De-mining, an operation needing $500 million as per UNDP estimates, was identified as a key priority for economic development to start with. Mr Karzai warned that if the world turned its back, Afghanistan would slip back into terror and trafficking. The warning assumed greater credibility following reports in the Afghan Islamic Press that troops loyal to former president Burhanuddin Rabbani and Rashid Dostum were locked in fierce fighting in Qala Zaal district in Konduz. The conference concludes on Tuesday and Mr Karzai has announced his intention to leave for Beijing from there.