Karzai Opens Afghan Donors’ Conference With Pledge to Fight Corruption

Posted July 7th, 2012 at 10:25 pm (UTC-5)
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Afghan President Hamid Karzai opened a major donor's conference in Tokyo Sunday with a pledge to crack down on corruption in his country and a warning that instability in Afghanistan threatens the whole world.

The conference is attended by senior world officials including U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who earlier in Kabul offered assurances the United States will not abandon the Afghans after U.S. combat troops leave the country in 2014.

In his opening remarks in Tokyo, Mr. Karzai thanked the assembled nations for their help over the past decade and noted the progress Afghanistan has made. But he said those gains remain fragile.

“Afghanistan continues to face grave risks from common threats, notably terrorism and extremism. These threats do not affect Afghanistan's security alone. Indeed, the region as a whole, and the world beyond, will not be secure for as long as the menaces of terrorism and extremism persist, enjoying sanctuaries and support in some corners of the region beyond Afghanistan's borders.”

Mr. Karzai also acknowledged that endemic corruption in Afghanistan has undermined previous aid efforts and he promised to do more to bring that under control.

“Corruption in particular is a menace that has undermined the effectiveness, cohesion and legitimacy of our institutions. We will fight corruption with strong resolve wherever it occurs, and ask the same of our international partners. Together we must stop the practices that feed corruption or undermine the legitimacy and effectiveness of national institutions.”

Even before the conference started, Clinton announced that Washington is declaring Afghanistan to be a major non-NATO ally, a step that will allow Afghanistan to get more and faster help on security matters, along with easier access to American-made military equipment.

“My message today is very simple: the transition is on track, Afghanistan is standing up for itself. Of course it will need support and we are pledged to continue our support and to work with you to get more international support and I'm quite excited about what lies ahead in Tokyo. But please know that the United States will be your friend and your partner. We are not even imagining abandoning Afghanistan. Quite the opposite – we are building a partnership with Afghanistan that will endure far into the future.”

Afghanistan becomes the 15th country to be declared a major non-NATO U.S. ally. Others include Pakistan, Egypt, Israel and Japan.

Even as the U.S. was announcing more support for Afghanistan, there was more evidence of the country's continuing struggle with insurgents and terrorists.

Afghan officials say one woman died Saturday and 27 civilians were wounded when insurgents tried to carry out a rocket attack on a government building in Farah province.

Farah Governor's office spokesman Abdul Rahman Zhwandi said children were also hurt.

“The enemies of our country fired three rockets targeting the governor's building, fortunately their rocket failed to reach their targets, but two of the rockets hit at a wall of governor building while the third one hit the crowed in a bazaar resulted in killing of a woman and wounding 27 others, all the victims are civilian.''

Concerns about ongoing violence have many looking to Sunday's donor conference in Tokyo for help.

Japanese Foreign Minister Koichiro Gemba said Saturday expectations are high.

“This conference is extremely important for laying the path for Afghanistan to achieve sustainable growth after 2015.”

Expectations are also high in and around Kabul.

Mohammad Khalil sells fruit on the outskirts of the capital and says people there know, that at least for now, Afghanistan cannot succeed on its own.

“The Tokyo conference on Afghanistan is important because after 2014, when foreigners leave, Afghanistan should be able to stand on its feet and we want to have the foreign help to get out of this situation.”

Paul Barker with the aid organization Save the Children International says the world has much at stake, as well.

“We have gone through ten years, difficult years, of reconstruction and development following the change of regime from Taliban to the present government. The problems are very well known in Afghanistan and we have a major transition coming up in two years with the departure of international forces. The international community has invested heavily in a new Afghanistan and it can't afford to lose the quality and the importance of that investment in the years ahead.”

Donors at the Tokyo conference are expected to pledge $4 billion a year in long-term civilian support — totaling an more than $15 billion through 2015.

Kabul school teacher Safia Rahimi says the money cannot come quickly enough.

“Our education sector is in a very bad condition. Still you can see students studying under tents in schools and there so many other problems.”