US Gives Afghanistan ‘Major’ Boost Ahead of Donor Conference

Posted July 7th, 2012 at 12:40 pm (UTC-5)
Leave a comment

The United States is giving Afghans more assurances they will not be abandoned after all U.S. combat troops leave the country in 2014.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton declared Afghanistan a major non-NATO ally during an unannounced stop in Kabul Saturday, before traveling to Tokyo for an international conference on Afghan civilian assistance.

“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.”

Clinton, who also met with Afghan President Hamid Karzai, called the move a “powerful symbol” of Washington's commitment to the Afghan people. The new designation will allow Afghanistan to get more and faster help on security matters, along with easier access to American-made military equipment.

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

But 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.”