U.S., Afghan Officials Discuss Reconstruction Plans
As Wednesday’s summit convened, Afghan ministers expressed concerns that new programs and security improvements could not begin unless international lenders earmark a larger share of the $4.5 billion promised at a conference in Tokyo for reconstruction efforts.
More than half of the $1 billion that Afghanistan has actually received has been used for humanitarian purposes such as food, which “makes the people lazy,” according to Afghan reconstruction minister Mohammed Farhang.
“The Tokyo conference was a contract for us. We think we have fulfilled our part of the contract for us,” Adib Farhadi, Afghanistan’s director of economic affairs, said. “It is now for the international community to fulfill their end of the contract, which is for the aid to come in.”
Andrew Nastsios, administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development, said the impatience of the Afghan ministers was understandable but said “reconstruction takes time.”
In separate comments, Afghan Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah said he was optimistic about the security situation in the region, telling reporters security has improved “a great deal” since the July assassination of Afghan Vice President Haji Abdul Qadir.
Despite Abdullah’s assurances of better security, an elite U.S. force has been assigned to protect Afghan President Hamid Karzai after intelligence reports said remaining Taliban and al-Qaida members may attempt to assassinate new government leaders.
Fifteen U.S. soldiers will guard Karzai 24 hours a day in addition to the 70 bodyguards already protecting the Afghan leader. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said the security assignment could last for several months.
In a separate development, Lt. Gen. Dan McNeill, commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, traveled to the western city of Herat Wednesday to offer assistance in resolving tensions between the region’s governor and a militia composed of ethnic Pashtuns.
McNeill met with Ismail Khan, a powerful pro-Iranian warlord who single-handedly runs the region. During their meeting, McNeill offered to help mediate an end to several days of fighting between Khan’s private army, composed mostly of ethnic Tajiks, and the Pashtun militia.
The talks were also aimed at shoring up Khan’s support for the newly-established Karzai administration. Khan’s ties to Iran, which is only 75 miles to the west of Herat, have raised concerns for both the U.S. and President Karzai’s government.
Speaking with reporters, Khan said U.S. assistance was not needed and called his rivals “a group of Taliban,” still hiding in the mountains. Khan also spoke in support of the Karzai government, promising to “send them money in the future if they need it.”