Interim Afghan leader Hamid Karzai joined representatives from some 60 countries today for the first half of a two-day conference to discuss his country’s financial troubles.
Secretary of State Colin Powell, who addressed the gathering after a sweep through South Asia last week that included a stop in Afghanistan, said the U.S. would donate $296 million to Afghanistan this year.
Powell warned the reconstruction effort would come with its own challenges.
“There are bad people still out there in waiting, trying to frustrate this… What’s ahead in some ways is going to be far more difficult than what we’ve seen over the last four months,” he said, referring to the U.S. military operation in Afghanistan.
The U.N. says other countries have also chipped in, with Japan pledging up to $250 million this year, the European Union donating $500 million for 2002 and Saudi Arabia earmarking $220 million for three years.
The Associated Press reports at least 25 countries have said they would contribute to the effort, but officials say an overall total is not yet available.
Karzai said the donations would help Afghans find their way out of an economic crisis sparked by decades of combat.
“I stand before you today as a citizen of a country that has had nothing but disaster, war, brutality and deprivation for many years,” Karzai said.
Addressing worries about possible corruption and misuse of donated funds, Karzai said his government is “fully committed to accountability, transparency and efficiency in the use of financial aid.
“We need the international community to support our efforts for reconstruction and development,” he said.
Afghanistan’s continuing recovery
While international leaders work to stabilize Afghanistan’s financial future, efforts to revitalize the country’s political system and social structures are also continuing.
U.N. officials today worked to put together a list of 21 Afghans to prepare for a tribal council meeting that will choose the next government.
The tribal council, called the Loya Jirga, is scheduled to meet in the coming months and will choose a government that will rule Afghanistan for two years. The current interim government, headed by Hamid Karzai, is in the first month of a six-month term.
Meanwhile, plans are underway for a soccer game at Afghanistan’s national stadium — a site used to stage public executions during the Taliban’s reign.
A local Afghan team, to be selected by the interim government, will take on British soldiers from the International Security Assistance Force on Feb. 15, the Associated Press reports.
The game was arranged by the British Ministry of Defense with assistance from the English Football Association and the Premier League, the AP reports.