- The Washington Times - Monday, January 21, 2002

TOKYO Secretary of State Colin Powell pledged $296 million in reconstruction aid to Afghanistan today, calling it the first installment in a long-term U.S. commitment to help that country recover from more than two decades of war.
Mr. Powell made the announcement in the presence of Afghan leader Hamid Karzai and delegates from some 60 countries attending an international conference on assistance to Afghanistan.
Looking at the Afghan prime minister, Mr. Powell said, "The American people are with you for the long term."
Mr. Powell said the promised money is in addition to $400 million in humanitarian assistance committed by President Bush last fall.
He also promised to help find and release hundreds of millions of dollars that were frozen during the Taliban era.
The new funds will be targeted at a variety of areas, including agricultural development, health care, education and counternarcotics programs.
Mr. Powell said removing land mines is also a high priority, but there was no cash for that listed in the State Department fact sheet on the assistance program.
The United Nations, the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank have said $1.7 billion would be needed for the first year. The U.S. pledge represents about 17 percent of that total.
While U.S. officials said the $296 million figure may not seem generous given Afghanistan's need, they pointed out that the United States has already spent roughly $4.5 billion on the war effort in the country since early October.
The European Union today pledged $495 million for this year to help rebuild Afghanistan.
Representing the EU, Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Nadal announced the figure on the opening day of the two-day conference on Afghan reconstruction being held in Tokyo.
Britain will generate one-fifth of the EU's total commitment, donating more than $288 million over five years to the international fund for reconstruction of Afghanistan, the British government said today.
The money will be distributed largely through United Nations agencies and non-governmental organizations. Details will be spelled out at the international conference in Tokyo by Secretary of State for International Development Clare Short.
Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi pledged up to $500 million to help rebuild Afghanistan over the next two-and-a-half years.
Japan's contribution is expected to be the largest unveiled at the Tokyo conference, bringing together more than 50 countries and 20 lending agencies.
The donor countries are expected to give around $3 billion to help reconstruct Afghanistan after more than 20 years of war.
Mr. Powell is on the final leg of a five-nation tour that included a five-hour stop in Kabul, the Afghan capital, last Thursday.
"I was struck by the immensity of the destruction wrought by over two decades of war and Taliban misrule," Mr. Powell said, speaking to a crowded convention hall at a local hotel.
Afghan Prime Minister Hamid Karzai said yesterday he wants to leave the international donors' conference with "full hands" for his impoverished country.
"I'm hoping very much that I'll go back to my country, my people, with full hands," Mr. Karzai said shortly after his arrival in Tokyo yesterday. "We need your help to begin a new life. Help us stand again on our feet," Mr. Karzai said. He also asked for debt forgiveness.
The United Nations says it could cost $1.7 billion for the first year and possibly $15 billion over 10 years to repair the Afghan infrastructure and get the new government moving.

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