- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 22, 2002

TOKYO Afghanistan's leader made an emotional appeal for aid to rebuild his shattered country, but at a conference of donors yesterday pledges so far fell short of the United Nations' hopes.
Afghan Prime Minister Hamid Karzai collected promises of $2.6 billion for the next three years yesterday. U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said he hoped for $10 billion for five years, and the United Nations estimates a total of $15 billion would be needed over the next decade.
Delegates consider this a make-or-break chance for Mr. Karzai, who is trying to collect funds while the world's attention is still focused on Afghanistan.
He assured the delegates that his post-Taliban government was committed to free-market policies, advancing human rights and wiping out terrorism.
On the first day of the two-day Tokyo conference, the world's biggest economic powers rallied behind his message yesterday. Secretary of State Colin L. Powell promised $296 million in the current fiscal year, telling Mr. Karzai that "the American people are with you for the long term."
Afghanistan is beginning reconstruction nearly from scratch. Decades of war have all but leveled the country's infrastructure; the central bank was looted in the last days of the ousted Taliban regime; and government employees have not been paid for months.
Mr. Karzai's plea came as he embarked on his first world tour to stump for support and solidify his power base in Kabul. Bringing home a bundle in aid will help him do that.
Draped in a traditional purple and green robe, Mr. Karzai peppered his appeal with promises for reform-minded government. Urging the audience to "imagine a scene much worse than what I'm going to say," he painted a picture of a nation lost in misery.
"I stand before you today as a citizen of a country that has had nothing but disaster, war, brutality and deprivation for many years," Mr. Karzai said. About two-thirds of Afghan adults are illiterate, and nearly 3,000 people are maimed by land mines every year.
By last night, at least 25 countries said they were willing to contribute money, a Japanese Foreign Ministry official said on condition of anonymity. An overall total was not yet available, he said.
The United States, Japan and the European Union contributed about half of the more than $2.6 billion in pledges made public so far. But many other contributions were small, such as $5 million promised by Turkey over five years. Some countries gave no figures at all.
Few details were given about the rules for spending the aid money. Often, donor countries require their aid be used to buy goods from companies in those countries. Private aid groups have expressed concerns about such conditions.

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