US to unveil $300m in Afghan withdrawal aid

US to unveil $300m in Afghan withdrawal aid

The United States will unveil $300 million Monday in new aid initiatives for Afghanistan for the impoverished nation as the war economy winds down and global troops withdraw, a U.S. official said.

The programs are being rolled out by the U.S. Agency for International Development, Al Arabiya reported.

The first tranche of some $77 million aims to enhance trade and fiscal sustainability to support Afghanistan's accession to the World Trade Organization later this year.

"Peer-reviewed articles suggest that if countries like Afghanistan make the regulatory reforms required to achieve WTO accession, they will typically see a net jump in GDP of 20 percent within the first five years," a State Department official told AFP, asking not to be named.

The program will help support trade deals with Central Asian republics and India, and aid the government to boost its revenues through implementing such things as value added tax.

A second, $92 million five-year program will help develop a more skilled workforce, partnering American universities with 10 Afghan universities. This program went into force on January 1.

The third initiative worth some $120 million will support Afghanistan's agriculture sector, focusing especially on areas such as wheat and livestock, improving job opportunities and food security.

"Among other things, this program is expected to eventually benefit 400,000 farmers from access to better technology and marketing and produce a 20 percent increase in yields for wheat and target crops," the official said.

News of the programs come as Congress has conditioned further aid assistance to Afghanistan on the signing of a bilateral security deal to guarantee the presence of U.S. troops after all combat forces pull out this year.

More than 50,000 combat troops from the U.S.-led NATO force are due to leave by the end of 2014.

But Washington is proposing that around 10,000 U.S. soldiers are deployed from 2015 to train and assist Afghan security forces in their battle against Taliban militants.

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier arrived Sunday in Afghanistan on an unannounced visit and urged President Hamid Karzai to sign the long-delayed security pact with the United States.

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