World will be asked for over 10 billion for Afghan development - US

The world community will be urged to give "a solid start" to Afghan President Hamid Karzai's 50-billion dollar development plan at a Paris donors meeting this week, a senior US official said Tuesday.

The conference Thursday in the French capital is aimed at extracting more than the 10.5 billion dollars pledged at the London donors conference two years ago, according to the official, Richard Boucher.

"It's not a conference to fill the 50 billion dollar tank," the assistant secretary of state for south and central Asian affairs told reporters in Washington, the AFP reported.

"It's a conference to put on the table a solid amount of money, more than London, to get a solid start on the five years of the Afghan development strategy," Boucher said.

Boucher declined to give exact figures for what he expected the international community or the United States to pledge for the Afghanistan National Development Strategy.

But Boucher's deputy Patrick Moon told AFP on Monday that the conference was expected to net a total of 15 billion dollars in pledges.

Moon said the meeting does not aim to finance Karzai's entire plan, because legislative disparities among donor countries would make it impossible. US donations, for example, need Congress' approval before they can be disbursed.

Boucher said the US Congress has approved 26 billion dollars for Afghanistan since 2001, with about 70 percent of it disbursed.

Boucher said the development strategy amounts to implementing steps for the long-term goals of the London Compact.

"Afghans will lay out the progress that's been achieved, but also the priority among these goals, among these steps on how to continue to make progress," Boucher said.

The conference will also stress how to use the aid effectively and have Afghanistan lead development.

"Aid effectiveness is ... you might say a double-edged sword. It means, one, using money more effectively by spending it through Afghan government, through the Afghan contractors, through the Afghan trust funds," he said.

"And, two, it means using money more effectively by improving the Afghan capability to manage projects, to audit projects, to control corruption and other things that detract from the effectiveness of aid," he added.

State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said Monday that the conference is to help show that the international community will not abandon Afghanistan as it did in the past.

"And we saw the results of what happened," said McCormack, referring to the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States by Al-Qaeda, allies of the former Taliban regime. "So, certainly the United States is not going to repeat that."

First Lady Laura Bush is expected to announce the US contribution at the Paris conference, while Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will give a speech on US policy in Afghanistan.

On her brief visit to Kabul on Sunday, Laura Bush announced an 80 million dollar aid package for Afghan education projects.

The New York Times on Sunday reported that the US government was frustrated at Karzai's inability to deal with his country's main challenges, especially corruption and drug trafficking.

But Boucher said the United States supports Karzai. "He's the guy. He's the man we work with."

During a press briefing on Tuesday, McCormack gave him a stronger endorsement, saying Washington believes Karzai "has been a good leader, a great leader for the Afghan people in Afghanistan."

More than six years ago, the world was "talking about how you were going to elect a president" while now it is talking about "how well a government governs," McCormack said.

"The ultimate judges of how well a government does or how well a president does are the people. They are going to be the ultimate arbiters of whether or not it's been a successful administration or not for President Karzai."

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