US tells allies to make good on Afghan pledges

Updated 05 December 2012
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US tells allies to make good on Afghan pledges

BRUSSELS: US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said on Wednesday it was crucial that NATO allies stick to their commitments to fund Afghanistan’s security forces after Western forces end their combat role in the country in 2014.
Afghanistan’s foreign backers have pledged $4.1 billion per year to fund Afghan security forces after 2014, but there have been concerns expressed that austerity-hit European countries may not be able to meet their commitments.
“It will be crucial for every nation to follow through on their commitments, and for those who haven’t yet committed any funding to do so,” Clinton told a meeting in Brussels of NATO foreign ministers and countries contributing to the NATO-led military mission in Afghanistan.
Clinton said it was also necessary to focus on economic and political transition in Afghanistan for which countries have pledged $16 billion to support. She stressed the importance of regional support.
“Every nation in the region has a stake in Afghanistan’s future and a responsibility to step up and help secure it,” she said.
German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle stressed the importance of European countries delivering on commitments.
“Of course that is not easy during times of tightening purse strings. But it is in the interest of European citizens. That is why I am making sure that the commitments made are kept,” he told reporters.
Afghan foreign ministry spokesman Janan Mosazai told reporters that the Kabul government was fully aware of the financial pressures on countries.
“But we believe that the $4.1 bln annual funding commitment to the Afghan National Security Forces post-2014 is an investment, not only in the security of Afghanistan but also in the security of the broader region and the wider world,” he said.
“So in our view, that is an efficient, a cost-effective investment in the long-term security that the people of Afghanistan and the people of the wider region and the international community share with each other and we will count on the continued full support of the international community on those pledges,” he said.


Egypt denies Sinai battle is choking off food and medicine supplies

Updated 33 min 38 sec ago
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Egypt denies Sinai battle is choking off food and medicine supplies

  • Human Rights Watch warned of a wider humanitarian crisis if North Sinai continued to be cut off from the Egyptian mainland, saying the army’s actions “border on collective punishment.”
  • Air strikes and raids have killed scores of suspected militants, the military says, as it imposes curfews and tight movement restrictions around towns in North Sinai.

CAIRO: An Egyptian military campaign to defeat Daesh militants in the northern Sinai Peninsula is choking essential food and medical supplies to thousands of residents in the desert region, Human Rights Watch said on Monday. The army denied the charge.
The New York-based organization warned of a wider humanitarian crisis if North Sinai continued to be cut off from the Egyptian mainland, saying the army’s actions “border on collective punishment.”
The army launched an operation in February to crush militants who have waged an insurgency that has killed hundreds of soldiers, police and residents over many years.
Air strikes and raids have killed scores of suspected militants since then, the military says, as it imposes curfews and tight movement restrictions around towns in North Sinai. The army has said it is winning the battle.
A military spokesman denied there were shortages, saying it was providing food and medical support throughout the areas it operated in, The HRW report had used “undocumented sources” in its report, he said.
“Thousands of food parcels have been and are being provided to people in North Sinai,” Col. Tamer Al-Rifai, the spokesman, added.
International news outlets are prevented from traveling to North Sinai to report.
Residents said food supplies, medicine and fuel were insufficient and that movement restrictions meant most people were unable to leave the region, HRW reported.
“A counter-terrorism operation that imperils the flow of essential goods to hundreds of thousands of civilians is unlawful and unlikely to stem violence,” HRW’s Middle East and North Africa director Sarah Leah Whitson said.
The report said authorities had banned the sale of petrol and cut communication lines, water and electricity in some areas of North Sinai including near the border with the Gaza Strip.
Residents told Reuters last month they often waited for hours for bread handouts which were not guaranteed to arrive.
Defeating the militants and restoring security after years of unrest that followed Egypt’s 2011 popular uprising has been a promise of President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, who was re-elected in March in a landslide victory against no real opposition.
El-Sisi’s critics say he has presided over Egypt’s worst crackdown on dissent. Supporters say such measures are needed to bring stability and improve the country’s hard-hit economy.
In Sinai, analysts and foreign diplomats say heavy-handed military tactics including air strikes and demolitions of populated areas have failed to defeat the insurgency.