KABUL: Afghanistan on Wednesday vowed to fight graft and hold officials accountable after an international donor conference renewed its conditions-based pledge to provide the country $12 billion in foreign aid over the next four years.
“Afghanistan feels committed and pledges for the sake of the nation, for the sake of God, for its future self-sufficiency to fight against corruption,” Shamrooz Khan Masjidi, a spokesman for the Foreign Ministry told Arab News.
“We want to work for good governance and for transparency and give accountability to the international aid,” he added.
The pledge was made during a two-day conference in Geneva which ended on Tuesday, where ministers from almost 70 countries and officials from humanitarian organizations spoke about funding cuts and tighter restrictions on vital aid for Afghanistan, marking further challenges for a country that is preparing for an early withdrawal of US-led troops and grappling with the pandemic.
And while the pledged amount falls short of the nearly $16 billion aid raised during a similar meeting in Brussels in 2016, Masjidi said it was a “major” sum considering the financial constraints faced by many countries amid the pandemic.
“Kabul, unlike in the past, expects donors to channel most of the aid through the Afghan budget,” he said, adding that the international community had expressed a willingness to release $3.3 billion next year and, based on a mechanism to be drawn by Afghan authorities and its representatives, review and extend more aid for 2022.
However, several of the donors imposed tough conditions for extending aid, such as progress in the intra-Afghan peace talks between the country’s government and the Taliban in Doha, Qatar, which have reached a stalemate since they first began on Sept. 12.
The pledge comes amid uncertainty about Afghanistan’s future and an escalation in violence as the US plans a complete withdrawal of troops from the country as per an accord signed with the Taliban in February.
The Afghan government welcomed the $12 billion in aid on Tuesday, with Foreign Minister Mohammad Haneef Atmar labeling it a “success,” adding that the strict conditions set by the donors would renew focus on peace negotiations.
Taliban representatives were unavailable for comment when contacted by Arab News.
In the past, however, the group, emboldened by the February accord and US exit plan, has resisted pressure and repeated calls by Kabul and the international community to enforce a cease-fire.
Fawzia Koofi, a government negotiator who took part in the Qatar talks before returning home several weeks ago, said that both Kabul and the Taliban need to “grasp the delicacy of the situation” and the conditions attached to the aid.
“All sides now engaged in negotiations should know the urgency for peace in Afghanistan because both sides, especially the Taliban, must realize that the luxury of having the world and international community stand with us will not continue,” she told Arab News.
Koofi added that “peace and stability are vital for delivering services and good governance” in the country.
“And the worst scenario would be the international community losing hope for Afghanistan. I think both sides should understand that and show logical flexibility in the process,” she added.
However, experts said “shutting out” the Taliban from the Geneva conference “did not demonstrate inclusive peacemaking on the part of the conference organizers.”
“The Taliban can say to the donors ‘we were not present at the conference to give our view … and for stamping out corruption, please talk to your friend in Kabul,’” Torek Farhadi, an adviser to the former government, told Arab News.
Unlike in the past, the US said it had pledged $300 million in civilian aid for use next year and would extend another $300 million based on progress in peace talks. Washington has contributed about $800 million per year in civilian aid in recent years.
Farhadi said that with President-elect Joe Biden assuming power in the White House, there is a possibility of Washington expressing its view on the Taliban talks and proposing another conference involving the militant group.