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Tuesday 21 January 2020

Afghan leaders pressing donors for billions at Brussels summit

John Kerry with Ban Ki-moon at the aid conference in Brussels (AP)
John Kerry with Ban Ki-moon at the aid conference in Brussels (AP)

Afghanistan's leaders and officials from more than 70 nations have gathered in Brussels seeking to drum up billions of pounds for the cash-strapped Kabul government as it battles a powerful Taliban insurgency and rampant corruption.

UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon told reporters: "It's important today that the international community sends a strong message of support."

He said Afghanistan's leaders "have been making impressive reforms and development plans to change the lives of people that have been suffering too long".

But with donor fatigue growing after 15 years of war, EU officials said ahead of the meeting that it was unclear whether the target of 4 billion US dollars (£3.1 billion) would be reached.

The last donor conference, in Tokyo in 2012, secured 4 billion dollars in annual subsidies for development.

The European Union's foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, said the EU will pledge 1.2 billion euros (£1 billion) for the next four-year period, "and we would expect a similar level of engagement from our partners".

She denied reports the bloc is making aid conditional on Afghanistan taking back people who have fled to Europe, saying there is "never a link between our development aid and what we do on migration".

Afghanistan has been mired in conflict for decades. At the height of the 15-year US and Nato intervention, billions of pounds flowed into the country, creating a false economy with double-digit growth.

But the drawdown of troops in 2014 led many aid workers and international agencies to depart or scale back their operations, causing the economy to all but collapse.

Officials estimate up to 50% unemployment, and deteriorating security deters foreign investment in key fields such as mining and infrastructure, and drives the country's youth on to the migrant trail to Europe in search of opportunities.

President Ashraf Ghani will nevertheless argue that progress has been made since Tokyo regarding corruption and judicial and electoral reform.


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