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Afghans need decade of help, Karzai warns

PRESIDENT Hamid Karzai appealed to the world yesterday to continue propping up Afghanistan for a decade beyond 2014 or face the return of Taliban rule.

The Afghan president made the demand as more than 1,000 delegates from 90 countries gathered in Bonn for a conference on Afghanistan's future after NATO withdraws its combat troops in three years.

Ten years after a conference in the German city when the overthrow of the Taliban ended in high hopes and pledges worth billions, the insurgents remain a force, corruption among Afghan officials is rampant and the opium trade is still strong.

British Foreign Secretary William Hague and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton are among those attending the talks, but Pakistan has withdrawn in protest at the NATO air strike that killed 24 of its soldiers on the Afghan border on November 26.

The meeting will express concerns that when the bulk of NATO's 132,000 troops leave, civilian and financial support will go too. The World Bank has warned of the possible collapse of the Afghan economy unless a potential annual $7bn (€5.2bn) shortfall is met.

Mr Karzai said: "Afghanistan will certainly need help for another 10 years. We will need training for our own troops. We will need equipment for the army and police and help to set up state institutions."

Referring to the Taliban regime, he added: "If we lose this fight, we are threatened with a return to a situation like that before September 11, 2001."

International funding for Afghanistan is fixed until the end of 2014, but British officials warned failure to keep this up would lead to another civil war. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent