A conference on aid for Afghanistan closed Tuesday in Tokyo, with approximately $4.5 billion in pledges from international donors. Uncertainty remains about when the money will be provided and how it will be spent.
As the conference drew to a close, Afghan interim leader Hamid Karzai assured donors that the billions of dollars in aid will be spent purely for the benefit of the Afghan people. "I will make sure the money that comes from aid is not used by individuals, or groups, or anybody. That it goes to the Afghan people and if it does not go, you will see that and we will make it known. There is no way that can be allowed. Absolutely no way," Mr. Karzai said. While delegates largely deem the conference a success, some wonder when the money will reach Afghanistan and whether it could fall into the hands of corrupt officials.
To help manage the funds, U.S. officials are traveling to Kabul to set up a steering committee.
In a final statement, the conference organizers note that the World Bank will set up a trust fund to administer some of the aid money in cooperation with the Afghan interim government.
The Japanese envoy on Afghan affairs, Sadako Ogata, said at a news conference that aid is being offered on condition that all Afghan ethnic groups will be involved in the rebuilding process, which she said will be slow. "Even if there are some difficulties on the road, we should not give up. If the conference attendees here give up, that means the people of Afghanistan will have a very bad time. With time and persistence, usually things move," Mr. Ogata said.
While U.S. Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill said America must still carry on its war against terrorism, he praised the meeting's results. "People have come and they committed. The range of the figures are quite good compared to the needs assessments that have been done," Mr. O'Neill said. Funding over the next few years brings the total pledged to $4.5 billion. Nearly two billion will be used in the first year to finance the government, reopen schools, clear mines and provide health care.