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US Officials Say Aid Programs for Afghanistan Are Succeeding - 2002-10-09

The New York-based Council on Foreign Relations Wednesday held a conference on the effectiveness of development assistance in Afghanistan. It was one year ago this week that the United States launched its military campaign against the Taleban in Afghanistan.

U.S. Treasury official John Taylor says the $4.5-billion international aid program for Afghanistan is working well. The progress, he said, includes the return to the country of nearly two million refugees and the return to school of over three million children, both boys and girls.

But Mr. Taylor, who co-chairs the Afghanistan Reconstruction Steering Group, says assistance must shift from humanitarian relief to visible reconstruction projects. He says of the $900 million disbursed since the Tokyo donors conference in January only $260 million has gone to reconstruction. He told the Washington conference that more aid should be going to the south of the country.

"One example of the reconstruction is this road that will go from Kandahar to Spin Boldek on the Pakistan border. The Asian Development Bank is actually responsible for that. I visited Manila, their headquarters, just three weeks ago to make sure they're on track with that. I'm very concerned about that area. They indicated that they are going to start this month and they're going to try to finish that road in one year. That will be tremendous if it actually happens. That would be very visible for the people in that region."

Mr. Taylor agrees with the World Bank estimate that about $10 billion is needed for Afghan reconstruction over the next decade. He says donors have so far made good on their aid pledges.

"So it's not appropriate or accurate to say that the pledges were below what the assessments were. In fact I think the pledges were remarkable, given how short the time. That was in January. It was in October that Taleban was still in power."

The United States has spent about $300 million for aid in Afghanistan and is committing the same amount for 2003. The major infrastructure project is reconstruction of the main national road from Herat in the west to Kabul in the east.