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US Reaffirms Pledge to Help Rebuild Afghanistan, says Afghan FM - 2003-07-15

Afghanistan's Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah met Secretary of State Colin Powell Monday and said he had gotten new assurances on the U.S. commitment to rebuilding his country and promoting democracy.

The Afghan foreign minister, in Washington for a conference on the status of women in his country, has made clear his government's disappointment that a large part of the more than $4 billion in international aid pledged to it has not yet materialized.

In remarks to reporters here after meeting Secretary Powell, Mr. Abdullah said he had been "assured and reassured" of the United States' commitment to Afghan reconstruction, though he said that transforming his country from a former terrorist haven to a democracy will require more than just a commitment of funds.

"More money is just one part of it," he said. "I think that maintaining the engagement in Afghanistan and raising the consciousness of the situation in Afghanistan among the public opinion, and of course a well coordinated plan for the year to come, because the next one year is the most crucial part of our history, or will be."

At a Washington policy seminar Monday, Foreign Minister Abdullah warned that both his government and the United States would lose credibility if the Afghan people do not see tangible improvement in their lives in 2004.

He also proposed another international donors conference to try to raise the $15 billion to $20 billion in outside assistance which the World Bank estimates Afghanistan will require in the next five years.

A donors conference in Tokyo last year nominally raised about $4.5 billion though Mr. Abdullah said most of the proceeds received thus far, well short of the pledged amount, were for humanitarian aid and not the job-creating infrastructure projects his country most needs.

At a news briefing here, State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said the United States has provided about $1 billion to Afghanistan over the past year, about three times the amount it had pledged in Tokyo.

Mr. Abdullah also told reporters he is confident Afghans will embrace democracy, though not necessarily of the United States model, and that he is hopeful that elections set for next June will go forward as planned.