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Donors Pledge Nearly $16 Billion for Afghanistan

International donors pledged more than $15.5 billion in aid for Afghanistan during a one-day meeting Paris. Western leaders and experts have repeatedly argued that Afghanistan needs more NATO troops to fight the Taliban and track down remnants of al-Qaida and long-term economic aid to put it on a more solid footing toward development. VOA's Sonja Pace reports from London.

Addressing the gathering in Paris, Afghan President Hamid Karzai appealed for massive long-term aid to his country, and donors responded with pledges and strong words of support.

There is widespread international agreement that much is at stake in Afghanistan.

Speaking in the House of Commons in London, opposition leader David Cameron of the Conservative Party, labeled Afghanistan the "number-one foreign policy and security priority" for Britain.

"It is clear why we are there, that if we go the Taliban come back, the training camps come back and there will be more terrorists on British streets," he said.

But, Cameron questioned just how much progress has been made since the ouster of the Taliban in 2001.

In the parliamentary exchange, Prime Minister Gordon Brown said prevailing in Afghanistan will be a long-haul effort, but he insisted there has been progress.

"In Afghanistan, we are making progress in training the Afghan army in training the police of Afghanistan and in putting economic and social development in the country, which means the people of Afghanistan have a stake in the future," he said.

There have been persistent reports, however, about deteriorating security in many parts of Afghanistan, rampant corruption, a resurgence of warlords in parts of the country and a resurgence of the Taliban.

Experts say the international community needs to provide more troops to fight insurgents and must have a more cohesive long-term strategy for economic development.

The United States has been critical of its allies for not sending more troops and often not sending them to where they are most needed.

The United States has several-thousand ground troops in Afghanistan on anti-terrorism operations, mainly in the southern parts of the country. It also has about 16,000 troops operating within the NATO force of more than 40,000. There is widespread agreement that providing security in Afghanistan is crucial to future development. But, in an interview with VOA in London with Persian Service reporter Nazenin Ansari, former British Foreign Secretary, David Owen, cautions against pinning too much hope on military success.

"If we think we are going to get military victory then forget it. If we are there to give a little more time, to try to do more reconstruction, which we have given nowhere near enough priority to and to stabilize a solution - OK. But, victory in the military sense - not a prayer," said Owen.

In the past seven years the international community has pledged about $25 billion, but aid agencies say only around $15 billion has been spent.

Corruption is widely blamed for hindering the distribution of aid to where it would be most effective. But, a report released several months ago by a group of aid agencies said donors are failing to deliver on their pledges and that much of the aid money delivered often goes back to donor countries in the form of consultant payments, foreign-staff salaries and goods purchased.