International donors are gathering in Tokyo ahead of a two-day conference on shoring up stability in war-torn Afghanistan. A top United Nations official predicted Sunday that aid pledges will come close to U.N. targets.
Many delegates from about 50 countries and more than 20 international organizations spent much of Sunday in informal talks, discussing issues related to the billions of dollars in donations expected to be offered to Afghanistan.
One major area of concern is ensuring that the funds pledged will go to the neediest people in the country, which is in ruins after more than two decades of civil war, the Soviet occupation and Taleban repression. One scenario is that an international committee, based in Kabul, will help manage the money.
Robert Cooper, a delegate from Britain, said that priority areas for aid expenditure include security, funding the new government, and agriculture. "If you want to keep Afghanistan stable and free from terrorism, then you have got to give the people some kind of decent life. It has got to function," he said. "This is a country which is ruined and needs an enormous amount of help."
Mark Malloch Brown, the top U.N. official coordinating efforts to rebuild Afghanistan, on Sunday urged donors to meet the country's needs. He predicted that the aid pledges would approach the U.N.'s assessment of what is required: $1.7 billion for the initial year of reconstruction and a total of $5 billion for the first two-and-a-half years.
Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, speaking with reporters, drew a comparison between his nation, which is co-hosting the summit, and Afghanistan. He said that many countries, including the United States, supported Japan after World War II, and that, coupled with the hard work of the Japanese citizens, is how the nation was able to modernize. He adds that Japan is a supporter of Afghanistan's efforts to rebuild.
Japan is expected to unveil aid of up to $500 million at the meeting. The United States says that it, too, will offer a significant pledge. Secretary of State Colin Powell is expected to announce the amount at the opening of the conference on Monday. State Department officials say the U.S. portion will focus on counter-narcotic programs and health, among other areas.