BRUSSELS - The international community pledged 15.2 billion dollars for Afghanistan’s development on Tuesday for the coming four years. The pledge, at comes at a time when the United States military is conducting airstrikes to support Afghan forces fighting the Taliban.
The pledge, at a donors’ conference in Brussels, comes just over 15 years after U.S.-led troops invaded Afghanistan in a war against terrorism launched in response to the al-Qaida 9/11 attacks against the United States.
Speaking at the conference, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani says the money is an investment in Afghanistan’s future.
“Today it’s the promise to the people, to the poor, to the youth, to the women, to the excluded. That they will have a lease on life and will be citizens of a state which they will enjoy living in,” Ghani said.
According to estimates, the Afghan government is capable of covering only 20 percent of its budget, and Ghani noted that 39 percent of the Afghan population lives on less than $1.35 a day.
Also speaking at the conference, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said he still has “an enormous sense of confidence about the future'' of Afghanistan.
"Year by year our shared effort, one of the largest international coalitions ever assembled, and maintained over a sustained period in time, is in fact yielding encouraging dividends," Kerry said.
Insurgency, migrant surge
Afghanistan is still plagued by an entrenched Taliban insurgency, as well as challenges from Islamic State fighters. Government security forces have struggled to retain territory; just this week parts of the northern city of Kunduz briefly fell under Taliban control.
The instability has led to a surge of migrants, many of whom have tried to resettle in Europe, making them the second largest group of arrivals there in 2015, after Syrian refugees.
Afghan civil society organizations called upon the EU to suspend deportation of Afghan migrants from Europe, saying the situation is not secure.
EU High Representative Federica Mogherini highlighted that stability and security can only be realized through a peace process.
“There is space for a common basis for regional political support to the political peace and reconciliation process in Afghanistan. Regional support for Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace process, that would be inclusive, based on democracy and in respect of Afghan constitution, as well as a common understanding that negotiations with the Taliban would be needed,” Mogherini said, also speaking in Brussels.
Despite making improvements in providing access to healthcare, girls’ education and poverty reduction, Afghanistan remains aid dependent and is struggling to deal with conflict and corruption.
The Afghan government and the European Union hosted the Afghanistan conference. Those in attendance represented over 75 countries and 25 international organizations, including United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, who said was “important today that the international community send a strong message of support.”