WASHINGTON - An international conference next week is expected to pledge more than $3 billion a year in development support for Afghanistan, but the money will be dependent on reforms and countering corruption, a senior U.S. official said Thursday.
Richard Olson, U.S. special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, told a Washington forum the U.S. government would seek via Congress to maintain U.S. assistance at or near current levels until 2020.
The European Union and Afghanistan will host a donor conference Oct. 4-5 in Brussels to seek backing for reforms to stabilize and develop the country. Some 70 states and 30 international organizations and agencies will attend.
The conference comes at a time of a greatly scaled-back U.S. and international military presence in Afghanistan and is aimed at helping the Kabul government become more self-reliance.
However, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry would be “ready to indicate clearly American intentions to maintain a strong leadership role within the broad coalition of allies and partners engaged in Afghanistan,” Olson added.
Olson stressed that the aid was not a blank check and would be dependent on Afghan progress in carrying out reforms, including countering corruption. He said he expects the Afghan government to announce ambitious medium-term plans to wean itself of donor support and stimulate economic growth.
Earlier this month, U.S. senators warned that failure to address corruption could cause them to rethink the billions the United States spends in Afghanistan each year.
A September 14 report from the U.S. Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction strongly criticizing Washington for pouring billions of dollars into Afghanistan with so little oversight that it fueled corruption and undermined the U.S. mission.
The United States spends $5 billion a year in Afghanistan, about $4 billion for defense and national security and another $1 billion in civilian assistance, plus billions more for the thousands of U.S. troops and military contractors there.
Olson said the goal is to strengthen Afghan security forces and institutions to allow them to gradually defeat the Taliban insurgency. He said he hoped the bipartisan consensus on this would survive under the next U.S. administration after the November 8 U.S. election.
Earlier this month, India promised $1 billion in aid to Afghanistan during a visit to New Delhi by Afghan President Ashraf Ghani.