Afghanistan says it will need outside aid until 2015

December 4, 2011

Afghanistan expects to remain dependent on international economic assistance until 2025, according to projections President Hamid Karzai will deliver to global partners at a conference here Monday.

Together with ongoing costs to support the Afghan army and police forces, at least $10 billion in assistance will be required annually after the scheduled departure of foreign combat forces by the end of 2014.

“At first glance, this figure may look enormous,” a final draft of the Afghan report said. But its total cost “will be lower than a single year of current military expenditure” by the international community of about $140 billion, it said.

The United States and the World Bank anticipate that Afghanistan’s economic growth of up to 11 percent in recent years will drop by more than half as security responsibility is transferred to Afghan forces over the next three years.

“This decline, if left unmitigated, could have a serious effect on stability, particularly in those regions and sectors that have been most bolstered by external funding,” according to an Obama administration assessment sent to Congress on Friday.

The Bonn conference, chaired by Afghanistan on the 10th anniversary of the international gathering here that established an interim Afghan government after the overthrow of the Taliban, will seek broad commitments from donors not to abandon their support after the end of military operations.

All donors are under severe budget constraints. The fear is that as their military efforts decrease, they will begin to withdraw economic assistance. The United States, by far the largest contributor, will spend about $120 billion in Afghanistan this year, less than a tenth of it in nonmilitary aid.

The continuation of economic assistance “is an obligation that has to be met to ensure that we don’t throw away 10 years of blood and treasure” spent fending off a Taliban return, said a senior official of one of the several international organizations with major roles in Afghanistan.

NATO agreed at a summit last year that it would end its combat role in Afghanistan in December 2014. In July, President Obama announced an initial withdrawal of 33,000 U.S. troops by September 2012, leaving about 68,000.

In an ongoing transition process, the Afghans have assumed security control for more than half the country, although foreign forces continue to provide advice and backup in those areas.

Karen DeYoung is associate editor and senior national security correspondent for the Washington Post.
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