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HEADLINE
 
Call to channel funds via Afghan government
Krishna Guha, FT Syndication Service
2/1/2006
 

          DAVOS: President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan will ask the international community to commit an extra $4.0bn (euro3.3bn, 2.3bn) to boost reconstruction of his country at a donor conference in London today (Tuesday).
He will say the time has come for aid donors to channel their money through the Afghan government rather than non-governmental organisations and warn that failure to do so could stunt the development of the country's fledgling institutions.
In an interview with the Financial Times, Mr Karzai said a recent upsurge in attacks on Nato-led troops and Afghan civilians was a mark of "desperation" on the part of Taliban and alQaeda remnants. But he expressed frustration at the failure of Pakistan to stop cross-border infiltration of Afghanistan, claiming that most attacks originated in Pakistani territory.
He would meet General Pervez Musharraf, Pakistan's president, next month to urge closer co-operation and a Pakistani crackdown on attempts to recruit suicide bombers for Afghanistan in Pakistan.
Mr Karzai, who was in Davos last week lobbying business leaders and politicians at the World Economic Forum, said his country had done everything asked of it at international conferences on Afghanistan in Bonn in 2001 and 2002. It had built democratic state institutions, increased spending on health and education and established good relations with its neighbours.
Corruption remained a concern for many observers of Afghanistan affairs but, Mr Karzai said, the country had put its warlord past behind it, with former commanders brought into the political system. "This is a major achievement, a very substantial change."
Mr Karzai said reconstruction was only "satisfactory"; a failure to rebuild and offer Afghanistan's people economic opportunities would undermine all the gains in other fields.
The president, whose security remains so tight that visitors are frisked and asked to remove electronic equipment before meeting him, said the country's biggest failure was rampant corruption. It also struggled with a lack of qualified people to run government services, although its institutions were in much better shape than three years ago.
"We are more capable now," he said. "We would like the international community to deliver a bigger part of their resources through Afghan government institutions rather than spending it through non-governmental organisations." The prominent role of NGOs was not popular in Afghanistan and undermined efforts to build state capacity, he said.
"Afghan people want a stronger Afghan government and Afghan civil service with the ability to fund and deliver basic services," he insisted.
The London conference would not just be about seeking to raise $4.0bn for the next fiscal year's budget and explaining the need for $20bn over the next five years. "We will be taking stock, evaluating the last four years, our successes and our failures."
The president was diplomatic on the dispute in the Netherlands over sending troops to join Nato forces in Afghanistan. He said: "It is good to have a debate." That way the Dutch people knew what risks they were taking in advance, he said.
Asked whether the recent spate of car bombings in Afghanistan suggested the conflict was becoming more like that in Iraq, Mr Karzai said: "I cannot call it that." There was no definitive evidence that bombers killed in recent attacks were genuine suicide bombers, he said. But "we are looking into this question urgently". He said five months ago tribal chiefs had told him that Taliban/alQaeda agents were trying to recruit suicide bombers in Quetta in Pakistan.
"We did not believe them at the time but after the past two to three months we have signs these reports might be true," he said. He would press the Pakistani president on this in February, as the "greater part" of attacks were committed "by militants based across the border".
On the narcotics trade, Mr Karzai said UK troops now building up in Helmand province in southern Afghanistan should tackle opium-growing as well as pursuing Taliban/al-Qaeda fighters. "Narcotics is a problem that we have to face. Narcotics money feeds terrorism," he said. But he said that while the two issues overlapped, they were not the same problem. Drugs, which play a big part in Afghanistan's economy, had to be tackled with non-military means as well as force.

 

 
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