Afghanistan Donors Conference In Tokyo To Discuss Aid

A major international conference is to be held in Tokyo to discuss financial support for Afghanistan after most Nato-led forces leave in 2014.

US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, left, walks with President of Afghanistan Hamid Karzai to a press conference at the Presidential Palace in Kabul Saturday July 7, 2012. The Obama administration on Saturday declared Afghanistan the United States' newest "major non-NATO ally," an action designed to facilitate close defense cooperation after U.S. combat troops withdraw from the country in 2014 and as a political statement of support for Afghanistan's long-term stability.

A major international conference is to be held in Tokyo to discuss financial support for Afghanistan after most Nato-led forces leave in 2014.

Sunday's meeting is expected to agree a total of $16bn (£10.3bn) in civilian aid over four years, officials say.

Kabul wants firm aid commitments, while donors are likely to demand assurances that the funds will be well spent.

There is concern that the planned Nato pullout could energise the insurgency and plunge Afghanistan back into chaos.

The Tokyo conference is being attended by high-level delegates from 70 nations and international organisations, including US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Participants are expected to promise $4bn in annual aid between 2012 and 2015, according to a US official travelling with Ms Clinton.

Afghanistan's central bank estimates that the country needs between $6bn and $7bn a year in civilian development aid.

Any aid pledged in Tokyo is expected to be tied to commitments from the Afghan authorities that it will improve governance and tackle corruption, correspondents say.

Kabul is also likely be asked to promise to safeguard human rights and ensure free and fair presidential and parliamentary elections in 2014.
Military support

The civilian aid sought in Tokyo comes on top of $4.1bn in military assistance for Afghanistan's armed forces pledged by a summit of Nato leaders in Chicago in May.

According to plans endorsed at the Chicago meeting, Nato-led forces will hand over combat command to Afghan forces by mid-2013, followed by a withdrawal of combat troops by the end of 2014. After that, only training units will remain.

Speaking during a brief stop-over in Kabul on her way to Tokyo on Saturday, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced that the US had given Kabul the status of "major non-Nato ally".

The a move is seen as another signal aimed at allaying Afghan fears about waning Western support.

Ms Clinton said the US was "not even imaging abandoning Afghanistan".

The designation as major non-Nato ally, which already includes close US allies such as Australia and Israel, gives Kabul easier access to advanced US military technology and streamlines defence co-operation between the countries.

The last country to be granted the status was Pakistan in 2004.

In May, US President Barack Obama and his Afghan counterpart, Hamid Karzai, signed a 10-year strategic partnership agreement outlining military and civil ties between the countries after 2014.