The International Conference of Donors for Afghanistan on Tuesday achieved pledges of 12,000 million dollars (10.1 billion euros) for the next four years. A significant part of the total comes from the European Union and its member countries. The participants have conditioned the aid to the advancement of the peace negotiations between the Government and the Taliban, to whom they have asked "an immediate ceasefire." Hours before the closure, the death of at least 17 people in an attack in Bamiyan has reminded that violence continues to slow down development.
“We are living through one of the greatest tragedies in history: the covid-19 pandemic. We are enormously grateful that at this time of collective suffering (…) they maintain their commitment to Afghanistan, ”said Afghan President Ashraf Ghani by videoconference from Kabul.
The recession unleashed by the coronavirus is compounded by the withdrawal of troops from the United States (and therefore from the rest of the countries that support them). Donors fear a possible return of the Taliban, who were ousted by US intervention in 2001, and that the path traveled since then will be reversed. Hence, the conditionality of the aid.
In total, Afghanistan has raised some 3 billion dollars (2.525 million euros) by 2021, as announced in the closing ceremony by Finnish Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto, who was chairing the conference together with his Afghan colleague, Mohamed H. Atmar , and a representative of the UN. Haavisto has extrapolated that figure to the following three years, raising contributions to 12 billion, but most donors will only renew their contributions in successive years if there is progress in the country. Even in the best of cases, aid for the next four years will remain below the 15.2 billion dollars committed in Brussels four years ago.
"The future trajectory of Afghanistan must preserve the democratic and human rights advances achieved since 2001, especially those related to the rights of women and children", stressed the High Representative for European Foreign Policy, Josep Borrell, during your telematic intervention. "Any attempt to restore the Islamic Emirate (as the Taliban regime renamed the country) will have an impact," added Borrell after announcing the new contribution of 1.2 billion euros, similar to that of 2016.
To the commitment of the EU must be added the individual contributions of its member countries (200 million euros from the Netherlands, 88 million from France, 54 million from Denmark or 35 million from Italy, among others). At the head of all of them Germany, which has promised 430 million euros for next year and is contingent on maintaining that level of aid until 2024 to "conditions permitting".
The United States, for its part, has announced 600 million dollars (505 million euros) of civil assistance for 2021, half of them conditional on the progress of the peace talks between the Kabul government and the Taliban. But that dialogue, which is being held in Doha (Qatar), is blocked. In fact, violence has increased in recent weeks. While the Conference was taking place, two bombs have caused at least 17 deaths and 50 injuries in the usually quiet city of Bamiyan, 180 kilometers northeast of Kabul, according to ToloTV. The Afghan authorities often blame these attacks on the Taliban, who they blame for wanting to impose their conditions.
“We are caught between two extremist groups: the Taliban, on the one hand, and the people who are in power in Kabul, on the other. The moment we begin to make progress, they pressure us, ”Deputy Fawzia Koofi, one of the four women who make up the delegation that negotiates with the insurgents in the Qatari capital, confides to EL PAÍS.
There is a perception that both are trying to buy time: the Taliban seek to find themselves in a position of strength when the US troops withdraw and the Government, for its part, seems to bet that the change of tenant in the White House reverse or at least slow down that decision.
“We are aware that these are difficult times for everyone. We will have to prioritize our needs and see how help can be more effective; we do not want to depend forever on foreign assistance, "Afghan Deputy Finance Minister Naseer Sidiqee told this newspaper.