Afghanistan conference to set aid cuts, conditions amid war, pandemic

Afghanistan conference to set aid cuts, conditions amid war, pandemic
Donors could offer between 15% to 20% less than they did in the last pledging conference in 2016, according to a senior Western diplomat.
2 min read
22 November, 2020
The meeting comes as Washington is set to sharply cut its troop presence [Getty]
International donors at an aid conference on Afghanistan this week could cut funds and impose stricter allocation on the conflict-ridden country, as it reels from the effects of its Covid-19 epidemic.

Participants at the virtual conference in Geneva told Reuters that donors will introduce tight political and human right conditions on the reduced amount they pledge Kabul, whose fragile economy relies heavily on foreign aid.

The moves are aimed at protecting peace talks between Afghan government and Taliban rebels, which remain stalled, as well pushing the government to ensure more effective aid distribution. 

The total amount could be cut by between 15% to 20% on the last Afghanistan conference held in 2016, a senior Western diplomat told Reuters. At the time, donors agreed to give the Afghan government $15.2 billion for the period between 2017 and 2020, equivalent to $3.8 billion a year.

"This is the best countries can offer amid the domestic challenge of managing a pandemic," the diplomat said.

According to a report by the World Bank, coronavirus-related impacts will cause the Afghan economy to contract by at least 5.5% year.

Hosted by Geneva, the 2020 virtual event will bring together ministers from 70 governments and officials from humanitarian organizations, who will pledge funds to protect development projects.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani is expected to present a peace and development plan meant to allocate funds to the projects, safeguard millions of jobs and protect democratic institutions.

This meeting comes as US President Donald Trump announced last week that his country's troop presence would be reduced to 2,500 from 4,500 by mid-January.

Officials and analysts see the windown as a victory for the Taliban, who could yeild greater influence in the aftermath, prompting fears among conference donors that the militants could backtrack on vital progress in the realm of human rights and girls' education.

The hardline Islamists, refuse call for a ceasefire, have made scant headway in talks with the Afghan government held in the Qatari capital.

Read also: Afghan VP vows to track down Kabul attackers

One senior diplomat expressed hope for the peace talks following the donor conference.

"Taliban and Afghan government representatives will take a break from the peace talks after the Geneva conference but not before they have joint declaration of agreement over key security issues," said a senior Western official. 

Violence continues unabated across much of Afghanistan with a series of rocket attacks Saturday in Kabul, which killed at least eight people. The government continues to blame the Taliban for these attacks, while the group denies involvement.

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