The United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton travelled with Afghani President Hamid Karzai to a summit in Japan on Sunday to herald the announcement of $16 billion aid package that will buttress Afghanistan’s government over the next four years.
Before they left for Japan, Secretary Clinton spoke alongside President Karzai in Kabul and praised the Afghan National Security Forces for “improving their capacity to protect the Afghan people.”
“They are in the process of taking the lead in more than 75 percent of the population’s living areas in order to provide security,” Clinton said.
Secretary Clinton’s message was undercut over the weekend by the killing of 25 civilians in a series of roadside bomb and rocket attacks along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border.
Aid is critical to Afghanistan since it accounts for two-thirds of the money spent every year by the government. Development organisation Oxfam highlighted the benefits of aid over the past decade, citing dramatic rises in life expectancy, widespread access to basic medical care, and an increase in the ability of girls to attend school. However, Oxfam stressed the fragility of those gains in the wake of increased spending focused on military and security objectives.
Security is also central to the language of aid package agreed upon in Tokyo. In exchange for the aid, the Americans are making clear that Afghanistan needs to continue to play a more active role in the effort to curb terrorism. The fifth article of the declaration states “the need for sincere and result-oriented regional and international cooperation towards a region free from terrorism in order to secure Afghanistan and safeguard the region and the world against the terrorist threat.”
The actual amount of aid dollars the US will contribute as part of The Tokyo Declaration is less clear.
“The United States will be working with Congress to provide assistance at or near the levels of the past decade through 2017,” Clinton said.
US aid to Afghanistan has ranged from $1.1 billion to $4.1 billion over the past six years. Furthermore, there is no assurance that all the promised American aid will materialise. The request will be sent from the White House into a deeply-divided US Congress where all aspects of fiscal responsibility are being scrutinised. This week there are two bills working their way through congress to address appropriations for foreign operations of the Department of State. The Senate bill allots $2.6 billion less than was requested, while the House bill is $14.6 billion short.
The fears from the Afghani perspective are that the international community may not offer Afghanistan the same support when foreign forces are no longer fighting there. President Karzai seemed to allude to this in Kabul, telling Secretary Clinton, “There’s a saying in Farsi, ‘when a friend is around, we’ll be here again.’”
While the United States attempts to focus its efforts on drawing back troops in Afghanistan, it remains committed to spending billions of dollars in the war-torn country to exert influence on its regional allies in the central government.
The US President Barack Obama pledged to remove troops from Afghanistan by 2014, and across the border, demonstrators and politicians in Pakistan are growing evermore angry with the US drone strike programme.