Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

Kabul's Challenges

Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

Kabul's Challenges

Article excerpt

Corruption and poor governance are sabotaging Afghanistan's ability to become self-sufficient.

As American and coalition forces prepare to withdraw from Afghanistan by the end of 2014, the Afghan government faces a challenge as daunting as the need to take over the fight against the Taliban: assuming responsibility for an economy that has been almost exclusively dependent on outside assistance for more than a decade.

The numbers are staggering. According to the World Bank, an estimated 97 percent of Afghanistan's roughly $15.7 billion gross domestic product comes from international military and development aid and spending in the country by foreign troops. The economy is already contracting as troops leave, and future growth will be slower, especially in urban areas and areas of conflict.

To increase the odds for a more gradual and manageable transition, the United States and other major donors pledged $16 billion in development aid through 2015 at a conference this month in Tokyo. It was an important and necessary commitment. Now they have to deliver.

The United States and other nations have promised that they will not abandon Afghanistan, which happened in 1989 after the Soviet Union was pushed out. The World Bank has warned that an abrupt aid cutoff could provoke a collapse of political authority, civil war and a greater reliance on opium profits.

The major donors, however, are mired in financial crisis, and they are tired of war and with the corruption and ineptness of President Hamid Karzai's government, which has failed to build a stable and viable country despite the loss of thousands of lives and billions of dollars of assistance.

Not all the money has been wasted. Since 2001, many more Afghans have access to health care, schooling and even cellphones. But the country is still one of the world's poorest. …

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