Afghan President Hamid Karzai and his Finance Minister Ashraf Ghani held a meeting this weekend, presenting international donors with the nation’s future budget and development plans. Karzai expressed appreciation for the more than $4.5 billion pledged at the January donors’ meeting in Tokyo; however, citing that the UN and other aid groups received $800 million of the $890 million given in aid thus far, he urged that additional monies be directed to the Afghan government. He also urged donor nations to fulfill their promise of $1.8 in funding this year. Aiming for self-sustainability, Karzai outlined improvements in education, transportation infrastructure, utilities and sanitation, and government building repairs. Ghani estimated that roughly $20 billion over five years would be needed to achieve this goal.
Meanwhile on Friday, President Bush touting the US contributions to Afghanistan of $588 million since 2001 urged other countries to carry through on their financial promises. “If you say you will help the Afghanistan people, do it,” he said according to the Associated Press. Spokesman for the Democrats on the House Appropriations Committee, David Sirota, lambasted Bush for his hypocrisy, citing that the President killed $150 million earmarked for Afghanistan health and agricultural programs when he rescinded a $5 billion emergency foreign aid spending package in August. “George W. Bush still does not understand that families can’t feed their kids flowery speeches or rebuild their communities with White House photos. We made a promise to rebuild Afghanistan and that means writing a check, not just a press release,” he said according to the AP.
Just this weekend, rockets and gunfire hit three US bases in eastern Afghanistan. US troops discovered a weapons warehouse in Khost, purportedly belonging to the warlord Bacha Khan Zardran. Also, earlier this month near the capital of Sar-i-Pul province, following the distribution of pamphlets warning women against removing their burqas, two girls’ schools were burned down, including their supply of books and blackboards. These reports of violence come only weeks after the US State Department issued a report questioning the expansion of peacekeeping troops in Afghanistan. The Feminist Majority, Afghan President Hamid Karzai, UN officials, and women’s rights and human rights organization have urged a full-scale expansion of peacekeeping troops throughout the country in order to ensure security and enable reconstruction efforts.