At a two-day conference this week in Kabul, Afghan President Hamid Karzai told international donors his country’s reconstruction may now cost as much as US$15 billion to US$20 billion, according to new estimates. Citing agricultural devastation, decrepit infrastructure, and widespread fighting throughout the region, Karzai told attendees, “The needs of Afghanistan as we know it today are much greater than what was estimated for us in the Tokyo conference,” reported the Associated Press. UN envoy to Afghanistan, Lakhdar Brahimi agreed, adding, “Security must improve this year. Failing this, the recovery and reconstruction process… risks being undermined.” To date, international donors have given US$2 billion of US$4.5 billion promised over five years.
Amnesty International (AI) released a report yesterday urging overhaul of the country’s police force. Citing documented instances of police brutality, arbitrary arrest and bribery, AI reported a critical need for police supplies and equipment as well as “in service” training. Germany has assisted with policing training, but only for the academy in Kabul, according to the New York Times.
With winter in Afghanistan coming to an end, hundreds of thousands of Afghan refugees are returning home from Pakistan, according the UN High Commissioner for Refugees earlier this week. The agency expects roughly 600,000 refugees to return this year, down from 1.5 million last. However, the outlook in Afghanistan remains bleak. According to the Times, student enrollment at madrasas, or Islamic religious schools, are anticipating growth, recruiting children refugees–many of whom have resorted to collecting recyclables in garbage. The Times reports that roughly 60 percent of an estimated 10,000 madrasas are operated by the radical sect Deobandi that created the Taliban.