In a significant shift in policy, donor nations yielded control of appropriating the pledged $1.24 billion to Afghanistan’s central government yesterday. Prior to this decision, donations were coordinated by the Afghanistan Support Group. After a two-day donor meeting in Oslo, Norway, the New York Times reported that the group dissolved itself and gave responsibility of donations over to a “streamlined consulting group” in Kabul, headed by Afghan Finance Minister Ashraf Ghani. Delegates from 23 nations in Oslo stated that the shift recognized Afghans taking control over the course of their future, and though there were some concerns about the central government’s capability to take on the task, delegates agreed that it was time for Afghan President Hamid Karzai to take “the reins,” according to the Times. During the donor meeting, Karzai urged donors in Oslo to help with long-term reconstruction and not immediate humanitarian aid, the BBC reports. Many have criticized the fact that only about one-tenth of reconstruction funding has gone directly to the Afghan government, with the bulk of money being spent by international organizations and United Nations agencies instead. This funding strategy, some argue, has weakened the central government and the development of Afghan-led institutions.
Norway’s Prime Minister, Kjell Magne Bondevik, urged the Afghan government at the meeting to focus on improving the status of women in the country, saying “the situation for women in Afghanistan is improving but there is still a way to go,” according to Agence France-Presse. Human Rights Watch released a report this week stressing the challenges facing women in post-Taliban Afghanistan; however, Karzai rejected the report’s claim that progress in women’s rights was deteriorating.
The Afghan Freedom Support Act of 2002, which was signed by President Bush recently, authorizes $2.3 billion in aid to Afghanistan over four years and $1 billion to expand international peacekeeping troops. The Act also includes language by Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) that makes Afghan women a funding priority, earmarking $15 million each year for the Ministry of Women’s Affairs and $5 million each year for the Independent Human Rights Commission because of the importance of supporting Afghan-led institutions to safeguard women’s rights. However, the Bush Administration’s 2003 budget forwarded to Congress does not include any funding for Afghan reconstruction or expansion of ISAF. This authorization is a major step in securing the funding necessary for Afghan reconstruction and security. The funds must still be appropriated by Congress when it convenes next year, and the Bush Administration must take action to support the expansion of international peace troops within and beyond Kabul. TAKE ACTION: Urge Congress to Appropriate Funds for Expanded Peace Troops, Women’s Programs and Reconstruction in Afghanistan