Tags: Rebuilding | Vital | Stability | Afghan | Leader | Pleads

Rebuilding Vital to Stability, Afghan Leader Pleads

Sunday, 13 January 2002 12:00 AM

His weekend visitor Sen. Joseph Biden, D-Del., agreed, telling reporters, "This government needs a modest infusion of money within days, not weeks or months.”

Most side with Biden’s assessment – but it’s the total price tag of rebuilding the war-ravaged country that spurs debate.

Secretary of State Colin Powell is slated to visit Kabul next week to meet Karzai and gather intelligence firsthand on what rebuilding costs could be. Powell is already on record as declaring that the U.S. has an obligation "not to leave the Afghan people in the lurch.”

In the meantime, commentary, estimates and figures abound.

According to a recent British Foreign Office document: "The cost of reconstructing Bosnia was $5 billion, and Afghanistan has four times Bosnia’s population.”

Karzai works feverishly to communicate just such somber and sobering facts to the delegates to the key international donors conference, scheduled for next week in Tokyo. He and his new ministers have been working to put together a definitive ‘‘needs assessment’’ that would outline the country’s top priorities to the conference attendees.

Key on that shopping list: money to buttress near non-existent health care. The United Nations has estimated that there is only one doctor for every 50,000 people in Afghanistan.

Although Karzi has been remiss to cite specifics, his planning minister Haji Mohammad Mohaqiq said this weekend that Afghanistan would need $45 billion over the next 10 years to rebuild, including a railroad to Iran and a series of irrigation dams.

The irrigation projects are considered vital by Mohaqiq because Afghanistan is predominantly an agricultural nation.

But the planning prime minister’s figure has met with skepticism.

A spokesman for the U.N. envoy to Afghanistan, Lakhdar Brahimi, said last week that the new government would most likely need only $10 billion to $15 billion in the long term.

Powell said on Friday, "The working estimate at the moment is roughly $8 billion over a multi-year period. I have a hunch that number will grow.’’

In the meantime, the European Union has announced its intention to raise $9 billion for rebuilding over the next five years.

Biden told reporters in Kabul that he had heard estimates from $8 billion to $20 billion. ‘‘The number I think most people could agree on is going to be at least $10 billion and it may be more over the next five or more years,’’ he said.

Mohaqiq, however, has downplayed such figures, saying they reflect only the bare short-term requirements: "The $15 billion is for emergency rehabilitation over the next two years.’’

The World Bank said in December that Afghanistan would need up to $3 billion over the next two-and-a-half years to rebuild.

During his Kabul tour, Biden, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, told reporters that in his opinion the U.S. should provide peacekeeping troops. The Bush administration has not committed troops to the force, citing that American troops will be occupied in fighting the War on Terrorism, not in peace missions.

For his part, Karzai would welcome any American peacekeeping contingent. According to Karzai, his positive attitude toward the British-led international peacekeeping force is the compelling need to pacify the countryside where much of the populace remains armed.

Karzai said that he and other top-level leaders in the new order welcomed the peacekeepers as a good omen of the West’s commitment to rebuilding his country.

But with no U.S. peacekeepers in sight, Karzai must find solace in a sympathetic Powell, who said last week: "The United States will make a significant contribution to that [rebuilding] effort. I believe we have such an obligation and we have been hard at work here in the department all week finding the sources of funding.”

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His weekend visitor Sen. Joseph Biden, D-Del., agreed, telling reporters, This government needs a modest infusion of money within days, not weeks or months." Most side with Biden's assessment - but it's the total price tag of rebuilding the war-ravaged country that spurs...
Sunday, 13 January 2002 12:00 AM
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