The Future of Afghanistan: What Will the Money Achieve?

Donors met in Tokyo on July 8 and pledged a total of $16 billion in aid to Afghanistan over the next four years. The participants at the meeting, attended by 80 countries and international organizations, pledged these funds (which fell short of the amount the Afghan Central Bank has said will foster economic growth) on the condition that swift and tangible improvements are made in governance,  the fight against corruption, and the strengthening of civil rights. These provisions were expressed in the Mutual Accountability Framework drawn up at the meeting to guide Afghanistan to a more stable future. The framework lists specific actions for Afghanistan to take and demonstrates that Kabul has made big promises and joint commitments with the international community.

Hillary Clinton emphasized the need for President Karzai and the Afghan government to take measures toward economic development and anti-corruption, stating, “We know Afghanistan’s security cannot only be measured by the absence of war; it has to be measured by whether people have jobs and economic opportunity, whether they believe their government is serving their needs, whether political reconciliation proceeds and succeeds.”

Brian Katulis of the Center for American Progress believes that if the Afghan authorities fail to do a better job curbing corruption, then “the whole framework for international support could collapse”. There are doubts of the actual improvements and developments that this $16 billion will achieve, considering the country’s past. International donors provided $35 billion in aid to Afghanistan between 2001 and 2010, but the return on that investment has been mixed and the country remains one of the poorest and most corrupt in the world. There is the possibility of the money being misused in Afghanistan, which provokes anxiety for donor countries. While the mutual accountability framework lists specific actions that must be taken by both Kabul and the international community, there is no certainty that these provisions or the foreign aid will help Afghanistan reach a stable and democratic future

Although money has been pledged and a framework for the stability of Afghanistan has been crafted, the future of this country is still up in the air. Days after the meeting, a video of the execution of Afghan women began circulating and has re-ignited fear of what Afghanistan will be like after the West leaves and what role the Taliban will fill. The video highlights ongoing struggles in Afghanistan between the forces of progress and the forces of regression. Bombings in Southern Afghanistan that killed six US troops, several days after the Tokyo meeting, have increased doubt of achieving stability.  Continued violence and the potential return of the Taliban make it difficult to be optimistic about Afghanistan’s future. 

For the Tokyo Conference Declaration, click here!

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