གཟའ་ལྷག་པ། ༢༠༢༤/༠༥/༢༩

US Pledges Another $1 Billion for Afghanistan

An international conference on Afghanistan has opened in London with the United States pledging another $1 billion in assistance for the war-ravaged country next year.

The London conference has brought together officials from about 70 counties and international institutions to support a five-year plan for Afghanistan's security and economic development.

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice says there is much hard work still to be done in Afghanistan, and the United States will remain a strong partner.

"The United States is fully devoted to the long-term success of Afghanistan," she said. "For us, this is a strategic partnership. We have committed tens of thousands of our troops to help stabilize the country. We have sacrificed precious American lives. And now, in addition to our current commitment of nearly $6 billion, today, I am proud to announce that President Bush will ask our Congress for $1.1 billion in new assistance to support the Afghan people in the next year."

Other countries are making their own financial commitments to Afghanistan, including about $875 million from Britain. Russia says it is prepared to forgive $10 billion in Soviet-era debt.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai says he is grateful for the international community's support, but he cautions there is still a serious threat from narcotics trafficking and militants of the former Taleban regime.

"Terrorism no longer rules Afghanistan but it continues to be a threat to our people's security and welfare," he said. "It is not the security and independence of Afghanistan alone that is threatened by terrorism. This menace is the enemy of peace and humanity and is responsible for the massacre of innocent people across the world."

Mr. Karzai also warns that it could take 10 or 15 years to control opium production in Afghanistan, the source country for about 90 percent of the heroin consumed in Europe.

The Afghanistan Conference comes as the Western powers realign their forces in Afghanistan for missions of counter-insurgency and security force training.

The United States, which led the invasion of Afghanistan after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, plans to cut its forces this year from the current 19,000 to 16,500 troops. Meanwhile, NATO plans to increase its troop commitment from 9,000 now to 15,000 in the second half of this year.

U.S. forces have concentrated primarily on counter-insurgency operations, while NATO has provided training for Afghan soldiers and counter-narcotics police.