Afghanistan convention to outline cuts, struggle situations and pandemics


© Reuters. An Afghan girl is given free bread distributed by the government outside a bakery during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Kabul


(Reuters) – Afghanistan faces funding cuts and tighter restrictions on vital aid this week from an international donor conference, adding further challenges to a nation torn by two decades of war and now devastated by COVID-19.

Ministers from around 70 countries and officials from humanitarian organizations are expected to pledge billions of dollars to secure development projects at the virtual conference taking place in Geneva on Monday and Tuesday, with talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban rebels taking hold Falter and President Trump will greatly reduce US forces in the country.

Although the fragile economy is heavily reliant on foreign aid, donation cuts will be seen in Kabul and donors will impose strict political and human rights conditions on the money, five participants told Reuters.

According to the World Bank, the Afghan economy will contract by at least 5.5% this year due to the impact of COVID-19.

The strategy aims to protect the peace talks and get the Afghan government to improve the allocation.

At the last conference in Brussels in 2016, donors pledged US $ 15.2 billion or US $ 3.8 billion per year for 2017-2020.

That could be cut by 15% to 20%, said a senior Western diplomat who attended the conference. "This is the best that countries can offer in the face of the national challenge in dealing with a pandemic."

Trump will reduce U.S. forces in Afghanistan from 4,500 to 2,500 by mid-January, the Pentagon said last week in an effort to end America's longest war. The withdrawal of foreign forces – Britain plans to follow US leadership – could mean greater influence for the Taliban.

This worries donors as to whether the stubborn Islamists will try to reverse advances in human rights and girls' education.

The peace talks in the Qatari capital Doha have stalled and the Taliban are refusing to call for a ceasefire. His attacks have sometimes prompted US air strikes to protect urban areas.

But senior diplomats told Reuters that a breakthrough was expected in the peace talks following the donor conference.

"Representatives of the Taliban and the Afghan government will take a break from peace talks after the Geneva conference, but not before they have reached a joint agreement on important security issues," said a senior Western official.

At the Geneva meeting, the government of Afghan President Ashraf Ghani will present a framework for peace and development that will provide funding for key projects, secure millions of jobs and protect democratic institutions.

"The conference will continue to focus on making Afghanistan self-sufficient by the end of its transformation decade, which is 2024," said Naser Sidiqee, a senior official with the Afghan Ministry of Finance, in Geneva last week.

The Taliban are not invited to the conference, but the militants have urged donors to continue their humanitarian aid while accusing Ghani's government of putting the aid money in its pocket.

"We call on the international community and organizations to deliver collective aid to the people on behalf of the people," the Islamist group said in a statement.

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