Clinton says crucial countries meet Afghan funding pledges
BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said on Wednesday it was crucial that NATO allies stick to their commitments to fund Afghanistan's security forces after Western forces end their combat role in the country in 2014.
Afghanistan's foreign backers have pledged $4.1 billion per year to fund Afghan security forces after 2014, but there are concerns that European countries hit by austerity cutbacks may not be able to meet their commitments.
"It will be crucial for every nation to follow through on their commitments, and for those who haven't yet committed any funding to do so," Clinton told a meeting in Brussels of NATO foreign ministers and countries contributing to the NATO-led military mission in Afghanistan.
Clinton said it was essential to focus on economic and political transition in Afghanistan for which countries have pledged $16 billion, and stressed the importance of regional support.
"Every nation in the region has a stake in Afghanistan's future and a responsibility to step up and help secure it," she said.
German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle stressed the importance of European countries delivering on aid commitments.
"Of course that is not easy during times of tightening purse strings. But it is in the interest of European citizens. That is why I am making sure that the commitments made are kept," he told reporters.
Afghan foreign ministry spokesman Janan Mosazai told reporters in Brussels that the Kabul government was fully aware of the financial pressures on countries.
"But we believe that the $4.1 billion annual funding commitment to the Afghan National Security Forces post-2014 is an investment, not only in the security of Afghanistan but also in the security of the broader region and the wider world," he said.
The ministers also discussed setting up a mechanism to oversee spending of the billions of dollars of foreign funding for the Afghan forces after 2014.
HANDLE OWN FINANCES
The Afghan government wants to handle its own finances but with Western concerns over corruption running high, NATO diplomats say the alliance is likely to get a strong role in managing international funding after 2014.
NATO diplomats said the new funding body will build on the existing Afghan National Army Trust Fund, set up to finance the rapid expansion of the Afghan army over the last few years, and will include international donors and the Afghan government.
Mosazai said Afghanistan wanted to deal with other countries after 2014 as an independent, sovereign country.
"But at the same time we want to ensure we have structures in place that will (reassure) everybody about the accountable, transparent, effective and efficient expenditure of those funds," he said.
Afghanistan is ranked as one of the world's most corrupt countries. The theft of about $935 million from the Kabulbank two years ago and the subsequent foot-dragging in prosecuting those responsible underlined concerns about Afghanistan's ability to manage its finances and enforce the rule of law.
(Additional reporting by Claire Davenport; Editing by Michael Roddy)