| HERAT, Afghanistan July 28
HERAT, Afghanistan July 28 Italy and Spain are
scaling back the money allotted for development projects in
Afghanistan this year as their debt crises widen at home,
military officials said.
Italy, which spends almost half its Afghan aid money on
education, has wiped 400,000 euros off this year's pledge,
leaving 5 million euros, and Spain is decreasing its amount by
Major donors earlier this month pledged $16 billion in
development aid through 2015 for Afghanistan, which is less than
previous years and separate from individual countries'
commitments through reconstruction teams. They also demanded
Afghanistan better tackle its widespread corruption.
"Due to the economic situation, we're seeing the biggest
amount disappear in a year," said Colonel Francesco Principe,
who heads the Italian civilian and military reconstruction team
in Herat province in the country's west bordering Iran.
Almost all of Italy's 4,000 troops, the fourth-largest
contributor to the NATO-led war, are in Herat, whose base boasts
a pizzeria, wine-serving pasta restaurant and two chapels with
statues of the Virgin Mary.
The cut 400,000 euros would have mostly covered fuel and
support for Italy's aid projects, Principe told reporters. His
team's most famous feat is the new Herat airport, which opened
in April after a $1.4 million, eight-month build.
Spain's 1,500 troops are distributed between Herat and
Badghis province to its north, where they also run a
This year will see an "important decrease due to Spain's
economy" in development funding, said commander for Badghis,
Spanish Colonel Luis Cebrian Carbonell.
Compared to the 10 million euros spent last year, Spain has
7.3 million euros this year, Carbonell said, to go for road
construction and other projects.
Even for countries with better economic outlooks, aid to
Afghanistan is dwindling as the 2014 deadline looms for NATO to
withdraw most of its combat troops, sparking concern that the
country's crippling corruption and shaky security could mean
Afghanistan will not be able to stand on its own two feet.
Principe said six reconstruction teams -- three U.S., two
Swedish and one German -- were shut across the country over the
Of the 26 existing today, seven will shut by the middle of
next year, he added, meaning their education, health and
construction projects will come to an end.
Italy has committed about 36 million euros for development
work in Afghanistan since 2005, while Spain has contributed 226
million euros since 2006.
(Reporting by Amie Ferris-Rotman; Editing by Nick Macfie)