June 11, 2008 / 3:00 AM / 11 years ago

U.S. expected to pledge some $10 billion for Afghans

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States will pledge about $10 billion in aid for Afghanistan at a donors’ conference this week, a U.S. official said on Tuesday — less than the White House had wanted from Congress.

Private 1st class Alex Padilla (L) from the 101st Airborne Division, 506th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Battalion, 4th Platoon delivers humanitarian aid as Afghans watch in Shamal district of Khost province April 16, 2008. REUTERS/Rafal Gerszak

The official, who asked for anonymity because Washington has not yet unveiled its pledge, also said he expected the Paris conference on Thursday to raise more than $15 billion in total pledges, two thirds from the United States.

The U.S. pledge, to be announced by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, will be less than the $11 billion the Bush administration hoped to get from Congress, the official said.

It is not clear how much of the money pledged in Paris will represent fresh commitments.

U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Richard Boucher told reporters the U.S. contribution would include money the Bush administration had already made public in its budget requests to Congress over the last two years.

He also said the United States had encouraged other donors to include in their pledges money they have promised since the last Afghan donors conference in London in 2006, when $10.5 billion was promised to Afghanistan.

More than six years after U.S.-led forces ousted the Taliban regime that sheltered Osama bin Laden, Afghanistan is afflicted by corruption, the drug trade and daily violence.

The Paris gathering, which first lady Laura Bush will address following her visit to Afghanistan on Sunday, is intended as a show of support for the Afghan people and an opportunity to review development and security strategy.

International aid efforts have been criticized for not doing enough to coordinate work among donors, integrate security with development and provide money directly through the Afghan government.

U.S. Sen. Joe Biden, the Delaware Democrat who chairs the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said the administration was giving Afghanistan too little money for development.

“The administration has consistently under-resourced Afghan reconstruction — and seems likely to continue re-committing the same pot of already-pledged money again in Paris,” Biden said in a statement released by his office.

“Six and a half years after the ouster of the Taliban, it’s hard to believe that our development efforts fall so far short of the Marshall Plan promised by President Bush,” he added.

At the conference, Afghanistan will ask donors to help fund a $50 billion five-year national development plan. In exchange, donors will demand that Kabul do more to fight corruption in what is one of the world’s poorest states.

Boucher said the conference was never intended to fully fund the $50 billion, saying that some of this will come from Afghan contributions, foreign aid already in the pipeline and future pledges.

“It’s not a conference ... to fill the $50 billion tank,” he said. “The overarching goal of the conference is to put international money behind an Afghan strategy for developing Afghanistan.”

He also said discussion would focus on funneling more money through the Afghan government but ensuring it is not lost to waste, corruption and inefficiency.

Editing by Alan Elsner

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