Afghan president calls for support but donors likely to cut aid
Ghani's call came in a virtual address to a global donor conference in Geneva, with Afghanistan beset by violence between the Taliban and government forces, rampant corruption and an imminent withdrawal of US forces.
"The Covid-19 pandemic has thrown us all into a state of global uncertainty," Ghani said from Kabul. "We are exceptionally grateful that at a time of such collective suffering... your commitment to Afghanistan remains strong. We ask our international partners to help us do more with less... Financial resources -- aid -- will continue to be critical to our growth for the foreseeable future."
Donor nations meet every four years to pledge aid to Afghanistan, which is almost entirely reliant on foreign assistance despite years of promised reforms and attempts to grow the economy.
But the 2020 donor conference could see less aid pledged as countries battle to recover from the devastating impact of Covid-19. The previous 2016 conference in Brussels raised $15.2 billion. Concerns are high that gains made in the past two decades, especially in the area of women's rights, could be lost as the Taliban unleashes further violence.
The Taliban and Afghan government have been engaged in peace talks in Qatar since September 12 but no progress has been announced so far. "I want to be very clear that our commitment to negotiations with the Taliban remains firm," Ghani said.
But he added that violence had "skyrocketed" since a US-Taliban deal in February paved the way for the withdrawal of foreign forces by May 2021. "Plans to achieve peace did not materialise as imagined. Suffering and killing continues to plague Afghans on a daily basis. It is unbearable," he said.
Support for Kabul from donor nations sends an important message to the Taliban in peace negotiations, experts say. "Although the amount pledged is important, what's more significant is the donors providing their support to Afghanistan," Nishank Motwani, deputy director at the Afghanistan Research and Evaluation Unit, told AFP.
"It's important to also remember that Covid has eviscerated economies and most countries are going to struggle financially for a while. Hence, the climate is not suitable to attract big pledges."