Afghanistan

Karzai seeks more control over Afghan aid

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By Sayed Salahuddin

KABUL, April 29 (Reuters) - Afghan President Hamid Karzai on Sunday sought more control over the billions of dollars of foreign aid pledged to his war-ravaged country.

Speaking at an Afghanistan Development Forum in Kabul, Karzai also called on donor nations to better coordinate rebuilding projects and the fight against the illegal drug trade in the world's leading producer of heroin.

Devastated by decades of war, Afghanistan relies almost entirely on foreign money and troops to tackle the resurgent Taliban and their Islamic allies.

Since the Taliban's ouster in 2001, donor countries pledged $30 billion over 10 years for reconstruction -- $13 billion of which had been spent by March this year, according to the finance ministry.

But Afghans received only a third of the sum spent so far and many say life has not improved for most ordinary people.

"Please bring us more of the resources, let the Afghan government take more responsibility in decision making ... and in the allocation of resources and disbursement and expenditure of the resources," Karzai told donors' envoys attending the forum.

Karzai's senior economic adviser, Ishaq Nadiri, told the forum the degree of destruction was badly underestimated at various conferences held since the Taliban's fall.

Karzai pointed to a lack of coordination among parties involved in the projects and spoke of corruption in his government, aid groups and the international system leading the projects.

Relying on contractors and sub-contractors was another problem, Karzai said.

"We have to think as to how better we can bring coordination and better management of resources and the issues of contracting," he said.

"It is all of us knowing what the other one is doing. What is the Afghan government doing? What is the European Union doing? What is the United States doing? What are other donors doing?"

Karzai said his government was determined to fight rampant corruption and red tape, but said it would take time.

He said the illegal drugs industry -- turning out record crops in the past two years -- continued to be a major problem and stoked the insurgency, now at its strongest since 2001.

To fight the menace, Karzai called on coordination among the various government agencies, foreign troops and donors tasked with wiping it out.

Reuters - Thomson Reuters Foundation
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