BRUSSELS — Major donors launched an extensive aid plan for Afghanistan on Thursday, saying it could grow into funding worth billions of dollars if the country's new government keeps peace among rival ethnic groups.
A two-day conference in the Belgian capital led by the European Union, Japan, Saudi Arabia and the United States assessed how to coordinate aid needed to rebuild the impoverished nation.
A U.S. official said the lure of massive aid to rebuild infrastructure, boost the crippled agricultural sector and reinvent public institutions was an incentive for Afghan warlords to set aside weapons and back the interim Cabinet.
"We need this opportunity to warn armed factions and some of the militias that they must back the new government or we cannot do our reconstruction," said Andrew Natsios, chief administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development.
The conference agreed to create an initial $20-million fund for Afghanistan's new administration, which is to take office Saturday and rule for six months.
"This fund will mainly help pay salaries of government officials and equip their offices," Natsios said.
Humanitarian aid began to pour into Afghanistan after its rival factions agreed in early December on the interim government, but many donors say the action must be better coordinated to prevent funds from being wasted and misused.
The Brussels conference involved 40 countries, the World Bank, the Asian Bank for Reconstruction and Development, the United Nations and many nongovernmental organizations.
Pledges are not expected until a Jan. 21-22 ministerial conference in Japan, after Afghanistan's financial needs are assessed.