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Snow Reiterates U.S. Support for Afghans

In Kabul visit, Treasury secretary vows to urge other nations to match American economic aid.

September 19, 2003|Josh Meyer | Times Staff Writer

KABUL, Afghanistan — Treasury Secretary John W. Snow on Thursday reassured Afghan President Hamid Karzai that the United States had not forgotten him and promised to use a meeting of major industrial powers this weekend to urge other nations to match the $1 billion in economic aid pledged recently by President Bush.

"The United States and the international community are committed to seeing this long-troubled nation through to peace and prosperity," Snow told Afghan economic leaders. "The reconstruction of a new, democratic Afghanistan must succeed -- for the sake of the Afghan people, for the region and for the world community."

Snow, who began his day in the Saudi city of Jidda, met only briefly with Karzai before continuing to Pakistan for a series of economic and counter-terrorism events planned for today.

However, earlier in the day the Treasury secretary and several senior advisors held lengthy meetings with Karzai's financial team. Among the issues they discussed were the reconstruction of Afghanistan and Iraq and the terrorism and drug problems that continue to plague the region.

Snow also praised Afghanistan for its efforts to establish a viable banking system. He attended a ceremony at the Afghan central bank, where the first operating licenses were awarded to foreign banks to help kick-start the country's independent banking system.

Finance Minister Ashref Ghani, addressing reporters with Snow at his side, said the Afghan government was "extremely grateful" for the extra U.S. support and that he believed the Bush administration could successfully juggle the funding of both Iraq and Afghanistan.

However, Ghani said Afghanistan needed $30 billion more over the next five years. Aides said that despite his upbeat public demeanor, Ghani spoke out because he privately believes the needs of Afghanistan are considered a distant second to those of Iraq in the eyes of the U.S. and its allies.

This month, Bush pledged about $1 billion in new nonmilitary spending for Afghanistan. In comparison, Bush has said he wants congressional approval for an additional $20 billion to rebuild Iraq, part of an $87-billion funding request for military and civilian spending in the two countries.

Snow said the rebuilding of Afghanistan, as well as Iraq, was a responsibility that must be shared among many countries.

"We're hoping to get the amount the U.S. is coming up with at least matched" by participants at the Group of 7 meeting this weekend in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, as well as other U.S. allies, the Treasury secretary said.

"At Dubai, we're going to lay the issues on the table. We're not going to be asking for checks. It's an opportunity to get people thinking about it," he said.

The G-7 donor conference on Afghanistan occurs in conjunction with the semiannual meeting of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank.

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