Afghanistan says needs billions long after troops go

Reuters News
Posted: Dec 03, 2011 5:38 AM
Afghanistan says needs billions long after troops go

By Daniel Magnowski

KABUL (Reuters) - Afghanistan's international backers must not cut funding to Kabul to the degree that it forces the government to choose between spending less on security or development, the finance minister said on Saturday.

A World Bank study released last month said Afghanistan was likely to need around $7 billion a year from the international community to help pay its security and other bills long after foreign troops leave at the end of 2014.

"The World Bank's study makes a case for continued assistance," Finance Minister Omar Zakhilwal said, speaking from the German city of Bonn. "We have done our own analysis and our conclusion with regard to the fiscal gap is not too different from the World Bank's."

Asking Kabul to cut spending on security forces would risk allowing the Taliban-led insurgents to make a comeback, while if services such as health and education were reduced instead, that could indirectly bolster support for the insurgency.

"What they are saying is, these are not options that the Afghan government should be pushed into, we have to know the consequences of pushing the government into these choices," Zakhilwal told Reuters.

On Monday, Bonn will host a major international conference about the future of Afghanistan.

"What we want to get out of this (conference) is strong, believable political statements from our partners (of) long-term support for development and security," Zakhilwal said.

"I do expect strong, believable statements of support."

(Editing by Nick Macfie)