World powers pledge $15 bln for Afghanistan, EU seeks peace

There was also an understanding to work on a common basis for regional political support for the peace and reconciliation process

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World powers raised $15 billion for Afghanistan on Wednesday to fund the country over the next four years, while the European Union said it won support to revive a stalled peace process after almost 40 years of conflict.

With the government in Kabul facing a resurgent Taliban 15 years after US forces helped oust the militants, more than 70 governments in Brussels led by the United States and the European Union promised more financial support for a country that governments see as strategic to global security.

Despite the largesse, Afghanistan is required to sign up to a host of political, economic and social reforms in return for the money. Most contentious, the European Union wants Kabul to take back its nationals who are not considered refugees, although EU donor money is not linked to such demands.

Several hundred members of Afghanistan’s mainly Shi’ite Hazara minority, which has been targeted by Taliban and ISIS militants, protested outside the conference venue, rejecting a new agreement between the EU and Afghanistan that makes it easier to return Afghans whose asylum requests fail.

“(President) Ashraf Ghani and his government is here for European and other countries’ aid in return for accepting a deal to send us back to a war zone,” said Ali Reza, holding a banner with the words: “We Will Not Go Back”.

In the margins of the conference, the EU focused on getting peace negotiations back on track by bringing together the United States, China, India, and Pakistan at a dinner on Tuesday night.

Federica Mogherini, who coordinates EU foreign policy, said there was an understanding “to work on a common basis for regional political support for the peace and reconciliation process in Afghanistan.”

Meanwhile, Taliban attacks in Kunduz overshadowed the meeting. Militants briefly reached the center of the northern city of Kunduz on Monday, and they are testing the defences of two other provincial capitals in the south of the country.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg defended the Afghan forces and said it was only right to fight back. “There is no way the Taliban will engage in a peace process if they believe they can reach victory,” he said.

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