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Secretary Clinton in the Hague for Astan Conference

In Afghanistan, Global News, Politics, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, The Hague, United States on March 31, 2009 at 5:43 am

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton gestures, as she arrives at Schiphol Airport, Netherlands, Monday March 30, 2009, ahead of Tuesday's U.N.-sponsored conference on the future of Afghanistan. The international conference on pacifying Afghanistan will include two unlikely partners for peace, the United States and Iran. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton will attend the U.N.-sponsored conference Tuesday in the Netherlands. And a Dutch diplomat said Monday that Iran will send its deputy foreign minister, Medhi Akhundzadeh, to the meeting, as well. (AP Photo/Peter Dejong)

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton gestures, as she arrives at Schiphol Airport, Netherlands, Monday March 30, 2009, ahead of Tuesday's U.N.-sponsored conference on the future of Afghanistan. The international conference on pacifying Afghanistan will include two unlikely partners for peace, the United States and Iran. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton will attend the U.N.-sponsored conference Tuesday in the Netherlands. And a Dutch diplomat said Monday that Iran will send its deputy foreign minister, Medhi Akhundzadeh, to the meeting, as well. (AP Photo/Peter Dejong)

NETHERLANDS AFGHANISTAN CONFERENCE

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton waves inside the limousine shortly after her arrival at Schiphol airport to attend the UN-conference on the future of Afghanistan. The Hague conference is officially being co-hosted by Afghanistan, the United Nations and the Dutch government.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton waves inside the limousine shortly after her arrival at Schiphol airport to attend the UN-conference on the future of Afghanistan. The Hague conference is officially being co-hosted by Afghanistan, the United Nations and the Dutch government.

U.S. envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan, Richard Holbrooke (L) speaks with Dutch Foreign Minister Maxime Verhagen before a meeting in The Hague March 30, 2009. The United States is expected to seek international support for its renewed commitment to defeat Islamist militants in Afghanistan and Pakistan at a U.N. conference in the Netherlands on Tuesday.Washington is hoping to enlist support from Iran, Russia, China and India amongst others for a new strategy to end a stalemate in Afghanistan and undercut an Islamist insurgency spilling increasingly into neighboring Pakistan.

U.S. envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan, Richard Holbrooke (L) speaks with Dutch Foreign Minister Maxime Verhagen before a meeting in The Hague March 30, 2009. The United States is expected to seek international support for its renewed commitment to defeat Islamist militants in Afghanistan and Pakistan at a U.N. conference in the Netherlands on Tuesday.Washington is hoping to enlist support from Iran, Russia, China and India amongst others for a new strategy to end a stalemate in Afghanistan and undercut an Islamist insurgency spilling increasingly into neighboring Pakistan.


Clinton Urges Aid for Afghanistan, Warns on Threats


(Update1)

By Indira A.R. Lakshmanan, Gregory Viscusi and James G. Neuger

March 31 (Bloomberg) — Secretary of State Hillary Clinton pleaded for more financial aid for Afghanistan, warning world leaders not to use the economic slump as an excuse to short- change the country as the terrorist threat mounts.

Outlining President Barack Obama’s new war strategy at a meeting in The Hague, Netherlands, Clinton said extremists are on the march in Afghanistan and Pakistan and urged a renewed global push to stabilize the region.

“All too often in the past seven years, our efforts have been undermanned, underresourced and underfunded,” Clinton said. “While there is great temptation to retreat inward in these difficult economic times, it is precisely at such moments that we must redouble our efforts.”

The one-day, 73-country conference marks a turning point in the U.S. policy on Afghanistan, as Obama shifts the focus to economic reconstruction, eases pressure on Europe to send more troops, and steps up efforts to stamp out terrorist havens in neighboring Pakistan.

Since taking office in January, Obama has ordered 17,000 more U.S. troops to Afghanistan to fight the resurgent Taliban, the radical Islamist movement ousted by the U.S. in 2001 after the Sept. 11 attacks. As part of a strategic review announced last week, Obama also said he will send 4,000 more trainers to Afghanistan to build up the local army.

European leaders, hectored by the Bush administration for failing to dispatch enough frontline troops to the war zone, expressed relief that the U.S. will shoulder the extra military burdens.

New U.S. Approach

The new U.S. approach is not to badger European governments to send forces they don’t have, a senior U.S. official told reporters in Brussels yesterday. Instead, as shown by today’s “big tent” conference, the point is to encourage allies to do what they can.

While financial aid to rebuild Afghanistan’s economy and build up its 79,000-strong army figures high on the priority list, today’s conference isn’t meant to solicit extra donations on top of more than $21 billion pledged at a Paris conference last June.

Still, some new aid was on offer. China offered $75 million over five years and Spain said it will consider pledging 120 million euros ($160 million) for 2010-12. The European Commission, donor of $2.1 billion to Afghanistan since 2002, said it will provide another 60 million euros for rural development and to help stage Afghan elections on Aug. 20. The U.S. offered $40 million for the elections, further defraying costs estimated by the United Nations at $220 million.

As the deepest economic slump since World War II strains government budgets, Clinton also said much of the money plowed into Afghanistan has been misspent on programs that don’t work.

Bloomberg

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