But donors were equally insistent that continued aid was contingent on effective reforms to tackle the scourge of corruption. The Afghan government “must do its part to implement essential elements of stability and security,” Mr. Pompeo warned, emphasizing the need for economic reforms and more efforts to fight corruption.
Faced with the possibility of less money this time, Afghan officials have emphasized their commitment to human rights improvements and to the peace negotiations as reason enough for continued foreign backing. Addressing the Geneva conference from Kabul by video conference on Tuesday, President Ashraf Ghani of Afghanistan asked the international community “to help us do more with less.”
“Financial resources — aid — will continue to be critical to our growth for the foreseeable future, even as we have balanced that dependency markedly over the past six years,” he said.
Just days before the Geneva conference, Mr. Ghani established a new anti-corruption commission, years after he pledged to do so following his election in 2014. Anti-corruption experts in Afghanistan see the commission as the latest in a repeated number of such bodies set up over the past two decades, and it is riddled with troubling issues, including a lack of independent oversight, and staffed with people close to Mr. Ghani’s office.
The Taliban, pointing to the Afghan government’s endemic corruption, said the funds from the Geneva conference should be given directly to the people or to the Taliban for the sake of transparency. The insurgent group has long-used the government’s shortcomings for propaganda purposes, especially its inability to secure the capital, Kabul.
Aside from the Taliban insurgency wreaking havoc in almost every corner of the country and killing dozens almost daily, the coronavirus has set back Afghanistan’s economic growth by years, according to a recent United Nations report.
International diplomats, whose countries’ economies are also suffering from the pandemic, have grown openly weary of the 19-year-old war, and frustrated by the Afghan government’s repeated promises to combat corruption without fully following through.