Afghan officials hope a detailed five-year development plan, the Afghanistan Compact, they are presenting to donors at a two-day conference in London this week will bring progress on the country's many ills. Afghan officials are hoping for pledges of at least $10 billion from the sixty-odd nations and organizations attending. Afghanistan expert Barnett Rubin tells RFE/RL the compact goes beyond the rudimentary goals of the Bonn Agreementand focuses on building a state.
One way to accomplish this, Afghan officials say, is for more aid money to go directly to Afghan government offices (BBC) instead of international NGOs. But Afghan expert Amin Tarzi tells cfr.org's Esther Pan in an interview that donors are reluctant to give large amounts of money to the Afghan government, which is rife with corruption.
That is just one of the multitude of problems the country, led by President Hamid Karzai and a newly elected legislature, must address. The majority of the country's GDP comes from the illegal drug trade, which is booming. The UN has found that while overall cultivation was down last year, both poppy yields and the income earned by farmers were up. The UN Office of Drugs and Crime offers its latest opium survey for Afghanistan. An Asia Times analysis examines how the United States has failed to halt or reduce the worldwide production of drugs, and the BBC says the developed world is losing the war on drugs in Afghanistan, as farmers have no other way to make a living.
The drug trade and other illegal activities can flourish in Afghanistan because security is still scarce in large parts of the country. The Center for Defense Information explores how 2005 was Afghanistan's deadliest year since a U.S.-led coalition ousted the ruling Taliban in late 2001. An expansion of NATO forces from about 9,000 to 15,000 troops in the next year is part of a crucial shift in international efforts to stabilize the country. After six months of heated debate, Dutch MPs voted February 2 to send an additional 1,400 Dutch troops to Afghanistan's restive southern provinces (BBC). The former U.S. ambassador to NATO, Robert Hunter, predicted as much in a recent interview with cfr.org's Bernard Gwertzman. One area of the NATO effort that has seen some success is use of the Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRTs). The U.S. Institute of Peace lays out key steps for improving their effectiveness in this report.