This is Steve Ember with IN THE NEWS in VOA Special English.
Nations from around the world agreed this week to give more than eight-thousand-million dollars in development aid to Afghanistan. That amount is to be provided during the next three years. The agreement was announced during a two-day conference in Berlin, Germany. Delegates from more than fifty nations attended the meeting.
In this year alone, Afghanistan will get more than four-thousand-five-hundred-million dollars in aid. The United States is providing almost half of that amount. Reports say the aid would help the Afghan government pay wages to its workers, prepare for national elections and continue rebuilding roads and schools. The United States also offered an additional one-hundred-twenty-three-million dollars to fight the illegal drug trade in Afghanistan.
American Secretary of State Colin Powell attended the conference in Berlin. He praised the progress made by Afghanistan since an American-led attack ousted the Taliban government in late two-thousand one. Mister Powell said that United States forces would remain in Afghanistan for as long as needed. He urged America's military allies to provide more troops and military equipment to fight three threats: the illegal drug trade, private armies and terrorists.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai thanked other countries at the conference for their continued support. He said his country is working to become independent.
Afghanistan is one of the most aid-dependent countries in the world. Reports say it produces just five-percent of all the money collected by the Afghan government. Afghan officials have said that almost twenty-eight-thousand-million dollars is needed during the next seven years for rebuilding and development.
However, studies show that poor security and a lack of foreign aid have slowed rebuilding efforts. Private armies and rebel groups control about one-third of Afghanistan. Most of them are in an area along the border with Pakistan.
Afghanistan is the world's largest producer of opium from poppy plants. Opium is used to produce the illegal drug heroin. President Karzai described Afghanistan's battle against illegal drugs as a long-term struggle. He said other legal forms of economic activity must replace the drug trade.
This week, Afghanistan and six other countries agreed to cooperate in the fight against illegal drugs. The other six are China, Iran, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.
Conference delegates also discussed security concerns in the months before planned Afghan elections. Officials agreed to send five more military rebuilding teams to improve security. The elections are expected in September. They will be the first democratic elections ever held in Afghanistan.
IN THE NEWS, in VOA Special English, was written by Cynthia Kirk. This is Steve Ember.