Afghans needs help for ‘at least a decade’: Karzai

Karzai said that his government would battle corruption and work toward reconciliation but it needs firm int`l backing.

Bonn: Afghan President Hamid Karzai on Monday told a major conference on the future of his country after NATO combat troops withdraw in 2014 that it would need international help for at least another decade.

Karzai told around 1,000 delegates gathered in the western German city of Bonn for the one-day meeting that his government would battle corruption and work toward national reconciliation but it needed firm international backing.

"We will need your steadfast support for at least another decade" after the troops pull out, he said.

The meeting comes 10 years after another conference here put an interim Afghan government under Karzai in place after US-led troops ousted the Taliban in the wake of the September 11 attacks.

However, Pakistan and the Taliban -- both seen as pivotal to any end to the bloody strife in Afghanistan a decade on -- have bowed out of Bonn, dampening already modest hopes for real progress.

Some 140,000 international troops are in Afghanistan, and all NATO-led combat forces are due to leave by the end of 2014, when Kabul will assume responsibility for the country`s security.

The event`s host, German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle, insisted there would be no rush to the exit.

"We send a clear message to the people of Afghanistan: We will not leave you alone, you will not be abandoned," he said.

"Afghanistan and its people need a clear and reliable commitment to a long-term engagement for the next decade beyond 2014."

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told a meeting of representatives of civil society including women`s groups that Western countries had also come to Bonn to hear about the most pressing needs on the ground.

"We need your best advice about how we can help the government develop ... professionalism and abilities." Clinton added: "We have a duty to our taxpayers to make sure money is well spent. The corruption problem is a real one."

Rage over an air strike late last month by NATO troops stationed in Afghanistan that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers led Islamabad to snub the gathering.


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