'Afghanistan progressing but challenges remain'



`Afghanistan progressing but challenges remain` Washington: Noting that Afghanistan had made remarkable progress in the last ten years, the US Wednesday said that considerable challenges still remained in the political, security and economic spheres of the war-torn nation.

"I think we have been clear that we believe that Afghanistan has made considerable progress over the last 10 years. Particularly if you compare it to the country that it was on September 11th, 2001, it is now a democratic country with an elected government, with human rights for all," State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland told reporters.

Obviously, like all transitioning democracies, there are a huge number of challenges, she noted.

"There are security challenges; there are political challenges; there are economic challenges, as the US is deeply invested with our international partners in supporting and helping Afghanistan as it continues to try to move forward on all of those fronts. And that's what this visit is going to be about," she said, referring to the visit of Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai that begins on Wednesday.

"We have upcoming elections in Afghanistan in 2014, the next stage in their political development. We have an intensive conversation underway about continuing to develop and improve the economic support that we give to the government of Afghanistan," Nuland said.

"And we have a security conversation that we have to have, as we've been clear, about what the enduring US and NATO presence might be after 2014 and how the Afghans are doing meeting their goals of being able to secure themselves after 2014," she said, adding that all these issues would be on the table when President Karzai meets US leaders including Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

The US, she said, is currently evaluating the distribution of its aid to Afghanistan.

"Historically our economic support for Afghanistan has been channeled in a number of directions. Some of it goes to government of Afghanistan for distribution through its various programmes that it manages. Some of it goes through NGOs and local governments, etc. So it's been a mixed programme," she said.

"We are constantly reviewing the effectiveness of the programme with the Afghan government, with our folks on the ground, with local leaders, to refine it. One of the things that the Afghan government has wanted for some time is for more of the US government assistance to go into federal government-administered programmes," Nuland said.

"We have continued to evaluate what the appropriate percentage is. We've made a pledge that about 50 per cent ought to go through the Afghan government, but this has been tied to our expectation that the Afghan government will in turn meet the commitments that it made at the Tokyo meetings earlier last year with regard to continuing to make progress on corruption, on transparency, on accountability," she said.

"So that's a conversation that we'll have with President Karzai when he's here and probably also at the White House," Nuland said.

PTI