World

Donor nations pledge $15.2b to Afghanistan

BRUSSELS — International donors pledged $15.2 billion on Wednesday to help keep Afghanistan’s beleaguered government afloat for the next four years, despite growing reluctance to pour more money into a corruption-plagued country wracked by conflict.

The promised funds, from more than 70 nations, fell short of commitments made in Tokyo in 2012, but the European Union’s development commissioner, Neven Mimica, said the pledges ‘‘surpassed some of our best-case scenarios.’’

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As the donors met, Afghan forces, backed by American helicopters, battled the Taliban in the northern city of Kunduz for the third straight day on Wednesday, following a multipronged attack launched by insurgents earlier this week.

Beyond the insurgency, the Afghan government is estimated to be capable of meeting only 20 percent of its budget, and about 39 percent of the Afghan population lives on less than $1.35 a day.

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But Afghanistan has survived with Western aid and military support for 15 years, since a US-led coalition in 2001 ousted the Taliban for harboring Osama bin Laden. The European Union, cohosting the donor conference in Brussels, struggled to raise the funds that Kabul so sorely needs, given the increasingly powerful insurgency there and rampant corruption.

In the end, the European Union and its 28 member states pledged $5.6 billion in total until 2017, making it the biggest donor.

‘‘It is truly a remarkable day,’’ Afghan President Ashraf Ghani told reporters.

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But he acknowledged that no money would be forthcoming if the government does not crack down on corruption and crime and take the upper hand against the insurgents.

‘‘The work from the Afghan side begins in earnest tomorrow. A credit line has been extended,’’ he said. ‘‘If we do not muster the political will in the practical ways of dealing with corruption, these pledges will remain pledges.’’

But many participants at the conference have heard such rhetoric before, and some were underwhelmed by the promises.

‘‘The commitments to fighting corruption are very weak, and we are disappointed,’’ Ikram Afzali, from the anti-corruption group Integrity Watch Afghanistan, told The Associated Press.

He said that some of the anti-corruption plans are ‘‘just window dressing for this conference.’’

Other plans are to be drawn up for next year. ‘‘We don’t have time,’’ he said.

Still, despite the delays and setbacks, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said ‘‘it’s important today that the international community sends a strong message of support.’’

Afghanistan’s leaders ‘‘have been making impressive reforms and development plans to change the lives of people that have been suffering too long,’’ Ban said.

US Secretary of State John Kerry said he still has ‘‘an enormous sense of confidence about the future.’’

‘‘Year by year our shared effort, one of the largest international coalitions ever assembled, and maintained over a sustained period in time, is in fact yielding encouraging dividends,’’ Kerry told the representatives.

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