Security, governance biggest Afghan problems: Solana

Mon Apr 21, 2008 7:39am EDT
 
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KABUL (Reuters) - Poor security and the lack of good governance are the biggest challenges facing Afghanistan, European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana said on Monday.

More than six years after U.S.-led and Afghan forces overthrew the Taliban, violence has surged in Afghanistan and Western politicians and think-tanks have this year warned the country risks becoming a failed state and sliding into anarchy.

A major donors' conference on Afghanistan planned in France for June will focus on the issues of security and governance, Solana said. He said he discussed the two issues with President Hamid Karzai, who has led Afghanistan since the Taliban's 2001 ouster and relies on Western funds for 90 percent of his budget.

"When we talk about challenges, we have to talk about difficulties that prevent everything that is done ... one is security and that is important ... for the development of the country," Solana told a joint news conference with Karzai.

"The second thing is governance. The ownership of the process belongs to the country ... but together with ownership comes accountability, comes responsibility and comes good governance."

Karzai is under fire at home and in some Western capitals for failing to crack down on endemic corruption, not removing ineffective and corrupt officials and allowing warlords to extend their influence.

The EU is Afghanistan's second largest donor after the United States. Some $14 billion dollars has been pledged by donors to Afghanistan at several previous international conferences held since 2001, Afghan officials said.

But Karzai's government has control of only one-third of the money that has been pledged or spent, the officials said. Karzai said his government was ready to be held to account for any aid channeled through it.

(Reporting by Sayed Salahuddin; Editing by Alex Richardson)

 
<p>Afghan president Hamid Karzai (R) gestures next to European Union's foreign policy chief Javier Solana during a news conference in Kabul April 21, 2008. REUTERS/Omar Sobhani</p>