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More Than $15 Billion Pledged Through 2020 At Afghan Donors Conference

Afghan students from a religious school look on from a window of their school in Kabul on October 5.
Afghan students from a religious school look on from a window of their school in Kabul on October 5.

Senior officials from world powers attending a donors conference in Brussels have pledged more than $15 billion in aid for Afghanistan during the next four years.

Meanwhile, the European Union’s foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, said on October 5 that there is support to revive a stalled peace process after almost 40 years of conflict in the war-torn country.

The Brussels conference brought together senior representatives from more than 70 countries and dozens of agencies and nongovernmental organizations in a bid to attract development aid for Afghanistan’s through 2020.

But Afghanistan is required to agree to a series of political, economic, and social reforms in return for the funds.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani told the conference that his government already is making progress on reforms to improve human rights and rein in corruption.

The EU also wants Kabul to take back Afghan migrants whose asylum applications in the EU have been rejected -- although EU donor money is not linked to the demand.

Mogherini announced that the EU was pledging 1.2 billion euros ($1.5 billion) in aid a year and called for “similar levels of engagement from our partners."

Meanwhile, on the sidelines of the conference, EU diplomats focused on trying to get peace negotiations back on course by bringing together four key international players in the peace process – the United States, China, India, and Pakistan.

Mogherini said after those talks that there was an understanding "to work on a common basis for regional political support for the peace and reconciliation process in Afghanistan."

Washington and New Delhi say Pakistan continues to harbor Afghan Taliban leaders and must do more to bring them to the negotiating table.

Speaking at the Brussels conference on October 5, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry called on Afghanistan's regional neighbors to do more to help it make peace with the Taliban and build on its economic progress.

He said Russia, China, Pakistan, India, and Iran should "think about the special role that they could play in this region in order to help make a major difference not only in the long-term economy and future social structure of Afghanistan but in reaching peace with the Taliban."

Kerry also urged the Taliban to follow the recent example of an Afghan warlord and strike its own peace deal with the government in Kabul.

He said "there is a path toward an honorable end to the conflict that the Taliban have waged -- it is a conflict that cannot be won on the battlefield."

Kerry said that the peace deal signed last week by Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, who heads the Hezb-e Islami group and was a key figure in Afghanistan's civil war in the 1990s, was a "model for what might be possible."

He said a peace deal is the only way for the Taliban to end the fighting, ensure lasting stability, and "achieve a full drawdown of international military forces, which is their goal."

He said "the [Taliban's] goal of ridding Afghanistan of external forces will not occur by the demand or by the continued insurgency. It will come through peace."

There was no immediate reaction from the Taliban to Kerry's remarks.

But as Kerry was speaking, fresh fighting raged for a third consecutive day between Taliban and Afghan security forces in the northern city of Kunduz.

Taliban fighters penetrated the center of Kunduz on October 3 and were testing the defenses of two other provincial capitals in the south of the country.

Ghani told donors at the Brussels conference on October 5 that his government will be "relentlessly focused on reduction and elimination of poverty” as its “central task."

WATCH: Stoltenberg: Development, Security Interdependent In Afghanistan

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Separately, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg told RFE/RL on the sidelines of the conference that the alliance is confident that Afghan security forces can stand on their own in the fight against the Taliban.

"We handed over the full responsibility for security in Afghanistan to the Afghan forces themselves in 2015 and, of course, there are challenges, there are attacks, and we still see violence, but we also see that the Afghan Army is able to retake ground and to answer in a very decisive way to the attacks of the Taliban," he said.

He added that NATO decided at its summit in Warsaw in July that the alliance would maintain its deployment of some 13,000 troops in Afghanistan at least through 2017 and will continue to fund the Afghan security force at least until 2020.

With reporting by RFE/RL’s Radio Free Afghanistan correspondent Mustafa Sarwar in Brussels, Reuters, AP, and AFP

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