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Norway threatens to cut Afghan aid

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Norway has threatened to reduce aid to Afghanistan, signalling increasing frustration among donor nations over the Kabul government's failure to implement reforms as NATO troops prepare to withdraw.

At an aid meeting in Kabul on Wednesday, Norway said that Afghanistan was not living up to its commitments to prepare for credible elections, to improve women's rights and to fight corruption.

The meeting was held one year after a conference in Tokyo where donors pledged $16 billion to Afghanistan on strict condition that progress would be made to reform the country as foreign military intervention winds down.

Norway, one of the ten biggest aid donors, made a stinging submission to the meeting in Kabul and said that a "reduction in our bilateral programme is one option that will be considered" due the failures of the Afghan government.

"Norwegian authorities note with disappointment the slow and uneven progress that has characterised the follow-up to the commitments made (in Tokyo)," said the statement seen by AFP on Sunday.

"Too few of the commitments have been adequately met... we still feel that more consistent and determined efforts to achieve real progress could have been made."

The 2014 presidential election is a benchmark test of whether the massive international military and aid effort in Afghanistan since 2001 has been worthwhile, but many donors fear that the polls will not be free or fair.

Two election laws have been delayed in parliament for months, leaving little time to arrange the April 5 vote to choose a successor to President Hamid Karzai, who rose to power with US support after the fall of the Taliban regime.

"We had expected a more determined political effort to establish the necessary electoral architecture. It should have been in place by now," the Norwegian submission said.

"Widespread corruption is (also) not addressed in an effective manner," it added.

The last presidential election in 2009 was marred by fraud, and the international community fears that another flawed poll would wreck claims that the costly 12-year military and aid effort in Afghanistan has been a success.

At Wednesday's meeting, the United States, the European Union and other donors pushed Afghanistan for more progress, but the Norwegians were determined to take a stronger stand.

"Our statement speaks for itself, but when they have not delivered as they should, it is natural for us to take a bit of time to draw our conclusions from that," Norwegian ambassador Nils Haugstveit told AFP.

"The key phrase here is mutual accountability," he said. "We will deliver in accordance with our pledges as long as they deliver from their side. It became quite clear that the Afghan commitments have only partially been met."

Norway in 2008 pledged 750 million krone ($120 million) a year until 2017 in aid to help Afghanistan recover from decades of conflict.

The country currently has 166 troops in the 100,000-strong NATO-led military mission, and is involved in mentoring elite Afghan special forces in the capital Kabul.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130707/norway-threatens-cut-afghan-aid