Wednesday, March 4, 2009

UK sends £50m more to Afghanistan

The UK is committing an extra £50m in development money to Afghanistan.

The money will pay for a new road in southern Helmand province and refurbishment of a power plant, as well as farming and job creation projects.

International Development Secretary Douglas Alexander told BBC News that tackling poverty was the best way to tackle the insurgency in the country.

Helmand is "bracing itself for what's expected to be a summer of violence", said the BBC's Ian Pannell in Kabul.

The latest announcement sees the UK committing a total of £510m to Afghanistan over the next four years.

'Violent insurgency'

Helmand province is the focus of most of the UK's military and financial commitment to Afghanistan.

The UK has about 9,000 troops stationed in the country and 149 have been killed since the beginning of operations in 2001.

Our correspondent said: "Helmand is afflicted by a violent insurgency, widespread poverty and drugs. The province remains the largest centre of opium production in the world."

He added: "The millions of pounds spent and the hundreds of lives lost in Helmand have failed to reduce the violence.
"The province is bracing itself for what's expected to be a summer of violence, as thousands of US troops arrive here in the coming months."

Last month, the US announced plans to deploy 17,000 more troops to the country, on top of roughly 33,000 already serving there.

The extra UK aid money is earmarked for projects including construction of a major road linking the towns of Lashkar Gah and Gereshk.

It will also go towards a hydro-electric plant to boost power supplies to Gereshk and agriculture and rural enterprise projects to create rural jobs.

"This four-year promise to contribute £510m to Afghanistan reaffirms our long-term commitment to helping this once proud country recover from 30 years of war," said Mr Alexander.

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