Afghan foreign minister to make first visit next week

Afghan Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah will visit Japan next week, government officials said Wednesday.

It will be the minister’s first trip to Japan, the officials said. He was invited as part of the government’s efforts to help rebuild Afghanistan.

Abdullah will arrive in Tokyo on Monday for the four-day visit.

According to the sources, the government is also working toward an official visit by Afghan President Hamid Karzai early next year.

By the end of the month, the government plans to rubber-stamp the provision of additional assistance worth more than $100 million (about 12.5 billion yen) toward Afghan reconstruction efforts.

Relevant aid projects include the construction of a 1,000-km highway network linking Kabul with Herat in the west through the southern city of Kandahar, as well as setting up facilities for agriculture and irrigation.

The extra aid, exceeding the framework of humanitarian assistance provided so far, would be used to help cities other than Kabul, such as Kandahar, and to rebuild infrastructure such as roads.

Although more than $4.5 billion in aid was approved at an Afghan reconstruction conference in Tokyo in January, donor states have fallen behind in their payments. Japan hopes the provision of extra funds will spur other donors to pay up.

Japan pledged $500 million over 2 1/2 years. Thus far, it has handed over about $260 million to fund education projects and to help the return of refugees to Afghanistan.