Amid escalating tension over the Iraqi situation, the international community, including Japan, has again pledged contributions toward reconstructing war-torn Afghanistan. The pledges came at the Tokyo Conference on Consolidation of Peace on Feb. 22, attended by officials from 34 countries, including interim Afghan President Hamid Karzai, and from 12 international organizations.

Japanese Foreign Ministry officials said the conference was crucial for continuing the momentum of international aid to Afghanistan and supporting the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration, or DDR, of Afghan troops.

The country’s reconstruction became an international challenge after the U.S. military campaign ousted Taliban forces from Afghanistan following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in the United States. In January 2002, Japan hosted an international donors’ conference for Afghanistan and, with the U.S., played a central role as a major aid provider. In the latest conference, Japan took the initiative in promoting DDR, the interim Afghan government’s most important task.

If the U.S. and Britain launch a war against Iraq, the country is likely to be devastated, resulting in millions of refugees. Japan’s aid to Afghanistan could become a model for a postconflict “consolidation-of-peace diplomacy.”

A peace consolidation plan was announced in April 2002 by Foreign Minister Yoriko Kawaguchi. She said a plan that helps Afghans rebuild a free, democratic society and fosters pride in their cultural heritage should consist of three elements: the peace process, domestic security, plus reconstruction and humanitarian assistance.

In Afghanistan, dominated by regional warlords, the restoration of public security is the most important task.

Karzai said, “DDR is the integral part of our endeavor to restore security, the rule of the law and the full exercise of human rights in Afghanistan.” He added that the first phase of disarmament will be completed within a year under the DDR program that began Feb. 21, the Afghan New Year’s Day.

He said the program will adhere to the principle of fairness, reflect social diversity, ensure the transparency of DDR committees and uphold accountability. However, it will be difficult for the fragile government to ignore the warlords and special-interest groups when implementing an effective DDR. Apparently with this in mind, Karzai called for a strong partnership with the international community. His DDR advisory committee will include the Afghan interim government, the United Nations, Japan, the U.S. and Germany. Japan, as a major donor nation, will contribute $35 million to demobilization and social integration programs.

Afghanistan will face a mountain of problems, such as reconciliation among domestic political groups, public understanding and the creation of employment opportunities. It is incumbent on the interim government to convince the public to accept the programs.

Sadako Ogata, who is Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi’s special representative for assistance to Afghanistan, mentioned two objectives while serving as cochair of the 2002 Afghan reconstruction conference in Tokyo:

* Establishing a functional government and strengthening the political process to improve public security, and

* Making a “seamless transition” from humanitarian to reconstruction aid.

Ogata said the relevance of the DDR process was in its links to these objectives and its ability to consolidate them.

Japan has been pushing a comprehensive community development program in Afghanistan to resettle internal refugees; provide shelters and drinking water; and assist in farm production, education and public-health services. Ogata says the program — known as the “Ogata initiative” — is an attempt to “expand the scope of assistance to local communities and thereby cover a wider region and range of population.”

At the Afghanistan donors’ conference in January 2002, the international community promised $4.6 billion in aid — of which Japan pledged $500 million for the first 2 1/2 years, including up to $250 million the first year. So far Japan has provided reconstruction aid worth $358 million. Including humanitarian aid, Japanese aid to Afghanistan since 9/11 has totaled $450 million, making Japan the second-largest donor nation after the U.S., with $550 million.

To help the interim Afghan government improve administrative services, Japan has helped the country repay its back debts to the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, while dispatching education, agriculture and public health experts to the country. Afghans have come to Japan for training. Japan also has provided aid for improving infrastructure, such as highways and public-transport systems, and for vaccinating a total of 10 million children against polio and measles.

With more than 20 regions in the world torn by religious and ethnic conflicts, Koizumi last year announced plans to make the “consolidation of peace” a cornerstone of Japan’s international cooperation. Although Japan’s Self-Defense Forces have provided logistic support to the U.S.-led coalition’s military campaign in Afghanistan since 9/11, more attention should be paid to Japanese roles in rebuilding war-torn nations.

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