Aid for Afghanistan rolls in

Associated Press

TOKYO — The United States pledged $296 million in reconstruction assistance to Afghanistan, Secretary of State Colin Powell said today, calling it the first installment in a long-term U.S. commitment to help that country recover from more than two decades of war.

Powell made the announcement today in the presence of Afghan leader Hamid Karzai and delegates from some 60 countries attending an international conference in Tokyo on assistance to Afghanistan.

Looking at Karzai, Powell said, "The American people are with you for the long-term."

Japan said it will contribute up to $500 million to Afghan reconstruction over the next 2 1/2years. The European Union promised $1 billion.

The two-day meeting is seen as a major test of the world’s commitment to help Afghanistan recover.

The United Nations says it could cost $1.7 billion for the first year and possibly $15 billion over 10 years to repair the Afghan infrastructure and get the new government moving.

The U.N.’s top priorities are filling the government’s coffers, getting farmers back in the fields for spring planting and establishing an Afghan police force.

Powell said the promised money is in addition to $400 million in humanitarian assistance committed by President Bush last fall.

Thirty-four more detainees from Afghanistan arrived at the U.S. base at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba on Sunday, bringing the total number to 144.

Meanwhile, Britain asked the United States on Sunday to explain photographs from Guantanamo that appeared in British media and show al-Qaida and Taliban prisoners kneeling on the ground in handcuffs.

The photos, released by the U.S. Defense Department before the arrival of the latest detainees, showed the men with masks over their mouths and noses, hats, and mittens on their hands.

After prominent display in many British newspapers — and one tabloid accusation of torture — Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said he had told British representatives at Guantanamo to ask American officials for an explanation.

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said in Washington later that he had "no doubt" that the detainees were being treated humanely.

U.S. military spokesman Robert Nelson, at Guantanamo Bay on Sunday, said the pictures were taken shortly after the prisoners arrived from the 8,000-mile flight from Afghanistan on a C-141 cargo plane.

"It gets pretty cold on a C-141, hence the hat and mittens, for comfort," Nelson said. The taped-over goggles were a security measure to prevent prisoners seeing during the processing procedure and medical screenings after arrival, he added.

Copyright ©2002 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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