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Laura Bush urges donors to stand by Afghanistan

First lady makes surprise visit to Kabul ahead of Paris donor conference later this week.

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US first lady Laura Bush made a quick trip to Afghanistan, emphasizing the need for continued attention to the country ahead of an international donors' conference in Paris on June 12.

The Mrs. Bush met with President Hamid Karzai in Kabul Sunday after flying to Bamiyan in central Afghanistan.

Bamiyan, famed for its colossal Buddha statues that were blown up by the Taliban in March 2001, is also the only province in the country headed by a woman governor, Habiba Sarobi. But the province is also emblematic of problems in the aid delivery systems that have come under increasing criticism from aid workers and analysts. The province, one of the most peaceful areas in the country, suffers from economic neglect exacerbated by a difficult mountainous topography.

"Donors need to keep the needs and requirements of Afghans in mind rather than their own geopolitical and security considerations," says Mudasser Hussain Siddiqui, policy research and advocacy coordinator for Action Aid Afghanistan. Referring to the skewed distribution of aid that benefits provinces with conflict and penalizes the peaceful areas, Mr. Siddiqui referred to Bamiyan as an example.

Siddiqui emphasized that more money needed to be spent in Afghanistan and to be tied to the new Afghanistan National Development Strategy that is expected to be unveiled in Paris this week.

Host country France is hoping to raise $12 billion to $15 billion to help Afghanistan's reconstruction efforts. Approximately $15 billion has already been disbursed by the international community in Afghanistan.

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