GENEVA, Switzerland -- Donors demanded an immediate ceasefire in Afghanistan on Tuesday (November 24) as they pledged about $12 billion (922.8 billion AFN) in aid over four years -- but tied their money to civil rights being upheld in peace talks with the Taliban.
At a virtual global donor conference hosted from the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, countries affirmed their commitment to Afghanistan and called for an "immediate permanent and comprehensive ceasefire".
The call came as two blasts ripped through Bamiyan -- famous for its ancient Buddhist heritage and home to many members of the mainly Shia Hazara ethnic minority.
"Fourteen people have been killed and 45 more wounded in two [bomb] explosions," Bamiyan police chief Zabardast Safi told AFP, adding that a traffic policeman was among those killed.
The explosives were placed in two separate locations, Bamiyan police spokesman Reza Yosufi said, adding that two suspects had been arrested.
Interior Affairs Ministry spokesperson Tariq Arian confirmed the toll and said the ministry is investigating.
"This is an unforgivable crime," he said.
No group immediately claimed the blasts, and the Taliban denied involvement. The "Islamic State of Iraq and Syria" (ISIS) has claimed responsibility for recent attacks on the Hazara community in Kabul.
The twin bombing -- which occurred in front of a market and near a hospital, according to local residents -- marked the latest big terrorist act in Afghanistan, where violence has surged in recent months even as Taliban and Afghan government negotiators are meeting for peace talks in Qatar.
Donor nations gather every four years to pledge aid to Afghanistan. This year, 66 nations and 32 international organisations came together for what is scheduled to be the final quadrennial Afghanistan donor conference.
The gains made over the past 19 years must be secured, namely democracy, the rule of law and human rights -- notably for women, minorities and children, conferees insisted.
With the final figures still to be collated, donors had pledged more than $3 billion (230.7 billion AFN) for 2021.
Annual commitments are expected to stay at that level, dependent on Kabul's performance, said Finnish Development Minister Ville Skinnari, who co-chaired the conference.
"This would amount to some $12 billion [922.8 billion AFN] during four years."
The previous 2016 conference in Brussels raised $15.2 billion (1.2 trillion AFN).
The new figure was "impressive", given that countries are struggling with the economic crisis triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic, said Afghan Foreign Minister Muhammad Hanif Atmar.
Hailing the ceasefire call, he said: "The Taliban must hear that: that it's not just the Afghan people who demand a ceasefire. It's the whole of the world community."
"The Taliban do know that there is no military solution to this problem," he said.
Taliban violence 'unbearable'
The Taliban and the Afghan government have been engaged in peace talks in Doha, Qatar, since September 12 but quickly became bogged down by disputes on the agenda, the basic framework of discussions and religious interpretations.
However, the negotiations are ready to advance to the next stage, sources close to the talks said Tuesday.
"Our commitment to negotiations with the Taliban remains firm," President Ashraf Ghani told the Geneva conference via video-link from Kabul.
But violence had "skyrocketed" since a US-Taliban deal in February paved the way for the withdrawal of foreign forces by May 2021, he said.
"Plans to achieve peace did not materialise as imagined," he said. "Suffering and killing continues to plague Afghans on a daily basis. It is unbearable."
In the past six months, the Taliban have carried out 53 suicide attacks and detonated 1,250 explosive devices that have left 1,210 civilians dead and 2,500 wounded, the Interior Affairs Ministry said last week.
While Washington "remains committed" to Afghanistan, "the choices made in peace negotiations will affect the size and scope of future international support", said US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
Another 2,000 US troops will exit Afghanistan by January 15, leaving just 2,500 behind, the United States announced last week.