WORLD donors last night responded to a critical funding appeal from Afghan President Hamid Karzai at an international aid conference in Paris, but warned that more must be done to fight corruption.
Mr Karzai sought $US50billion ($52.8 billion) at the conference to finance his five-year development plan to counter widespread poverty and the Taliban insurgency in his country.
"What brings us together today is a concern for the destiny of a nation that has emerged from a dark past," Mr Karzai told donors from more than 80 countries and international institutions in Paris.
Announcing a $US10.2 billion contribution, US First Lady Laura Bush said: "Afghanistan has reached a decisive moment for its future. We must not turn our backs on this opportunity."
Australia will provide another $250million over three years.
President Nicolas Sarkozy announced French aid would be "more than doubled", with priority given to agriculture and health, bringing assistance up to E107million ($175million) over the next two years.
Japan doubled its aid to reach $US550million while Germany put up 420 million euros over the next two years.
US officials said they expected $US15billion dollars to be raised, but European and UN diplomats stressed the conference must tackle the more sensitive issue of how the funds are spent.
"I hope this conference will first of all provide an opportunity to reflect on our strategy," Mr Sarkozy said.
Mr Karzai is facing questions over his apparent inability to deal with corruption and opium production, seen as prolonging the Taliban insurgency.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called for "active measures" to be taken to fight corruption, guarantee transparency and ensure financial aid reaches those who need it.
"It is only by combating corruption and strengthening the rule of law that our commitment will be efficient," said German Foreign Minister Frank Walter Steinmeier.
On the eve of the conference, the Afghan Government announced that it had seized 237 tonnes of hashish - the world's biggest single drugs seizure, and the best-timed.
Afghan police seized the hashish near the Pakistan border, dealing a blow to the Taliban as it funds its insurgency.
The stockpile weighed the equivalent of 30 double-decker buses and had a regional wholesale value of $US400million, of which the Taliban would have received about $US14million, NATO forces said.
Afghanistan produces more than 90 per cent of the world's opium and is becoming a major producer of hashish, which is derived from marijuana. Revenue from illicit drugs is used by the Taliban to finance terrorist training bases in Pakistan, and to buy weapons and explosives.
More than six years after US-led forces ousted the Taliban, Afghanistan remains mired in poverty and its people lack many basics while the extremist militia has pushed on with its insurgency in the south.
About 47,000 troops from a NATO-led force are fighting the Taliban alongside 20,000 US troops. The violence left 8000 people dead last year alone, including 1500 civilians, according to the UN.
Listing progress in building roads and clinics, fighting opium production and setting up a functioning government, Mr Karzai nevertheless acknowledged: "There is a long way still ahead of us."
With a development plan on the table, Afghanistan needed "adequate, long-term and predictable support", he said.
Security remained Afghanistan's biggest challenge, Mr Karzai said, arguing that his Government was fighting "international terrorists" funded from abroad, a reference to Pakistan.
Mr Karzai's ambitious blueprint focuses first on infrastructure, with plans to build roads, dams and power plants. Strengthening the army and security forces is also a priority, along with developing agriculture.
Relief organisations have complained that too much of the international aid is spent on security, while development projects vital to fight poverty and strengthen the state are neglected.