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Afghanistan wins $8.2bn in aid
Afghanistan is grappling with poverty and violence.

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BERLIN, Germany (CNN) -- International donors have pledged $4.4 billion in new aid to Afghanistan for the next year and $8.2 billion over three years.

Afghanistan's finance minister Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai said he was "delighted" with the commitments from the Berlin conference -- which delegates from 56 nations are attending -- and officials have said the money pledged reached their target for the next year.

But they have warned they will need nearly $30 billion over the next seven years to build a state capable of supporting itself.

Afghanistan, which is grappling with a growing drug trade and sporadic violence, is a key security concern for the West two years after a U.S.-led coalition toppled the Taliban for harboring Osama bin Laden.

Meeting Afghan President Hamid Karzai, U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell said America was committed to the nation.

"The United States will not abandon you," Powell told Karzai, offering $1 billion in aid on top of the $1.2 billion Washington has pledged this year.

"Never again will tyrants and terrorists rule Afghanistan," Powell told delegates.

At the last donor conference two years ago in Tokyo, nations pledged $4.5 billion for the war-torn nation.

Most of that money has been spent, according to Mark Malloch Brown, the administrator for the U.N. development program, with four million children back in schools and a government filled with highly-skilled exiled Afghans in top positions.

But the nation is still grimly poor he says -- the second poorest in the world -- as it comes up from "ground zero."

Karzai said the cash-strapped country has a lot of potential, and could stand on its own feet within 10 years.

But an aide worker living in Kabul says it will take action, not just money to rehabilitate Afghanistan.

"Some of the concerns of ordinary Afghans on the ground are the drug problem and the fact that there has been a lot of rhetoric around the drug problem but not really a lot of serious attention," Paul O'Brien, from Care International, said.

The opium trade has grown into a huge $2.5 billion business, with surveys showing that 75 percent of all opium in the world comes from Afghanistan.

The drug trade is believed to benefit many regional leaders that operate outside of the central government in Kabul.

Almost one half of Afghanistan is still not safe, with warlords yet to be disarmed and a stubborn Taliban-led insurgency persisting in the south and east.

On Sunday, Karzai said the nation's first post-Taliban elections would be delayed from June until September this year to allow the United Nations to manage presidential and parliamentary elections simultaneously.

Officials had previously warned the elections could be delayed due to organizational problems and security fears. The elections alone could cost over $100 million, according to U.N. estimates.

So far, only 1.5 million of an estimated 10.5 million eligible voters have been registered for the elections, and it remains unclear how the United Nations intends to carry out a plan to register most of the others in May.

The Taliban has already threatened to disrupt the polls.

On Wednesday a force of 2,000 U.S. marines began arriving in Afghanistan, joining more than 13,000 American troops already in the Central Asian nation.

U.S. officials would not say exactly where the new forces would be based, but they are expected to take part in an offensive against al Qaeda and Taliban fighters believed to be in eastern Afghanistan, near the Pakistan border.

Pakistani forces on the other side of the border are also tracking down suspected militants in the lawless region, aiming to hem them in the middle.

-- CNN Correspondent Stephanie Halasz contributed to this report

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