Afghan leaders to outline reforms in London

2014-12-04 14:42
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani addresses a press conference after meeting with European Parliament President Martin Schulz at the European Parliament in Brussels. (Emmanuel Dunand, AFP)

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani addresses a press conference after meeting with European Parliament President Martin Schulz at the European Parliament in Brussels. (Emmanuel Dunand, AFP)

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London - Afghanistan's new leaders will seek to build bridges with the West at a conference in London on Thursday as they struggle to bring peace while foreign combat forces withdraw after 13 years.

The conference is not expected to deliver new cash pledges but will give a platform for President Ashraf Ghani and chief executive officer Abdullah Abdullah to outline their reform plans.

It comes after the two formed a national unity government in September and as the US-led Nato force ends its combat mission amid a spike in Taliban attacks against international targets in Kabul.

Ghani and Abdullah will be joined by prominent figures including US Secretary of State John Kerry, Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and British Prime Minister David Cameron.

The one-day event "gives an opportunity for the US and other international partners to reinforce that we remain committed partners to Afghanistan", Daniel Feldman, the US's special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, told reporters this week.

"But probably most importantly, it's an opportunity for President Ghani and Dr Abdullah to outline their vision for Afghanistan's economic, social and political future."

Despite pouring billions of dollars into supporting Afghanistan after the Taliban regime was toppled in 2001, the international community had a fraught relationship with Ghani's predecessor, Hamid Karzai.

Many diplomats are now hoping to reset relations under the former World Bank economist.

'Crucial moment'

The international combat mission, which peaked at 130 000 troops in 2010, winds down at the end of this year but some 12 500 Nato troops, mainly American, will stay on for several years to train and advise Afghan forces.

President Barack Obama had pledged that the US combat mission in Afghanistan would end this year but officials said last month that US forces would still be able to help Afghan troops and police fight the Taliban in certain circumstances.

The US has also been filling in temporarily for a shortage of roughly 400 to 700 Nato troops through the winter months of 2015, officials said.

As international troops reduced and Western frustration with Karzai mounted, aid levels to Afghanistan have fallen in recent years.

Another aim of the conference is therefore to ensure that donor countries honour pledges made at a previous conference in Tokyo in 2012.

"It feels as if some of the sympathy that was lost over the past years may be creeping back into the world's hearts", Christine Roehrs of the Kabul-based Afghanistan Analysts Network wrote this week.

She added that if Ghani can form a cabinet and deliver concrete reforms relatively quickly, "the good will might hold."

Read more on:    nato  |  nawaz sharif  |  afghanistan

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