DUBAI // The UAE has played a leading role in attracting investment to Afghanistan, it was stressed during yesterday's Afghanistan International Investment Conference.
The Emirates is one of the few Muslim and Arab countries with troops in Afghanistan as part of the Nato coalition there.
Officials highlighted the historic relationship between Afghanistan and the UAE, which provided humanitarian relief to millions of Afghan refugees during the Soviet occupation in the 1980s.
The UAE acts as a "conduit" for Afghans travelling outside the country, and Dubai is a prominent re-export hub for Afghan goods.
Since 2002, the UAE has spent Dh16 million on water irrigation projects that would allow agricultural development in Afghanistan's rural areas. In addition, the country paid Dh28m to develop the health sector, and Dh26m in education, said Dr Anwar Gargash, the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, who inaugurated the conference.
The UAE has also contributed Dh189m in infrastructure and housing aid, money that helped provide a capital base to develop the country.
The UAE is also eager to develop small, grassroots projects in the country that employ more Afghans. A partnership set up in June with Tanweer Investments, a local Afghan investor, has employed more than 2,700 Afghans.
Etisalat, the telecom provider, has more than three million subscribers in Afghanistan, but still has to contend with occasionally shutting down its services to avoid being attacked by extremists.
"The UAE was among the first Muslim countries to provide financial, technical and military support to Afghanistan," Dr Gargash said.
The conflict there is not a "clash of civilisations" between the East and West, but an international effort aimed at securing long-term peace and stability.
Dr Gargash said that the UAE has urged other Muslim countries to get involved in operations on the ground in Afghanistan, as the UAE has done.
* Kareem Shaheen