x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

Region pledges to help Afghanistan

Show of solidarity in Istanbul, but much remains to be done.

ISTANBUL // A decade after the Taliban were ousted from power, regional leaders yesterday pledged to improve security and economic development in Afghanistan as international combat forces prepare to leave by the end of 2014.

The one-day conference in Istanbul followed the September assassination of an Afghan peace envoy and other high-profile assaults in Afghanistan that have diminished prospects for a negotiated settlement and intensified suspicion of Pakistani support for the insurgency, an allegation that Pakistan's government denies.

In an opulent hall on the shores of the Bosporus, delegates delivered speeches promising support for Afghan sovereignty, and endorsed a transition to Afghan security leadership, efforts for a political solution to the war and economic development.

As a show of solidarity, the meeting was a success, but it was also a reminder of how much remains unsolved.

"The terrorism, extremism, as well as drugs and human trafficking that Afghanistan is struggling against are not problems that one country can deal with on its own," the Turkish president, Abdullah Gul, said. "It is our duty as neighbours to contribute to Afghanistan's unity, stability and prosperity. It is also a necessity for the sake of our common interests."

The Afghan president, Hamid Karzai, and his Pakistani counterpart, Asif Ali Zardari, discussed a joint inquiry into the September 20 killing by a suicide bomber of Burhanuddin Rabbani, a former Afghan president and peace council leader. But the relationship is strained. Afghan and US officials want Pakistan to crack down on militants who operate on its territory and cross into Afghanistan to conduct attacks.

"As recent setbacks have indicated, the peace process will not succeed unless we are able to get the top leadership of the Taliban, based in Pakistan, to join it," Mr Karzai said. "Our hope is that, with help from our brothers in Pakistan, we will manage to wean away the Taliban leadership from some of the long-established networks of support they enjoy outside Afghanistan and integrate them into the peace process."

* Associated Press