BRITAIN, the US and other allies have promised not to abandon Afghanistan’s new government, responding to pleas by Kabul for continued support as international security missions wind down amid a rise in Taleban attacks.
Afghan president Ashraf Ghani and David Cameron hosted envoys from more than 60 countries in London for talks on nurturing civil society, curbing corruption and encouraging political reforms in Afghanistan.
Mr Ghani was elected in September in Afghanistan’s first peaceful transition of power but has yet to form a stable cabinet.
“History will not be repeated. We have overcome the past,” Mr Ghani said. “We ask all our partners and neighbours to stand with us, because no country is a fortress.”
Mr Cameron assured Afghans that “we are with you every step of the way”.
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The 13-year international combat mission in Afghanistan ends on 31 December, although Mr Ghani has signed security agreements with Washington and Nato permitting a continued military presence. Around 10,000 US troops will remain by the end of the year.
Insurgents have sought to destabilise Mr Ghani’s government with a series of high-profile attacks in Kabul, including one on British embassy staff last week in which five people died.
Western countries want to see a stable government and action to curb the corruption that has long plagued Afghanistan, while Kabul wants guarantees it will not be forgotten after most international troops leave.
Afghanistan’s relations with neighbouring Pakistan will be key to the country’s future.
Mr Ghani’s predecessor, Hamid Karzai, frequently accused Pakistan of turning a blind eye to the Taleban and other militants carrying out cross-border attacks. Pakistan in turn blamed Kabul for failing to police its own borders.
In a sign of thawing ties, Mr Ghani and Pakistan’s prime minister Nawaz Sharif met in Islamabad last month and Mr Sharif pledged support for the Afghan president’s attempt to bring the Taleban to the negotiating table.
Mr Sharif told the conference the meeting had marked a “historic new beginning” for the two countries.
In the past four years, the US has sent Afghanistan $8 billion (£5.1m) in assistance, and secretary of state John Kerry promised to ask the US Congress to approve “extraordinary” but unspecified levels of new aid up to 2017.
Mr Kerry said: “We are committed to ensuring Afghanistan can never again be used as a safe haven from which terrorists can threaten the international community.”
Most British military personnel have now left Afghanistan, with a few hundred servicemen and women remaining in advisory, logistical and support roles with the Afghan army.
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