Afghanistan seeks support at London conference

Afghanistan's leader was asking international politicians today to stand with his country amid the withdrawal of most foreign troops and a surge in Taliban attacks.

London: Afghanistan's leader was asking international politicians today to stand with his country amid the withdrawal of most foreign troops and a surge in Taliban attacks.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and British Prime Minister David Cameron jointly hosted a conference in London attended by US Secretary of State John Kerry, Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and diplomats from some 50 countries.

Talks focused on nurturing civil society, curbing corruption and encouraging political reform at a meeting that was less about promising new money than about stiffening resolve in Kabul and around the world at a critical moment for Afghanistan.

The 13-year international combat mission ends December 31, though Ghani has signed security agreements with Washington and NATO permitting a continued international military presence. Some 10,000 American troops will remain by the end of the year.

Insurgents have sought to destabilise Ghani's government and unnerve international agencies with a series of high-profile attacks in Kabul. He was elected in September but has yet to form a stable Cabinet.

The West wants to see stable government and action to curb the corruption that has long plagued Afghanistan.
Afghanistan, in return, wants guarantees it won't be forgotten after most international troops leave.

Michael Keating, a fellow at the Chatham House think-tank and former deputy UN envoy to Afghanistan, said international donors were cautiously optimistic about Ghani's reform agenda.

"The view is he represents a window of opportunity after the departure of Hamid Karzai," who was seen as doing little to tackle corruption.

Keating said the conference was "a coming-out moment for the new president in which he will say, 'I'm serious. Stick with me.'" 

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