Afghanistan hosts regional economic conference in Kabul

Economic downturnAfghan officials emphasized the opportunities for investment and economic growth in their country Friday on the second day of a regional economic conference in the capital, Kabul.

The Regional Economic Cooperation Conference or RECCA, which opened Thursday, brings together officials from more than 30 nations and 40 international organizations. Afghan President Ashraf Ghani told the attendees Friday that their presence in Kabul was testimony to their commitment.

The conference is the 6th such RECCA summit and the first since Ghani took office, pledging to reform the economy and end his government’s long-running war with the Taliban.

“Afghanistan has no other choice but to work toward a better future,” Ghani said during his speech at the summit. He emphasized potential for growth in Afghanistan’s mining sector and tourism industry. Several regional airports, built by NATO, are about to be turned over to the Afghan government next year and are expected to become engines of economic activity.

The draw down of international troops last year has vastly shrunk the war economy that had provided employment for thousands of Afghans. Unemployment is on the rise, pushing increasing numbers of Afghans into the arms of the insurgents.

The summit has also provided a chance for a show of public unity between Afghanistan and Pakistan at a time of tension between the two neighbors. Among the attendees was Sartaj Aziz, adviser on national security and foreign affairs to the Pakistani prime minister’s office.

Pakistan hosted the first round of Taliban peace talks in July, but a planned second round was indefinitely postponed after the Afghan government announced that the Taliban leader, Mullah Mohammad Omar, had died in the year 2013. Foreign Ministry spokesman Qazi Khalilullah said Friday that Aziz would meet with Ghani and other officials.

“Pakistan is committed to promoting peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan because we feel it is in the best interest of the people of the two countries,” Khalilullah said.(Daily Star)

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