GENEVA – The Afghan president appealed for support for his reform efforts in a speech to top diplomats and other senior officials gathered at a U.N.-backed conference focusing on development, peace and security in the war-battered country.
Ashraf Ghani also told the conference that he wanted to “specifically recognize the commitment in blood and treasure that the United States has shown since 2001” in Afghanistan.
Ghani called the U.S. its “key ally” and praised the Trump administration’s South Asia policy as a “game changer” for Afghanistan.
Foreign ministers from Russia, Germany, Iran and other countries, as well as EU’s foreign policy chief were attending the two-day gathering in Geneva, which opened Tuesday.
The meeting aims to take stock of progress of the Afghan government in using billions of dollars in foreign aid for education, health care, humanitarian support and needs since 2016.
Ghani, who faces an increasingly violent Taliban insurgency in recent months — the Taliban now hold sway in nearly half of the country — presented Wednesday his government’s efforts in areas such as security, justice, women’s rights and anti-corruption.
“We have a plan for reform, and we need your support to help implement it,” he told the conference. “Does this mean that we have eliminated corruption? Absolutely not. We want it to happen faster, but meaningful change cannot be rushed.”
“We face multiple challenges on many fronts,” he concluded.
Afghanistan is among the most corrupt countries in the world and last year Transparency International ranked it 177th out of 180 countries ranked. The corruption monitoring agency said the Afghan government’s anti-corruption efforts had been insufficient. The country’s overall score was a dismal 15 out of 100.
The United States has spent nearly $1 trillion on the war in Afghanistan, nearly $800 billion of which was spent on America’s own troops there and also Afghanistan’s National Security Forces. The U.S. has committed roughly $4 billion annually for the next several years toward financing those forces.
Russia has been accused by the U.S. of aiding the Taliban — a militant group that once ruled Afghanistan and that is seen by Moscow as a bulwark against an emerging Islamic State affiliate, which has sought to recruit Afghanistan’s ethnic Uzbeks, posing a threat to Central Asian States and creating a source of instability for Russia.
Also, Iran has been charged with sending Afghan Shiites, most of who live as refugees in Iran, to fight in Syria in an Afghan-only brigade known as the Fatimayoun Brigade. Pakistan is routinely accused by both the U.S. and Afghanistan of harboring the Taliban.
On Tuesday, at the start of the conference, the European Union announced 474 million euros ($535 million) in financial aid for Afghanistan.
The European Commission said the new funding would go toward reforms in the public sector, health, justice and migration and displacement issues, with 311 million euros aimed for supporting Afghanistan’s “reform agenda.”