KABUL/GENEVA (Reuters) – Afghan leaders and international diplomats meet in Geneva on Tuesday to evaluate whether strategies and aid offered to Afghanistan are helping resolve the quagmire created by the 17-year war, paving way for the withdrawal of foreign troops.
The two-day conference on Afghanistan, jointly hosted by the Afghan government and the United Nations comes at a time when U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration is actively seeking a peace deal with the Taliban.
While no fresh financial commitments are expected, the conference will be a chance for donors to measure results against the $15.2 billion committed for Afghanistan at the last funding meeting in Brussels in 2016.
“At least 60 percent of all the promises made by President Ghani at Brussels have been implemented. Discussions will be held regarding the challenges,” said Haroon Chakhansuri, President Ashraf Ghani’s spokesman.
With Afghan security forces struggling to hold back increasingly confident Taliban fighters and Western appetite for further commitments uncertain, the conference comes at a sensitive moment.
The government will present a growth strategy mapping out how an economy battered by 40 years of war can one day stand on its own as well as pledges on issues ranging from fighting corruption to women’s empowerment.
However diplomats said much of the focus will be on side meetings, where officials from Afghanistan and regional and Western countries will have a chance to assess the efforts of U.S. peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad.
Ghani, facing a war-weary public at home, is expected to press regional countries to support the process but he has so far been kept on the sidelines by the Taliban’s refusal to talk to his government, which they consider illegitimate.
His own future will be decided by presidential elections due in April but organizational and political problems may hamper the vote with authorities admitting they are considering a delay of three months.
The Taliban, fighting to drive out international forces and establish their version of strict Islamic law, will not be attending but will be closely monitoring the talks.
“We hope the international leaders accept our demands and put pressure on the U.S. to withdraw all foreign forces from Afghanistan,” said a Taliban member. “Otherwise the conference will hold little significance.”
The United States currently has some 14,000 troops in Afghanistan, serving in the NATO-led Resolute Support training and advisory mission as well as in separate counter-terrorism operations against militant groups like Islamic State.
Additional reporting Stephanie Nebehay in Geneva, Jibran Ahmed in Peshawar; Editing by Alison Williams