ISLAMABAD • A conference aimed at shoring up support for war-ravaged Afghanistan opened in the Pakistani capital yesterday, with a top Afghan official calling for an urgent, united response to the global menace of militancy.
The annual Heart of Asia gathering of Asian and other countries comes months after the first, inconclusive talks between the Afghan government and the Taleban.
"The wave of terrorist activities, including those of Daesh (Islamic State in Iraq and Syria) in various parts of the region and the world, once again reminds us of the gravity of this menace confronting today's humanity and the urgency for a united position against this evil phenomenon," Afghan Deputy Foreign Minister Hekmat Khalil Karzai said.
The two-day meeting will focus on energy, infrastructure and investment deals to shore up commitment to Afghanistan but the threat of an intensifying Taleban insurgency will hang over proceedings.
The Afghan Taleban and the government held inaugural talks in Pakistan in July, but the effort to end the 14-year insurgency stalled after news leaked that Taleban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar had been dead for two years. News of his death triggered a violent split in the Taleban, further undermining the negotiations. Last week, the new leader of the main Afghan Taleban faction, Omar's deputy, Mullah Akhtar Mansour, was reported killed or wounded. A weekend audio message claiming to be from Mansour refuted the reports, but some Taleban members have questioned its authenticity.
Cooperation between Afghanistan and Pakistan is seen as essential for improving regional stability but there has been slim hope for warmer ties. On Monday, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani said the two countries had been fighting a 14-year-long "undeclared war".
Each nation has accused the other of supporting insurgents across their borders.