In a sign of thawing relations, a US delegation for the first time co-hosted a business conference with Taliban leaders in Afghanistan to work on a plan to rebuild the economy and address acute poverty in the face of reduced international aid.
(Bloomberg) — In a sign of thawing relations, a US delegation for the first time co-hosted a business conference with Taliban leaders in Afghanistan to work on a plan to rebuild the economy and address acute poverty in the face of reduced international aid.
“Our commitment is we’re going to help to elevate private sector activities,” Jeffrey Greico, the president of Washington-based Afghan-American Chamber of Commerce, said at the conference in Kabul on Wednesday. “As private sector representatives, we need to help develop Afghanistan from a very significant infrastructural standpoint.”
A spokesman for the US Department of State confirmed to Voice of America the delegation’s trip to Kabul, adding that the US is working to “rebuild” the country’s economy.
The Taliban administration has enacted “investor-friendly laws,” Deputy Prime Minister for Economic Affairs Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, said at the conference, urging American and Afghan investors to tap into the country’s mineral resources, including lithium.
The conference follows a meeting in Doha on July 30 between a delegation led by US Special Representative for Afghanistan Thomas West and Taliban leaders to address areas for confidence building.
The militants-turned-administrators see investments as a way to fix a cash-strapped economy after international aid, accounting for 60% of public spending, was halted following the chaotic withdrawal of US troops in 2021.
Baradar signed the first international contract with a subsidiary of China National Petroleum Corp. in January to extract oil from the northern Amu Darya basin. China and Russia are among the few countries keeping close ties with the Taliban administration, which is not officially recognized by any country in the world.
Read: Taliban Ink First Contract With Chinese Firm to Produce Oil
The United Nations said earlier Afghanistan requires $4.6 billion this year to help more than two-thirds of the country’s 40 million population who are living in extreme poverty. A 2022 Gallup poll showed that nine in ten Afghans find it “difficult” or “very difficult” to survive on their present income.
“It’s not been an easy two years for Afghans,” Greico said. “The next year is gonna be equally hard as the donors are reducing funding for Afghanistan.”
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