ISLAMABAD, PAKISTAN —
The crutches that Afghan President Ashraf Ghani are using these days as a result of foot surgery could very well symbolize his country’s dependence on others — a dependence he is trying to minimize.
The Afghan economy has been in free fall ever since most foreign troops left. Afghanistan has been trying to lure other countries to use it as a trade route and tap its natural resources.
Afghan officials emphasized regional trade and economic cooperation at a two-day conference that ended Friday in Kabul. The title of the conference, "The Silk Road Through Afghanistan," indicated what Ghani has been trying to stress ever since he took power: his country’s central location.
“If we are calling about the connectivity of South Asia with Central Asia or with the Middle East … Afghanistan is playing a crucial role for the connectivity of all these countries,” said economist Mohammad Ibrahim Shams.
Delegates from 30 countries and 40 international organizations met in the Afghan capital to discuss how to use Afghanistan's location for the benefit of all.
Ghani wanted people to look beyond his country’s security problems, which have been keeping investment away. “It’s an act of imagination where the past yields to the future, and where the present is used as a steppingstone and as a platform for the future,” he said.
This was the sixth Regional Economic Cooperation Conference on Afghanistan. Afghan officials said it was different from the earlier five. The emphasis this time, they said, was on devising mechanisms for implementing and tracking projects.