Nearly 50 officials in the international contact group on Afghanistan have discussed progress towards transferring responsibility for security and development to the Afghan government. The one-day meeting in Rome was attended for the first time by a representative from Iran.
The international contact group met in Rome amid a renewed push to end the nine-year war in Afghanistan, including bringing Taliban into peace talks. The main objective of the one-day talks was to assess progress in Afghanistan.
Representatives attending the meeting said Iran was invited as part of efforts to have a comprehensive approach and include regional players in the discussions over the future of Afghanistan.
U.S. special envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan Richard Holbrooke said Washington was asked about possible Iranian involvement.
"We recognize that Iran, with its long, almost completely open border with Afghanistan and with a huge drug problem ... has a role to play in the peaceful settlement of this situation in Afghanistan. So for the United States there is no problem with their presence," said Holbrooke.
The talks are a preparatory meeting before a NATO summit next month in Lisbon to devise a plan for handing control to the Afghans. But Holbrooke played down any suggestion that specific areas that could be handed over to Afghan control in coming months would be announced.
"We want to make clear that in Lisbon there is not going to be any specific announcement on the number of provinces to be put into the transition category. We are not going to weigh out specific provinces, we are going to talk about the transition process," Holbrooke said. "Transition is probably the most important word being uttered here today, in this conference."
Representatives added that what is expected from the Lisbon summit is a kick-start for the Afghan transition process with the goal of completing this by 2014.