US to launch regional fund to promote investment in South & central Asia

By Our Staff Reporter

Islamabad: U.S. Special Envoy Zalmay Khalilzad said on Friday that Washington will soon announce a high-level meeting of representatives from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Uzbek to promote trade and growth in the region.

The United States, which will also be taking part in the conference, is also launching a fund to promote investment in the South and Central Asian regions.

Ambassador Khalilzad is the Trump administration’s Special Response to Afghanistan Reconciliation and has played a key role in securing a peace settlement with the Taliban with the help of Pakistan.

The agreement, which calls for the complete withdrawal of foreign forces from Afghanistan by May 2021, was signed in February.

The Trump administration wants to withdraw most of its troops from Afghanistan under this framework, but faces a heavy opposition from the Pentagon that opposes an unconditional withdrawal.

“We look forward to soon announcing a regional investment fund and a high-level meeting of representatives from the United States, Uzbekistan, Pakistan, and Afghanistan to discuss connectivity, trade and development initiatives,” Ambassador Khalilzad wrote in a tweet posted on his official Twitter account.

The tweet followed his meeting with Uzbekistan’s Foreign Minister Abdul Aziz Kamilov in Washington on Thu­rs­day. Uzbek Special Representative Ismatulla Irgashev also attended the meeting.

“We discussed the current status of Afghanistan Peace Negotiations and the importance of an immediate reduction in violence,” Ambassador Khalilzad wrote.

“We also discussed the region’s role in helping the Afghan peace process and recommitted to the importance of regional economic connectivity, trade and development facilitated by peace in Afghanistan,” he added.

The US diplomat noted that peace in Afghanistan would benefit Central Asia, Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Earlier this week, Prime Minister Imran Khan visited Kabul, where he vowed to “do everything” to help curb violence and push for a ceasefire between the Taliban and Afghan forces.

Khan’s first visit to Kabul as prime minister comes amidst escalating violence in Afghanistan, which also threatens peace negotiations between the Afghan government and the Taliban that began in Doha in September.

In August, Pakistan hosted a meeting of key Taliban leaders in Islamabad, urging them to hold talks with the Afghan government to end decades of conflict. Islamabad also emphasised the need for an intra-Afghan dialogue to ensure regional stability.

The US-Taliban treaty also calls for such a dialogue and links the withdrawal of troops to the success of these negotiations.

The Trump administration wants to implement the deal before a new administration takes charge in Washington early next year.

The incoming Biden administration also wants a troop-pullout but does not share President Donald Trump’s eagerness to do it as soon as possible.

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