KABUL, Afghanistan — Afghanistan and regional heavyweights agreed Thursday to work together to fight terrorism and drug-trafficking and pursue economic development — a formidable agenda in a neighborhood fraught with power struggles and rivalries.
The Afghan government played host to 14 other countries in the region, a peculiar role for a nation at war for more than three decades.
The issues they discussed were not new. What is new is that these countries agreed to work as a team to solve common problems. The hope is that regional cooperation will build confidence and erode decades of mistrust. And that, in turn, could help foster stability and greater prosperity.
"Afghanistan recognizes out of a grim experience of the past that it is only in stability and harmony and peace in this region that Afghanistan can prosper and be stable," President Hamid Karzai said in his opening remarks.
The conference, held under heavy security in Kabul, was a follow-up to the first "Heart of Asia" meeting held in November in Istanbul.
Both sessions took place after the U.S.-led NATO coalition decided to end its combat mission in Afghanistan by the close of 2014. While that deadline likely hastened work to foster more regional cooperation, the meetings are more of a recognition that an unstable Afghanistan threatens the entire region.
"Whatever happens in Afghanistan affects us in one way or another," said Ahmet Davutoglu, foreign minister of Turkey and co-chairman of the event.
The 15 nations that participated in the conference were: Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, China, India, Iran, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan, Turkey, Turkmenistan, United Arab Emirates and Uzbekistan.