Donors, Afghan leaders discuss ongoing efforts to rebuild the country

Afghan leaders and international donors are meeting in London to discuss the ongoing efforts to rebuild the country. A five-year development plan is expected to be signed at the two-day conference which is being co-chaired by Afghanistan and the United Nations.

Despite progress in building up a new government, concerns remain over security, poverty and the drugs trade. Afghan President Hamid Karzai has said the country will need outside support for many years and probably decades.

UK Prime Minister Tony Blair, UN Secretary Kofi Annan and President Karzai, will address the conference, attended by officials of more than 70 nations and international organisations. The Afghan Compact, a framework for international engagement with Afghanistan over the next five years, will be launched at the event.

The Afghan government is expected to present its strategy on development, security, the drugs trade and good governance to the international community. The conference comes as Nato prepares to expand its role in Afghanistan with the deployment of an extra 6,000 troops.

The troops will move into the volatile south of the country where US-led troops have been operating, allowing Washington to reduce troop numbers in Afghanistan.

The UK, which assumes leadership of Nato forces in Afghanistan in May, is preparing to send an additional 3,300 troops to Helmand province as part of the expansion.

Before the conference, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice reaffirmed Washington's commitment to Afghan reconstruction. She said the US would not repeat the "mistake" of leaving Afghanistan, reports BBC news. I.L.

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