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Afghanistan's Abdullah Meets Davos Business Leaders To Lure Investors To War-Torn Country

Afghan Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah attends the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, on January 23.
Afghan Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah attends the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, on January 23.

The chief executive of Afghanistan’s government, Abdullah Abdullah, is at one of the world’s leading economic forums in Davos, Switzerland, attempting to persuade foreign investors to pour money into his war-torn country.

Abdullah, the de facto prime minister of Afghanistan, said in separate interviews on January 23 with Reuters and AFP that potential investors should look past the current unstable security situation and focus on Afghanistan's rich supply of natural resources.

"For the business community...of course security is an impediment," he said on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum.

"But you cannot wait until security is perfect and then come in and invest," he said.

"Afghanistan's riches, natural resources, commodities which are today more precious than gold, these are all opportunities," he said.

"I don't think there is any other get-together more powerful than Davos, and more inclusive than Davos," he said.

"This one is a mix of everything, and I try to push our case, the case of our country."

Abdullah said reports in December that U.S. President Donald Trump was considering a plan to withdraw some 5,000 of the 14,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan had caused concern within the government in Kabul.

U.S.-led NATO and coalition forces have been aiding the government in its fight against resurgent Taliban militants, who control much of the Afghan countryside outside the major cities.

He said, though, that U.S. officials had told Kabul that no final decision has been made and that Washington is committed to supporting Afghan security and development.

"Of course, initially it came with some concerns for all of us," Abdullah said.

"Later on, through engagement with their envoys and representatives we learned that even if the [United States] withdraws, it would be partial, it would not have an impact on the combat abilities," he added.

Trump has expressed impatience over lagging progress in the 17-year war in Afghanistan, where more than 2,400 U.S. troops have died. He has already said U.S. forces would pull out of the conflict in Syria.

Abdullah is considered a leading challenger to President Ashraf Ghani for the upcoming presidential election, set for July 20.

Ghani defeated Abdullah in the 2014 vote that Abdullah claimed was marred by fraud. The two later agreed to form a national-unity government, with Ghani as president and Abdullah in the position labeled "chief executive officer."

Abdullah told Reuters in the interview that this year's vote "has to be clean."

"The flaws of the previous election have to be corrected. Am I absolutely confident that this will be transparent as we would expect? That’s difficult to judge at this stage."

With reporting by AFP and Reuters