Afghanistan conference: John Kerry renews US commitments

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Media captionSecurity fears are already damaging the Afghan economy, reports Mike Wooldridge from Kabul

US Secretary of State John Kerry has renewed US commitments to invest in Afghanistan and create a "powerhouse" region, after a conference in London.

Mr Kerry said he had faith in President Ashraf Ghani to create a "strong and prosperous" Afghanistan.

Mr Ghani was seeking guarantees from delegates that they would continue to invest after most foreign combat forces leave later this month.

"We will be with you every step of the way," UK PM David Cameron told him.

Addressing the conference later, Mr Ghani pledged to continue reforms, saying that "history will not be repeated, we've overcome our past".

More than a decade of conflict has left Afghanistan reliant on foreign aid.

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Media captionSeveral Afghan students told BBC News they do not feel safe or secure

Taliban attacks have also been on the rise in recent weeks, and critics are questioning the ability of the Afghan security forces to maintain order.

Mr Ghani took over the presidency in September and vowed to bring peace.

The president sought endorsement at the conference for his plan for a "transformation decade" from 2015-24.

He also wanted guarantees that troop withdrawals would not be followed by cuts in financial aid.

Mr Kerry said after the conference: "We will continue clearly to invest in Afghanistan's growth."

He said the "vast proportions" of Afghanistan support the president's reform plan and said it was an "extraordinary moment of transformation".

He added that Mr Ghani had already made ground in repairing relations with Pakistan and fighting money laundering and corruption - a major sticking point between Afghanistan and its Western donors.

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A group of British and Irish charities were at the conference to warn that a combination of cuts in their international funding and growing security fears among their staff threatened to reverse the progress that has been made.

In a survey released ahead of the conference, the group said three-quarters of aid organisations working in Afghanistan had seen development funding fall in the past year.

It said half the aid workers in Afghanistan received death threats or intimidation over the same period.

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Image caption A US-based charity was among the targets of recent attacks in the Afghan capital, Kabul

The Taliban have intensified attacks against foreign nationals, civilians and Afghan soldiers in recent months, raising concerns over the Afghan army's ability to protect the country from insurgents.

The latest in a string of attacks targeted a compound used by a US-based charity on Saturday, killing three South Africans.

Last week, two American soldiers and two British embassy workers were killed in separate attacks, with dozens of Afghans also killed and injured.

Foreign combat troops are withdrawing at the end of the month. Some 12,000 Nato soldiers will remain for training and advisory purposes, and a separate US-led force will assist Afghan troops in some operations against the Taliban.

Among those attending the conference is Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.

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