US urges Afghanistan to open economy, tackle graft

KABUL (PAN): A senior American official urged Afghanistan to open up its economy and eliminate nagging corruption to entice companies from the United States to invest in the mineral-rich Afghanistan and to woo more foreign direct investments from around the globe.

Speaking to Pajhwok Afghan News in an exclusive interview in Kabul, Robert O. Blake, Assistant Secretary for South and Central Asian Affairs, said American companies were not shying away from Afghanistan but were making their own strategic decision whether to invest.

“We encourage American companies to invest, we also encourage Afghanistan government to open up its economy, ensure there is no corruption and there is good governance. This will encourage foreign direct investment from the US and also from other countries,” said Blake, who is on an official trip to Afghanistan.

In Kabul, rumours were rife that American corporations were not keen to invest in the fragile Afghan economy, while Asian economic powerhouse like China and India were aggressively pumping in billions of dollars in investments.

For instance, the Chinese are involved in the $3.5 billion Ayanak copper mining project, in Logar province  and won a bid to explore oil in the Amu Drya Basin, in the country’s north, while the Indians are investing heavily in the Hajigak iron ore mining, in northwest of Kabul.

Commenting on Washington’s interest to develop the ancient Silk Road, Black said that was part of the American agenda to help Afghanistan stablise economically and also to promote regional integration.

 “We are looking at the transition in Afghanistan. W are looking at how we can support not only security and political transition, but also economic transition that is going to occur in this country.

“One way is to develop the private sector and trade, and the best way to do is by promoting regional integration – building rail lines, roads,  electric transmission lines to open regional integration,” added Blake. 

He said it was vital to enhance regional integration and the Silk route so Afghanistan could expand trading with its neighbouring countries and vice-versa. Earlier, US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton had said that reviving the ancient Silk Road was critical for Afghan’s stability.

Responding to a question over Pakistan’s uneasiness towards India’s active participation in Afghanistan, Blake said there was no reason for Pakistan to be concerned over its neighbour’s role.

“Pakistan should not be concerned, they share our interest and want to see a stable and prosperous Afghanistan. India’s investments are gearing to that goal,” he added.

On a question that the Crisis Group recently warned that Afghanistan would face an economic and political crisis following the withdrawal of NATO forces in 2014, he said the US and the international community are steadfast in their objective to help Afghan remain stable.

The Tokyo Conference the NATO Summit, held earlier this year, were clear indications that they want to see Afghan develop and prosper.

“My main message to all Afghan is that US has strong commitment to Afghan’s future, we want a stable and prosperous future for Afghanistan,” said Blake. ‌By: Javid Hamim Kakar and Obaidullah Hussam

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