Tokyo: Delegates from around the world gathered in Tokyo today to discuss the way forward in Afghanistan in the wake of the presidential election and the drawdown of the US-led foreign military presence.

The International Contact Group on Afghanistan and Pakistan, which groups representatives from about 50 countries and global bodies, was attended by the Afghan deputy foreign minister.

The event was taking place as the war-torn country awaited results from a presidential election, which will transfer power from Hamid Karzai and herald a new era.

The first-round election last month was hailed a success, with 7 million Afghans voting — of whom 36 per cent were women, far higher than at the last vote in 2009 — and with the Taliban failing to launch a major attack, despite threats to disrupt the ballot.

The 2009 election, when Karzai retained power, was marred by ballot-box stuffing in a chaotic process that shook the multinational effort to develop a country that was run by the hardline Islamist Taliban between 1996 and 2001, and is still blighted by violence.

“It is important to recognise that the war is not over yet,” Ershad Ahmadi, the Afghanistan deputy foreign minister, said at the opening  of the meeting.

“On the same token, to ensure lasting success, it is crucial that the international community maintains its support and engagement in Afghanistan at this critical period.”

The meeting is not a place for countries to make financial pledges, a Japanese government official said ahead of the event yesterday.

“Broadly speaking, it will be an opportunity for the international community to commit continued assistance to Afghanistan,” he said.

“International troops are due to be withdrawn toward the year-end. They (Afghans) need to enforce public security by themselves from next year and there remain a host of domestic problems.”

The young democracy also faces “a number of tasks, such as enactment of a law against money laundering and the establishment of a framework on the use of natural resources and minerals,” he said.

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Free Press Journal