An American private sector delegation opened meetings in Afghanistan with officials and local counterparts Wednesday in the first interaction since the Taliban seized power from a U.S.-backed government two years ago.
Jeffrey Grieco, president of the Afghan American Chamber of Commerce, or AACC, in the United States, is leading the delegation.
Addressing a televised meeting in Kabul of business representatives that Greico co-hosted with Taliban Deputy Prime Minister for Economic Affairs Abdul Ghani Baradar, he said the U.S. government backs the visit.
A spokesperson from the U.S. State Department acknowledged that a delegation from the American Chamber of Commerce in Afghanistan and "individuals with business interests" had traveled to Kabul.
"The United States stands with the people of Afghanistan as they work to rebuild their economy," the spokesperson told VOA in an emailed statement.
American businessman Grieco credited de facto Afghan authorities for establishing peace in the country, saying they have also "greatly eliminated" corruption. "It's not all gone, but it's mostly gone."
He said his team is seeking to elevate private sector activities and explore ways to ease hardships facing Afghans over the past two years.
"The next year is going to be equally hard as the donors are reducing funding for Afghanistan, both humanitarian food security and other funding, at a key moment when Afghanistan needs funding for humanitarian purposes," he said.
On Tuesday, the U.N. World Food Program announced that a "massive funding shortfall" had forced it to cut rations for 10 million people in the country this year, warning that time is running out to avert catastrophe in Afghanistan.