The US and three Central and South Asian nations announced on Friday the formation of a regional platform meant to bolster “regional connectivity” ahead of the withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan.

The new group, which includes Afghanistan, Pakistan and Uzbekistan, is focused on ensuring regional peace ahead of the US exit, which is expected by the end of August, and improving trade in the region.

“The parties consider long-term peace and stability in Afghanistan critical to regional connectivity and agree that peace and regional connectivity are mutually reinforcing,” the State Department said in a statement.

“Recognizing the historic opportunity to open flourishing interregional trade routes, the parties intend to cooperate to expand trade, build transit links, and strengthen business-to-business ties.

Representatives of the four nations are expected to meet in the coming months “to determine the modalities of this cooperation with mutual consensus,” the department added.

The process to pull out all US forces from Afghanistan is about 95% complete, the Pentagon announced earlier this week.

Concerns have continued to mount about the longevity of the Afghan government as the Taliban continues to make battlefield gains against government forces across Afghanistan.

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