The international focus on Iraq's problems, as the country struggles for peace and democracy, has drawn attention away from Afghanistan, which is just as important an experiment in efforts to bring justice to people around the world. Afghans are undergoing no less a harrowing experience as Iraqis and have been given the same promises to be pulled from decades of conflict and put on the path to stability and prosperity. Both nations deserve to have those pledges kept. To do otherwise would make a mockery of international honesty and will. When a US-led military coalition ousted Afghanistan's Taleban regime five years ago, hopes were raised for a new beginning after years of foreign occupation, civil war, the rule of warlords and the constraints of Muslim fundamentalism. Billions of dollars of aid was pledged, and development agencies and charities stepped in to turn dreams into reality. Democracy was restored and women regained the rights that they had lost under the Taleban. But what had been pledged was not backed by action. Only a fraction of the billions promised materialised and an international military force to provide security and fight off the remnants of the Taleban was too small. Even now, the Nato-led force numbers just 30,000, one-fifth the size of the strength of foreign troops in Iraq and 10,000 less than the Nato commitment in 1999 to Kosovo, which is much smaller in area. The result is that the Taleban are resurgent and fighting has stalled development projects. Since the start of the year, at least 3,700 people have been killed, one-third of them civilians. For many Afghans, life is worse now than it was five years ago: they still do not have jobs, the cost of living has risen, infrastructure remains inadequate and security is lacking. Iraqis are enduring the same hardships more than 31/2 years after a US-led coalition invaded and toppled dictator Saddam Hussein. There are important differences between the countries: Afghanistan is the world's biggest producer of opium and its production and trafficking has empowered warlords, who ignore the laws and policies of the central government in Kabul. Afghanistan does not have the rich oil reserves that Iraq will one day use as the basis for its future growth. These should be matters of concern for governments that have made promises that they have not kept. The world has to re-engage with Afghanistan in a concerted manner. An international conference must be held with all major powers attending to again assess the nation's needs and to offer fresh help. Thousands more troops are needed to ensure security. These are matters of urgency given the difficulties and challenges Afghans face. And this time, the promises must be genuine and forthcoming.