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Diplomats and foreign government heads are meeting in Turkey for a conference on the security of Afghanistan, which is preparing to hand over some provinces to its own forces for policing, when foreign troops leave the country in 2014.

India and Pakistan, which share borders with Afghanistan and are also battling al-Qaeda and the Taliban, will be among 14 countries attending the conference in Istanbul. Others include the US, Britain, China, France and Russia.

Hillary Clinton, the US secretary of state, is not expected to attend the summit having cancelled her visit following the death of her 92-year-old mother. A spokesman said her deputy, William Burns, will take her place.

The conference, which opened on Wednesday, comes as Hamid Karzai, the Afghan president, prepares to announce parts of his country that can be handed over to Afghan security forces.

Al Jazeera's Anita McNaught, reporting from Istanbul, said that the move was part of Afghanistan demonstrating its role in getting ready for US military departure in 2014.

"Not all Afghans feel that Afghanistan is ready for this, but ready or not - if we look at the experience of Iraq [where the US had troops] - that departure date is likely to come," she said.

"We're hearing some voices and objection already being raised in Afghanistan about the readiness, particularly of some of the rural provinces. There will be a list of provinces [to be secured by Afghan forces] and Afghans will now know what they are solely responsible for."

Way forward

The summit is intended to chart the way ahead for Afghanistan, with the US-led NATO mission already locked into troop drawdowns that are scheduled to bring all foreign combat troops home by 2014.

Afghanistan is still mired in poverty despite the billions of dollars poured into the country since coalition forces ousted the Taliban from power in mid-November 2001. Half of its 30 million population lives below poverty line, according to the United Nations.

The Taliban's resilience a decade after being driven from overall control of the country was again underlined on Saturday when it killed at least 17 people in a car bomb attack on a NATO convoy in Kabul.

The gathering takes place a day after a trilateral summit hosted by Abdullah Gul, the Turkish president. It was attended by his Afghan counterpart Karzai as well as Asif Zardari, the Pakistani president.

Both men travelled to Istanbul in a bid to ease tensions and promote co-operation between the two neighbours.

Tuesday's talks saw Afghanistan and Pakistan agree to co-operate with an investigation into the murder of former Afghan leader and peace negotiator Burhanuddin Rabbani.

Kabul had accused Islamabad of refusing to co-operate in the probe into the murder, which Afghan authorities say was planned in Pakistan and committed by a Pakistani suicide bomber.

"We were hurt badly by the assassination of Rabbani," said Karzai after the closed-door talks. "I hope this cooperation will produce results."

Zardari said: "We want to be a responsible partner to bring peace to the region."

Pakistan was the Taliban's chief diplomatic backer when it was in power and is regularly accused by both Kabul and Washington of helping destabilise its northern neighbour.

Source: Al Jazeera and agencies