By Karen Parrish
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON – The U.S. government’s designation of Afghanistan as a major non-NATO ally is “extremely important” to the Defense Department, Pentagon Press Secretary George Little said today.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced the designation July 7 after meeting with Afghan President Hamid Karzai in the Afghan capital of Kabul. It is intended to provide a long-term framework for security and defense cooperation between both countries.
During remarks yesterday at a donors’ conference in Tokyo, where representatives from some 70 nations were discussing international support for Afghanistan, Clinton noted that the U.S.-Afghan strategic partnership agreement went into effect last week. That agreement was signed by both governments in May.
Little said during a regular media briefing today that the United States has a long-term commitment to Afghanistan as an enduring partner.
“We are not going to leave Afghanistan high and dry at the end of the transition period in 2014,” he said. “We’re going to continue to have a strong relationship with that country and with the Afghan government.”
Little said while the announcement’s practical effects are still to be determined, the Defense Department is exploring ways to support the Afghan military and its equipment needs.
The two countries haven’t planned specific future arms sales or grants of equipment, Little said.
“The important thing is we’re going to stand by Afghanistan, and that’s for very good reason,” he said. “We have made a major effort over the past 11 years, at the cost of blood and treasure, to ensure that al-Qaida can never consider Afghanistan a safe haven again.”
In Tokyo yesterday, Clinton noted that $16 billion in international aid is pledged to Afghanistan through 2015, while the Afghan government has committed to continued reform.
“The key pieces are there,” she said. “The private sector interest is there. The Afghan government’s commitment to fight corruption and strengthen the rule of law is there. The international community’s support, as evidenced by this conference, is there as well. And the … partnership between Afghanistan and its neighbors is also growing.”