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US bases to help stop foreign meddling: Azimi

US bases to help stop foreign meddling: Azimi

Feb 20, 2011 - 18:52

KABULinfo-icon (PANinfo-icon): A long-term US military presence in Afghanistaninfo-icon would help check neighbours' interference in the country, a defence ministry official hoped on Sunday.

Neighbours have been meddling in Afghanistan's internal affairs over the decades, Gen. Zahir Azimi told a news conference in Kabul. A final decision on the issue had to be taken by Afghans, he said.

With the establishment of the US military bases, foreign interference would be contained, Azimi believed. "When the Afghan people and government approve the bases, the Ministry of Defence will float its suggestions."

On Saturday, President Hamid Karzai said that any decision on permanent US bases would be taken by Afghan Parliament and other state institutions.

At a recent meeting on long-term strategic cooperation, US officials asked their Afghan counterparts for a permanent military presence in the country, raising concerns among Afghanistan's neighbours.

Azimi warned the new Afghan year, which starts on March 21, would be bloody. Militants would do all they could to recapture Zherai and Arghandab districts of southern Kandahar province, he said.

But Afghan soldiers were ready to protect the districts, the official added.

About 115 militants and 25 Afghan soldiers were killed over the last 30 days, he told a questioner. Seven of the soldiers were killed in Saturday's attack in the eastern Nangarhar province.

"With the ability of Afghan soldiers improving, we are focused on training them. Of the 31 training schools built recently, 29 are already operational," he continued.

Asked about the use of military uniforms by militants, he said: "A commission has been set up to prevent the sale of army fatigues in the market. But such uniforms could still be found inside and outside the country."



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