NATO not seeking permanent Afghan bases
KABUL (PAN): NATO said on Monday that the alliance was not seeking permanent military bases in Afghanistan, where a debate is currently raging on whether or not the United States should be allowed a long-term presence in the country.
"The alliance has an agreed Enduring Partnership with Afghanistan signed at the Lisbon Summit," NATO's civilian spokesman, Dominic Medley, told Pajhwok Afghan News.
In line with President Hamid Karzai's ambition, Afghan forces would lead all security operations across the country by the end of 2014, the spokesman said in response to an emailed query.
However, it is not clear what happens to the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), the NATO-led force mandated by the UN to lead security operations in Afghanistan.
Medley said that NATO would continue to support and train Afghan forces even beyond the 2014 deadline.
Karzai said on Feb. 19 that any decision on permanent US military bases would be taken by Parliament and other state institutions.
At a recent meeting on strategic cooperation, US officials asked their Afghan counterparts for a permanent military presence in the country, raising concerns among Afghanistan's neighbours.
"Neighbours' opinion is important to us. We live in a region where is security is not good. We would make a decision on the basis of ground realities and Afghanistan's interests," Karzai said at a press conference in Kabul.
The president was responding to a statement from the Russian foreign ministry, which asked: "Will Kabul be able to combine negotiations on a long-term American military presence with the reconciliation process? How will Afghanistan's neighbours view the deployment…?"
At a news conference on Sunday, US Ambassador Karl Eikenberry explained that his country was not interested in a long-term military presence in Afghanistan if its neighbours felt threatened.
The US and the international community, committed to supporting the Afghan government, would stay in the country as long as their presence was desired, he said.
"If Afghans and their government ask us for a long-term military presence, then some military bases will be needed. However, it does not mean that our bases will be forever," the diplomat added.
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