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    Cunningham promises support for fair polls

    JALALABAD (PAN): The United States on Thursday promised all-out support to the Afghan government in organising free and fair presidential and provincial council polls in 2014.

    US Ambassador to Afghanistan James B. Cunningham held out the pledge at a joint news conference with Nangarhar Governor Gul Agha Sherzai at his office in Jalalabad.

    The diplomat reiterated America’s commitment to assisting the war-torn country over the longer haul. “Although Afghanistan has made progress in different areas over the years, we will continue to help the ally.”

    Cunningham said the US had extended $535 million in aid to the eastern province so far, a process that would continue. He also vowed assistance to the Nangarhar University to enhance the capacity of students.

    For his part, Governor Sherzai claimed reaching agreement with US officials on opening a consulate in Nangarhar. “We’ve demanded opening of the consulate in line with tribal elders’ consent.”

    In Kabul, the US embassy said Cunningham conferred with Sherzai on the ongoing partnership between the two nations and America’s continued commitment to strengthen Afghan reforms to achieve sustainable development and self-sufficiency.

    He highlighted the gains made by Afghanistan during the past decade in areas of education, women’s rights and economic development.

    The ambassador praised the capacity of Afghan forces, which are carrying out 85 percent of military operations in Nangarhar independently. “This represents the success in transition.”

    He continued: “I firmly believe, with your ongoing efforts, that Afghanistan will continue to make impressive gains. And you can be assured that as Afghans take charge of their own future, Afghanistan will continue to have a strong partner in the United States.”