US to continue aiding Afghans for another decade
Ambassador Lute was addressing a press conference in Brussels, the Belgium capital, where NATO is headquartered, on the eve of the alliance two-day defence ministerial meeting.
The envoy said the US had pledged long-term cooperation with Afghanistan and that was why the two countries had signed a strategic partnership agreement.
US president Barack Obama has announced keeping 9800 troops in Afghanistan beyond 2014 and pulling them all out until 2016.
Ambassador Lute said the US assistance to Afghanistan would change after 2014 and it was not necessary to continue the aid and keep troops simultaneously. He said Afghanistan would not always depend on foreign aid as it needed today.
To a question, the ambassador said there was no mention of the size of the residual troops in the bilateral security agreement (BSA) between Kabul and Washington.
He said it were the US and Afghan governments to decide how much and how long American troops should stay in Afghanistan.
He said talks were ongoing on the future size of the Afghan security forces currently numbering 350,000. Any decision in this regard would be taken keeping in view Afghanistan’s security and economic situation, he added.
The ambassador said the US supported Afghan government-led peace process, saying the war was not a solution and the US had always tried to find a political settlement to the Afghan conflict.
The US representative also defended the release of five senior Taliban leaders from the Guantanamo Bay prison in Cuba in exchange for the release of a captive US soldier.
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