Washington, March 24:
The US has promised to finance a large contingent of Afghan security forces at least until 2017 and provide up to $800 million to foster economic development in the country in its post-war scenario.
A day before his meeting with US President Barack Obama at the White House, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani held talks with Secretary of State John Kerry and Pentagon head Ashton Carter, together with Afghanisan’s Chief Executive Officer Abdullah Abdullah on Monday, Efe news agency reported.
At a press conference at the presidential retreat in Camp David, Maryland, the four officials underlined the strength of the bilateral strategic partnership despite nearly 14 years of war, and tensions during the final phase of former Afghan president Hamid Karzai’s government.
Ghani’s first official trip to the US, after becoming president in September, began with a visit to the Pentagon where he expressed his gratitude for the “sacrifice” of American soldiers in Afghanistan since 2001 when they toppled the Taliban regime.
Ghani thanked the soldiers “on behalf of a grateful nation to people in this building and the larger US community for sacrificing continuously since September 11 to bring us freedom and hope”.
The Afghan president lived in Washington for a decade and worked at the World Bank until the fall of the Taliban regime.
During his day-long talks with Kerry and Carter, Ghani obtained the US government’s commitment to ask the Congress for funds to support a 352,000 security personnel in Afghanistan until at least 2017.
Kerry also announced an endowment of up to $800 million in US aid for a revitalised partnership focused “to encourage and measure Afghan-led reform and development activities and strengthen Afghan institutions’ sustainability and fiscal transparency”.
The matter related to the US’s planned withdrawal of its troops from Afghanistan remained pending during the talks, following Ghani’s request for continued US military presence owing to the country’s difficult security situation.
However, Ghani said that he would not engage in any discussion on the number of US troops in Afghanistan.
“The question on numbers is a decision for the president of the United States, and that decision will solely be made by President Obama,” Ghani said.
Until late 2014, US military forces were deployed under NATO’s international mission and currently there are around 10,000 US military personnel serving in Afghanistan to train and assist local security forces.
According to the current plan, by the end of this year the number of soldiers would be reduced by half, about 5,000, before a complete withdrawal by the end of 2016, but both Kerry and Carter said that there could be further adjustments. IANS