Afghanistan Given Special Ally Status by U.S., Clinton Says

Afghanistan Given Special Ally Status by U.S., Clinton Says
A man cycles past an Afghan Wireless Communication Co. advertisement in Kabul, Afghanistan. Photographer: Adam Dean/Bloomberg

Afghanistan was granted major non-NATO ally status, a designation that allows for expedited loans and exports, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said today in Kabul.

The designation, which goes into effect immediately, is the first such classification the Obama administration has made. Other countries accorded MNNA status by the U.S. include Israel, Egypt, Australia, New Zealand and Japan.

Clinton, speaking in the gardens of the presidential palace, emphasized the U.S. commitment to Afghanistan’s future and stability. “We’re not even imagining abandoning Afghanistan,” she said.

Clinton was in the Afghan capital for a visit lasting a little more than two hours before heading to Tokyo for a conference on Afghanistan that starts tomorrow. The gathering which will focus on Afghanistan’s economic transition.

International donors will pledge $16 billion in aid for Afghanistan to stabilize the country after NATO troops pull out at the end of 2014, a U.S. official said.

Japanese officials will make the announcement Sunday in Tokyo at an international conference where about 70 countries and organizations will discuss Afghanistan’s economic needs during and after the transition.

$16 Billion Pledged

The U.S. official, who wasn’t authorized to speak on the record, said the World Bank has estimated that Afghanistan needs $3.9 billion a year. The $16 billion will be given out over four years, starting this year until 2015, the official said.

The U.S. share will change from year to year, said the official, a member of the party attending the conference with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. It’s expected to be in the range of $1 billion to $2.3 billion and will come with accountability measures to counter graft.

Clinton said the MNNA designation will allow Afghanistan access to U.S. military supplies and to take part in training exercises with the U.S. military.

She told Afghan President Hamid Karzai that the security transition is on track. “You will always have our support” in efforts to stabilize the country, Clinton said.

The secretary of state also reiterated the U.S. commitment to continuing reconciliation talks with the Taliban movement that is fighting Karzai’s government. “We see a positive shift,” she said.

‘Far From Ideal’

Clinton said that, while the security situation remains “far from ideal,” the country is more stable. The Afghan National Security Forces are in the process of taking over responsibility for the security of 75 of the Afghan population, she said.

President Barack Obama went to Kabul in May to sign a Strategic Partnership Agreement that went into effect a few days ago and will govern all aspects of the bilateral relationship. Clinton said that the agreement was “not aimed at any one country.”

Pakistan has concerns about Indian influence in Afghanistan and has tolerated militants along its border with Afghanistan. Clinton said the recent announcement by Pakistan’s parliament that Pakistani territory won’t be used to stage attacks on foreign countries, and all foreign fighters found on Pakistani soil will be expelled.

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