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Afghanistan Seeking Closer, Long-Term Ties to U.S.

By Kathleen T. Rhem
American Forces Press Service

KABUL, Afghanistan, April 13, 2005 – Afghanistan is "aggressively seeking" a closer economic and strategic security relationship with the United States, the country's first democratically elected leader said here today.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld, left, and Afghan President Hamid Karzai conduct a press conference at the presidential palace in Kabul, Afghanistan, on April 13. Rumsfeld visited Afghanistan during a tour of the region, including a visit to Iraq where he met with U.S. troops and key Iraqi government officials. Photo by Tech. Sgt. Cherie A. Thurlby, USAF.

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai said the people of his country want a long-term relationship with the United States "that would enable Afghanistan to defend itself (and) to continue to prosper." He added that he plans to "formally and officially request" such an agreement from President Bush.

Karzai's remarks came during a joint press conference with Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld at the heavily guarded presidential palace. Rumsfeld was on his ninth visit to Afghanistan since U.S.-led military action began here in October 2001. His last visit to the capital city was for Karzai's inauguration in December 2004.

When asked for a response to Karzai's announcement, Rumsfeld said such diplomatic issues are for the president and secretary of state to decide on and announce. He also declined to speculate whether the United States plans to build permanent military bases here, though he downplayed the possibility.

"What we generally do when we work with another country is what we have been doing, we find ways that we can be helpful," the secretary said. "It may be training; it may be equipping; it may be various types of assistance, such as is the case here.

"But we think more in terms of what we're doing rather than the question of military bases," he added.

In explaining the request for longer-term U.S. assistance, Karzai said his country has learned many lessons during "years of extreme difficulty and violence and economic deprivation."

Today, the Afghan president said, the country has a growing economy and a reconstruction boom in large part due to international assistance. "Primarily, on the whole, that assistance is from the United States in the economic area, reconstruction, and in the security services, including the training of the Afghan army and police, and the strengthening of Afghan administration," Karzai said.

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Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld

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