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Afghanistan considering long-term US presence, says Wardak

IRNA - Islamic Republic News Agency

London, April 6, IRNA
Afghanistan Wardak-US Bases
Afghanistan's Defence Minister General Abdul Rahim Wardak has indication that his government may be open to the controversial permanent basing of US forces in his country.

His government was in discussions with the US that could include air bases in Afghanistan after the current nation-building process ends, Wardak said during a visit to London.

"We will certainly seek enduring relations and partnerships with our international friends," the US-trained general told a press conference at the International Institute for Strategic Studies on Tuesday.

"This will prevent the repetition of the catastrophic disengagement of the international community from Afghanistan in the 1990s, which cost us all so dearly," he said.

The Defence Minister said the details of what could constitute a long-term US presence were still under discussion. He suggested that this could include permanent air bases or "pre-positioned" military equipment to use by rapidly deployed US forces in a crisis.

According to the Financial Times Wednesday, discussions have been under way for several months. "Both US and Afghan officials have been reluctant to discuss the issue given geopolitical sensitivities in the region, particularly in neighboring Iran," it said.

In an attempt to assuage the concerns of neighboring countries about a permanent US presence, Wardak said any agreement with Washington would come at the same time Kabul attempted to secure security pacts with regional powers.

He also dismissed reports that the US was using Afghanistan as a staging base to conduct reconnaissance operations in Iran. "The US has enough electronic capability to do it from anywhere else. They don't need to do it from Afghanistan," he insisted.

::IRNA No.036 06/04/2005 15:31 --End

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