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Clinton makes surprise visit to Kabul, declares Afghanistan 'major non-NATO ally'

Published time: July 07, 2012 11:13
Edited time: July 07, 2012 15:13
Afghan president Hamid Karzai (2nd R) talks with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (L) at the conclusion of a press conference at the Presidential Palace in Kabul on July 7, 2012 (AFP Photo / Massoud Hossaini)

Afghan president Hamid Karzai (2nd R) talks with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (L) at the conclusion of a press conference at the Presidential Palace in Kabul on July 7, 2012 (AFP Photo / Massoud Hossaini)

Hillary Clinton made a surprise visit to Kabul on Saturday, where she formally declared Afghanistan the newest ‘major non-NATO ally’. The move facilitates easier weapons and military aid to the country, as the US prepares for its final pull out.

­The status upgrade gives Afghanistan preferential treatment on military issues, easing the purchase of US military equipment and streamlining defense cooperation between the two countries.

The announcement marks the fulfillment of a promise made by the Obama administration earlier this year designed to ease the withdrawal of American troops from the country by 2013, and all NATO troops by 2014. Afghanistan already enjoyed many of these same benefits. The new status confirms it will continue to receive preferential US military support.

Afghanistan is the 15th country to join the list of Major non-NATO Allies, a designation that first came into play under President H. W. Bush in 1989. Non-NATO countries listed as such received the advantages of entering into cooperative research, development, and arms agreements, while falling just short of a mutual defense agreement. The original list included Japan, Israel, Australia, Egypt, and South Korea. However, the list of allies has diversified to include Bahrain, Morocco, and the controversial Pakistan.

Clinton paid her visit to Kabul on the eve of a trip to Japan where world leaders are expected to discuss financial aid packages to continue the development of the unstable country. Delegates at the meeting in Tokyo are expected to pledge around $ 4 billion in aid to Afghanistan, while the central Afghanistan bank has warned it needs around $ 6 billion to make ends meet and not lose the fragile social progress it has made. It also claims it needs an additional $ 4 billion for security forces, according to a Reuters report.

Many fear that without the aid, the country will slip back into chaos. But global patience with corruption in Afghanistan is also wearing thin. The US has already reduced monetary support. President Karzai is expected to outline new anti-corruption and accountability measures for donors in Tokyo.

“Like the past assistance from the world, the cash from this meeting may end up in the pockets of senior government officials,” Mohammad Nayeem Lalai Hamidzai, a member of the Afghan parliament from Kandahar, told the Washington Post in an interview.

“People in power make sure that they can take as much as they can, because the foreigners will not be here forever.”