WASHINGTON â€” The U.S. governmentâ€™s designation of Afghanistan as a major non-NATO ally is â€œextremely importantâ€ to the Defense Department, Pentagon Press Secretary George Little said Monday.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced the designation Saturday after meeting with Afghan President Hamid Karzai in the Afghan capital of Kabul. It is intended to provide a long-term framework for security and defense cooperation between both countries.
During remarks Sunday at a donorsâ€™ conference in Tokyo, where representatives from some 70 nations were discussing international support for Afghanistan, Clinton noted that the U.S.-Afghan strategic partnership agreement went into effect last week. That agreement was signed by both governments in May.
Little said during a regular media briefing today that the United States has a long-term commitment to Afghanistan as an enduring partner.
â€œWe are not going to leave Afghanistan high and dry at the end of the transition period in 2014,â€ he said. â€œWeâ€™re going to continue to have a strong relationship with that country and with the Afghan government.â€
Little said while the announcementâ€™s practical effects are still to be determined, the Defense Department is exploring ways to support the Afghan military and its equipment needs.
The two countries havenâ€™t planned specific future arms sales or grants of equipment, Little said.
â€œThe important thing is weâ€™re going to stand by Afghanistan, and thatâ€™s for very good reason,â€ he said. â€œWe have made a major effort over the past 11 years, at the cost of blood and treasure, to ensure that al-Qaida can never consider Afghanistan a safe haven again.â€
In Tokyo Sunday, Clinton noted that $16 billion in international aid is pledged to Afghanistan through 2015, while the Afghan government has committed to continued reform.
â€œThe key pieces are there,â€ she said. â€œThe private sector interest is there. The Afghan governmentâ€™s commitment to fight corruption and strengthen the rule of law is there. The international communityâ€™s support, as evidenced by this conference, is there as well. And the â€¦ partnership between Afghanistan and its neighbors is also growing.â€