Afghanistan seeks US help post-2014
Opinion polls show dwindling US public support for the war in Afghanistan.
Washington: Afghanistan on Wednesday appealed for the United States to provide security assistance beyond 2014, the date by which President Barack Obama wants to withdraw US combat troops.
Afghan Defence Minister Abdul Rahim Wardak was holding talks at the Pentagon to look at future relations, despite recent tensions between the two governments over civilian deaths in the NATO-led campaign against the Taliban.
"We do strongly believe that for Afghanistan to be able to survive in that very volatile region, it will need your help beyond 2014," Wardak said at the start of a meeting with US Defence Secretary Robert Gates.
Wardak saluted the nearly 1,500 US troops who have died in America`s longest war, which was launched in 2001 to root out al Qaeda extremists responsible for the September 11 attacks on the United States.
"We should be extremely grateful for all the sacrifices which your sons and daughters have given," Wardak said.
Gates said that such meetings on future security relations would take place twice annually between the two countries, with one session each year involving the US defence secretary.
Gates hoped that the forum would lay "an enduring foundation for our partnership well beyond 2014”.
The meetings should "demonstrate to others in the region and to our own people, in concrete terms, that together we are putting Afghanistan on a path towards stability and security," Gates said.
Opinion polls show dwindling US public support for the war in Afghanistan, with many in the public questioning the continued human and financial toll nearly a decade after troops were first deployed.
Obama has poured more troops into Afghanistan but said that he will start pulling them out in July this year. However, the administration has recently shifted focus and emphasised 2014 as the date by which US troops will leave.
The Obama administration has repeatedly said that the United States will remain committed to assisting Afghanistan in 2014, even if the military component winds down.