US allays India`s concern over Afghan pullout

India fears Afghanistan will again slip back into Pak hands post US pullout.

Updated: Jul 24, 2010, 09:31 AM IST

Washington: The US has reiterated its long-term commitment to the Afghanistan-Pakistan region, allaying India`s concerns over America`s stated policy to start withdrawing its troops from the war-torn country beginning July 2011.

"We`re not leaving Afghanistan or the region at the end of next year," State Department spokesman PJ Crowley told reporters at his daily news briefing.

Crowley was responding to questions about India`s apprehensions on withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan. New Delhi fears that after America withdraws troops from Afghanistan, the war-torn country will again slip back into the hands of Pakistan and anti-India elements.

"Our commitment to regional security is a significant one. We are going to be engaged with countries such as Afghanistan, Pakistan, India for a long time, because it is in our interest to do so," Crowley said.

"We have, per the President`s decision, increased our military capabilities and force levels in Afghanistan. The timeline that the President outlined back in December is well known," he said, adding various reviews including those by NATO and Washington would come up at the end of this year.

"As the President said, we see July 2011 as an important transition point, but remember that we have both a military and a civilian component to our strategy. You know, the military element is not open-ended," he said.

The spokesman said American and international forces would gradually withdraw as Afghan forces build up its capabilities.

As per the Kabul Conference, the Afghan plan is to provide security responsibility to the home forces throughout the country by 2014, he said.

"So we are there to help stabilise the security situation in Afghanistan. We are there to begin to grow legal economy in Afghanistan, increase the capacity of the Afghan government at all levels -- national, regional, local. But our commitment to Afghanistan -- we will be there for many, many years," Crowley said.

"Over time, obviously the military element of the strategy will be reduced, and the civilian element of the strategy will, you know, continue apace. It`s exactly what`s happening in Iraq, for example," he added.