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US, Britain pledge to support Afghanistan as combat troops withdraw

The United States and Britain pledged on Thursday to support Afghanistan`s new unity government even as foreign combat troops withdraw from the country after a 13-year war that ousted the Islamist Taliban.



London: The United States and Britain pledged on Thursday to support Afghanistan`s new unity government even as foreign combat troops withdraw from the country after a 13-year war that ousted the Islamist Taliban.

US Secretary of State John Kerry said President Ashraf Ghani`s new government had already made moves to combat money laundering and corruption since taking office in September in the first democratic transfer of power in Afghan history.

Ghani, who with former presidential rival Abdullah Abdullah formed a power-sharing government after months of wrangling over election results, sought to reassure allies that he would tackle endemic corruption and stop the theft of aid money.

"We are confident that the policies outlined today by President Ghani and CEO Abdullah will result in a more stable and prosperous Afghanistan," Kerry said at a conference on Afghanistan in London.

"This is an extraordinary moment of transition and the possibilities are so enormous," Kerry said.

A 2001 US-led invasion of Afghanistan overthrew the Islamist Taliban who had given sanctuary to al Qaeda. But as most foreign combat troops prepare to leave, local forces are battling a Taliban insurgency.

"Let our friends celebrate, let our detractors note that history will not be repeated, that we have overcome the past, we face the future with full unity and with confidence," Ghani said at the conference, which is not expected to generate new aid.

"We hope that we will never need direct combat support because the last thing we want is more war," he said.

British Prime Minister David Cameron also stressed the importance of tackling corruption, saying businesses would only invest if Afghanistan could build strong, accountable institutions.

Kerry said Ghani`s government had taken steps to improve the country`s fiscal situation and foster ties with neighbours, including Pakistan.

Kerry announced that the United States and Afghanistan had agreed to issue visas that will be valid for longer and will allow for multiple entries for businesses, students and tourists.

Days after becoming president, Ghani signed a new bilateral security agreement with the United States, a move his predecessor Hamid Karzai refused to do. The agreement lays out the terms under which U.S. troops may stay in Afghanistan.

"We are committed to ensuring that Afghanistan can never again be used as a safe haven from which terrorists can threaten the international community," Kerry said.

At the peak of US involvement, there were roughly 100,000 American troops in Afghanistan in 2011.

Beginning next year, about 8,000 American troops, 4,000 other foreign military personnel, are expected to stay on in Afghanistan as part of a NATO-led training and advisor mission. Some 1,800 Americans will conduct counter terrorism mission.

From Zee News

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