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Afghan defense minister hopes US stays after 2014

Afghanistan`s defense min expressed optimism Tuesday that the US will not abandon his country after foreign combat troops leave at the end of 2014.

Kabul: Afghanistan`s defense minister expressed optimism Tuesday that the United States will not abandon his country after foreign combat troops leave at the end of 2014.
Bismullah Khan Mohammadi said he does not believe America will repeat the mistake it made after the 1989 Soviet pullout from Afghanistan and "forget" his country.
Many Afghans felt abandoned by the US after 1989. US support to mujahedeen fighters who had battled the Soviets dried up a few years later and Afghanistan then sank into civil war. That was followed by the rise of the Taliban and the September 11 attacks by al-Qaeda, which was using Afghanistan as a sanctuary.

"I believe that they will not leave Afghanistan alone, they will help Afghanistan in different areas. I am optimistic that US will support us and help us. Especially with our security," Mohammadi said.

Mohammadi, who accompanied Afghan President Hamid Karzai on a visit to Washington last week, said does not think the US wants Afghanistan to once again become an al-Qaeda safe haven.

"Because they also believe that if Afghanistan once again becomes a safe haven for the terrorists they will not be safe. So I don`t think they will repeat the same mistake as they did in the 1980s in Afghanistan, in which they forgot Afghanistan and that was the main reason which Afghanistan turned into the safe haven for the international terrorists," Mohammadi told reporters.

Although the United States and its allies have committed themselves to fund the Afghan economy and security forces for a few years after 2014, a military presence hinges on a bilateral security agreement that includes the contentious issue of immunity from Afghan law for American troops.

The issue of jurisdiction is not negotiable for the US, which will not leave any troops in Afghanistan after 2014 if it is not resolved. And if the US does not receive such guarantees to stay on, it is doubtful any of its allies who say they plan to keep troops here in a training and mentoring role will stay either.

In Iraq, it was the Iraqi government`s refusal to grant such jurisdiction that caused US troops to completely quit that country.

Mohammadi said he thought the security agreement with the US will be successfully negotiated within the next eight or nine months.

His comments came one day after Karzai said that a meeting of the nation`s elders should convene to decide on the issue of immunity from local prosecution.
Karzai last convened a "loya jirga" a national assembly of elders in late 2011 to decide whether Afghanistan should sign a strategic partnership with the US.

The deal was signed last May after the assembly overwhelmingly approved it.
Despite nearly 12 years of foreign military intervention in Afghanistan, security remains elusive in many parts of the country.