AFGHANISTAN: US MILITARY BASE
- AFGHANISTAN LIKELY TO HAVE PERMANENT US MILITARY - TOP
Peter Spiegel, Financial Times, 4/5/05
Afghanistan's defence minister on Tuesday gave one of the clearest
signs yet that Kabul is open to permanent basing of US forces in the
country, saying his government was in discussions with the US that
could include air bases in Afghanistan after the current nation-
building process ends.
General Abdul Rahim Wardak said the details of what would constitute
a long-term US presence were still under discussion. But he
signalled Kabul was eager for "enduring arrangements" that could
include permanent air bases or "pre-positioned" military equipment
that would be used by rapidly deployed US forces in a crisis.
"We will certainly seek enduring relations and partnerships with our
international friends," Gen Wardak told a gathering of military
analysts in London. "This will prevent the repetition of the
catastrophic disengagement of the international community from
Afghanistan in the 1990s, which cost us all so dearly."
The discussions have been under way for several months, but both US
and Afghan officials have been reluctant to discuss the issue given
geopolitical sensitivities in the region, particularly in
Senator John McCain, an influential Republican on defence issues,
first hinted at such a possibility in February, when after a meeting
with Afghan President Hamid Karzai in Kabul, he said it was
his "personal view" that permanent joint bases should be
Last month, General Richard Myers, chairman of the joint chiefs of
staff, acknowledged during a trip to Afghanistan that the US was
considering such a move. Such comments come as the US continues to
expand its capabilities at its main air base in Bagram, a Soviet-era
facility north of Kabul, where it is building a new runway. Bagram
would be the most likely location of a permanent US presence.
Gen Wardak sought to assuage concerns of neighbouring countries of a
permanent US presence, saying any agreement with the US would come
at the same time Kabul attempted to secure security pacts with
He dismissed reports that the US was using Afghanistan as a staging
base to conduct reconnaissance operations in Iran. "The US has
enough electronic capability to do it from anywhere else. They don't
need to do it from Afghanistan."
The US military is due this week to hand control of a civil-military
unit based in the western city of Herat, close to the Iranian
border, to Nato. The handover is part of a scheduled expansion of
the Nato-led International Security Assistance Force, but may help
quell rumours that the US was using the unit as a figleaf for a
military build-up near Afghanistan's neighbour.
Additional reporting by Victoria Burnett in Islamabad
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