Clinton: Afghanistan’s New Status – `Not Even Imagining Abandoning’

As the U.S. winds down its war in Afghanistan, President Barack Obama has effectively removed two long-running wars from this year’s election debate. And Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who was Obama’s most threatening election challenger in 2008, is nearing the end of a term-long tour as the nation’s chief diplomat. Clinton, who has logged more than 100 nations in her rounds, moved from  Kabul to Tokyo this weekend.

Filed from Kabul by Bloomberg’s Nicole Gaouette:

Afghanistan will be granted major non-NATO ally status, a designation that allows for expedited loans and exports, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said today in Kabul.

The designation, which goes into effect immediately, is the first such classification the Obama administration has made. Other countries accorded MNNA status by the U.S. include Israel, Egypt, Australia, New Zealand and Japan.

Clinton, speaking in the gardens of the presidential palace in Kabul, emphasized the U.S. commitment to Afghanistan’s future and stability. “We’re not even imagining abandoningAfghanistan,” she said.

Clinton was in the Afghan capital for a visit lasting a little more than two hours before heading to Tokyo for a conference on Afghanistan that starts tomorrow. The gathering, which will focus on Afghanistan’s economic transition, will include financial pledges by nations attending.

While State Department officials traveling with Clinton have refused to comment on how much the U.S. will offer, they say it will be in line with previous levels of giving. When asked about the amount countries are expected to pledge to Afghanistan at the Tokyo conference, Clinton declined to answer.

Afghanistan needs an estimated $3.9 billion a year, according to a World Bank estimate.

Clinton said the MNNA designation will allow Afghanistan access to U.S. military supplies and allow it to take part in training exercises with the U.S. military.

She told Afghan President Hamid Karzai that the security transition is on track. “You will always have our support” in efforts to stabilize the country, Clinton said.

The secretary of state also reiterated the U.S. commitment to continuing reconciliation talks with the Taliban movement that is fighting Karzai’s government. “We see a positive shift,” she said.

See Clinton’s press conference with Karzai here.

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