WASHINGTON – U.S. and Afghan national security leaders are meeting at the State Department on Thursday and Friday, crafting a long-term security cooperation on some fairly vague topics like security, governance and development.
But one thing is being made clear up front: “The United States does not seek any permanent American military bases in Afghanistan,” said State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland.
The meeting is meant to update 2005’s Joint Declaration of the United States-Afghanistan Strategic Partnership. The American side is led by Ambassador Marc Grossman, special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, and Lt. Gen. Doug Lute, special assistant to the president for Afghanistan and Pakistan. For the Afghans, National Security Advisor Rangin Dadfar Spanta leads a delegation.
“A new Strategic Partnership is intended to provide a transparent political framework for long-term cooperation between the United States and Afghanistan,” Nuland said in a statement. “It will reaffirm our shared commitment to a stable, independent Afghanistan that is not a safe-haven for al-Qaida, as well as U.S. respect for Afghanistan’s sovereignty.”
A photo spray is planned for Spanta’s arrival with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, but so far, no public remarks are on the schedule.
One thing that could help with long-term security: ending the Afghanistan War. For more on that, British Maj. Gen. Phil Jones, director of the Force Reintegration Cell, International Security Assistance Force headquarters, briefed the Pentagon press corps Thursday morning via satellite. He said 2,418 ex-Taliban and other extremists have laid down their weapons, thrown up their hands and given up the fight, minus about 10 percent who switched back.
The last time Jones gave an update, they had a long way to go. He estimated another 10,000 fighters needed to cross over for his program to have a real impact.