Russia seeks US explanation over post-2014 Afghan presence




By IANS/RIA Novosti,

Moscow : The terms and goals of the projected US presence in Afghanistan beyond 2014 need to be clarified, the Russian foreign ministry said Thursday.

On Sunday, the US and Afghanistan reached a deal on a strategic partnership agreement that ensures continued US military and financial support to Kabul for at least a decade after most foreign combat troops leave in 2014.

The agreement is expected to be signed during a NATO summit in Chicago in May.

Commenting on the deal, US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta said it "represents a significant step in the relationship and makes clear that the US is committed to an enduring presence in Afghanistan".

Panetta said the details are yet to be worked out "to determine what the nature of and the size of that force beyond 2014 will be".

Russian foreign ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich said Russia touched upon the issue with the US and partners within the NATO-Russia Council, adding that "many key questions" remained unresolved regarding the goals and grounds for such a presence.

Russia's "principal position is that sooner or later, foreign military presence in this country (Afghanistan) should be halted", Lukashevich said.

But until that moment, the international community "needs to take active efforts to improve the military capabilities of the Afghan national armed forces so that they could ensure security on the entire Afghan territory on their own", he said.