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Russia Warns US against Afghan Bases

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TEHRAN, Feb 20 (ICANA) – Russia has warned the US against setting up permanent military bases in Afghanistan, saying the move could undermine peacemaking efforts and anger neighbors.
Sunday, February 20, 2011 9:43:00 AM

Afghan President Hamid Karzai has confirmed US plans to set up permanent bases in the war-torn country to enable US troops to stay in Afghanistan beyond the 2014 deadline. Karzai says the US officials are in talks with the Afghan government in this regard. "This information makes one think and raises questions," the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Saturday. "Why will US military bases be needed if the terrorist threat in ... Afghanistan is ended?" "Will Kabul be able to combine negotiations on a long-term American military presence with the reconciliation process? How will Afghanistan's neighbors view the deployment of a foreign country's military bases near their territory?" Moscow questioned. Some 15,000 Russian troops and 1 million Afghans were killed during the former's Soviet Union's 1980s war in Afghanistan that lasted an entire decade. In fact, the disastrous Cold War conflict contributed to the 1991 Soviet collapse. The Afghan president during his February 9 press conference did not give a date for finalizing the deal with the US, but said any long-term partnership would need to be approved by the parliament and the grand tribal council known as the Loya Jirga. Karzai also emphasized that long-term US bases would not be "used as (a) base against other countries and that Afghanistan is not a place from where our neighbors could be threatened." If an agreement is reached on permanent bases, US troops will remain on Afghan soil beyond the planned transfer of security responsibilities by the end of 2014 -- a process scheduled to start in the spring this year. This is while US President Barack Obama has pledged to begin withdrawing US troops from Afghanistan this year. Afghanistan's Minister of Energy and Water Mohammad Ismail Khan also strongly rejected the plans for establishing permanent US military bases in his country. Speaking on Tuesday in a ceremony to commemorate the anniversary of the Soviet troops' withdrawal from Afghanistan, Ismail Khan slammed Afghan Defense Minister Abdul Rahim Wardak for his support of the plan. Ismail Khan pointed out that the defense minister should change his stance as he had ignored the dignity of the Afghan people. The minister of energy and water further reiterated that the Afghans would be capable of providing security in the war-hit country if foreigners stop interfering. There are now over 150,000 US-led troops in Afghanistan fighting the Taliban.

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