WASHINGTON – Afghanistan still needs international assistance to provide stability and secure development,a spokesman for the country's ambassador to the United States said.
He was reacting to a July 5 call by other Central Asian countries for the U.S. to pull its troops from the region.
Even though Operation Enduring Freedom,which the U.S. military began in Afghanistan on Oct. 7,2001,is nearing completion,Afghanistan still needs coalition forces to continue reconstructing the country,the spokesman for the Embassy of Afghanistan,Ashras Haidari,said in an interview.
“We all know that Afghanistan needs continued international assistance for the ongoing reconstruction of the country,” Haidari said.
On July 5,the Shanghai Cooperation Organization,which comprises Russia,China,Uzbekistan,Kazakhstan,Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan,signed a declaration calling on the U.S. government to close its military bases and withdraw its troops from Central Asia.
“As the active military phase in the anti-terror operation in Afghanistan is nearing completion,the SCO members consider it necessary that relevant members of the anti-terrorist coalition determine on a deadline for the temporary use of the said infrastructure and for their military contingents' presence in SCO member countries,” according to an account published in Kazpravda,a state-run newspaper in Astana,Kazakhstan.
The organization's declaration said Afghanistan's political situation is now stable and that its neighbor countries should be the ones to provide further assistance.
Frederick Starr,a Johns Hopkins University research professor and chairman of the Central Asia-Caucasus Institute,criticized the SCO proposal.
“It would be a foolish idea and would put at risk everything that the U.S.,U.N.,Japan,and Europe has achieved in that country. This is an ill-advised and cynical proposal put forth by Russia and China,” Starr said in an interview.
“Afghanistan needs more security,not less. This move would eventually threaten the security of China and Russia,” Starr added.
Joe Carpenter,a Department of Defense spokesman,said in an interview that “access to the Uzbek airfield has been critical in helping the U.S. and coalition forces combat the Taliban and al Qaeda,facilitate delivery of humanitarian assistance to areas in northern Afghanistan and help spread democracy to neighboring Afghanistan.”
In response to a request for reaction,the Uzbek Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a statement underscoring that the U.S. government has not covered Uzbekistan's expenses to guarantee the Khanabad airfield's security,nor has it compensated the country for the environmental waste and other problems.
“The U.S. practically has not made any payments to cover the extra costs made by Uzbek side to ensure the Khanabad airfield security,establish and exploit the needed infrastructure,and nor has compensated the environmental damage and discomfort for the local population,” the statement said.
Carpenter said that in 2003 the U.S. paid Uzbekistan $15.7 million for services at the airfield for 2001 and 2002. “Only recently did the U.S. government receive reimbursement requests for 2003 and 2004 services,” he said.
The U.S. military operation,launched in Afghanistan as part of the military response to the Sept. 11,2001,terrorist attacks,intended to destroy terrorist training camps,infrastructure and al Qaeda leaders in Afghanistan.
Two bases,one at Kyrgyzstan's Manas International Airport and one at Uzbek's Karshi-Kanabad Airfield,have been used by the U.S. military forces to provide security to the Afghanistan border since the beginning of the Enduring Freedom operation.
Afghanistan was quickly liberated from the Taliban regime's rule,and in December 2001,Afghan leaders created an interim government.
In January 2004,a constitutional Loya Jirga ratified a new constitution,one of the most enlightened political charters in the Muslim world. That October,more than 8 million people cast ballots,with 41 percent of women voting,to elect Hamid Karzai as president.
On Sept. 18,the Afghan people will return to the polls to elect the National Assembly.
During Karzai's most recent visit to Washington last month,he and president Bush signed the “Joint Declaration of U.S. – Afghanistan Strategic partnership.” The document outlined a joint cooperation between two countries in security,democracy and prosperity.
Last week,Kyrgyzstan Ambassador to the United States Zamira Sadykova said,however,that the SCO declaration “can't determine when stability will finally be established in the region”
“This declaration is intended to be a first step towards talking about Afghan issues,” Sadykova said.
“The declaration was a proposal for a discussion. But it doesn't mean that the countries should immediately withdraw air forces from Central Asia,” Haidari said.
The most recent death report says that 169 U.S. personnel have died in and around Afghanistan. In the last two weeks,a helicopter carrying 16 soldiers on their way to rescue a four-man Navy SEAL commando team crashed,killing all aboard. One of the Navy SEALs was found alive.