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Foreign Minister Stresses Close Ties with U.S.

In an interview with Radio Free Europe on January 28, Foreign Minister Dr. Rangin D. Spanta stressed that Afghanistan and the U.S. maintain a close strategic partnership aimed at securing and stabilizing Afghanistan.

Responding to a question about an agreement with Afghanistan and the Russian Federation, Foreign Minister Spanta stated, "I must insist that even when we have a strategic partnership with the United States, we want aid and economic cooperation with the Russian Federation and other countries. But we are not looking for alternatives to our strategic partners." The U.S. and Afghanistan completed the third round of talks on the U.S.-Afghanistan Strategic Partnership in September 2008.

Afghanistan's chief diplomat also welcomed the appointment of Richard Holbrooke as President Barack Obama's Special Envoy for Afghanistan, Pakistan and India, noting that it would with the coordination of military and reconstruction efforts. "I think that the appointment of the special envoy is very important to bridge this coordination gap between Afghanistan and members of the international community, and in particular America is important - because of its role as the leader of the war on terrorism," he said.

During the interview, Foreign Minister Spanta also highlighted the need to fight terrorist sanctuaries outside of Afghanistan as a key part of the U.S.'s war on terror. "In our view, the fight against terrorism should largely take place outside Afghanistan," explained Dr. Spanta. "Terrorist centers situated outside Afghanistan should be dealt with."

He also advocated for increasing the size and capacity of the Afghan National Army, which grew to 76,000 troops in 2008 and is set to expand to 134,000 in the next five years. "A process of Afghanization of the campaign against terror should take place. And this includes speeding up the process of training and expansion of the Afghan National Army, and the police needs to be strengthened. Civilian casualties should be decreased. These are issues we will discuss with the new administration," he stated.

Foreign Minister Spanta also admitted that while challenges remain in Afghanistan, the advances over the last seven years have been significant. "Despite difficulties, our society is moving toward a democratic and pluralistic society. We do not want to move this country back to the failed experiments of the past - experiments that lack any democratic legitimacy," he said.

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