Clinton: Afghanistan gets special ally status
The designation, effective immediately, is the first such classification the Obama administration has made. Other countries accorded this status by the United States include Israel, Egypt, Australia, New Zealand and Japan.
Clinton, speaking in the gardens of the presidential palace, emphasized the U.S. commitment to Afghanistan's future and stability. "We're not even imagining abandoning Afghanistan," she said.
Clinton was in the Afghan capital for a visit lasting a little more than two hours before heading to Tokyo for a conference on Afghanistan that starts Sunday. The gathering will focus on Afghanistan's economic transition.
International donors will pledge $16 billion in aid for Afghanistan to stabilize the country after NATO troops pull out at the end of 2014, a U.S. official said.
Japanese officials will make the announcement Sunday in Tokyo at an international conference where about 70 countries and organizations will discuss Afghanistan's economic needs during and after the transition.
A U.S. official, who wasn't authorized to speak on the record, said the World Bank has estimated that Afghanistan needs $3.9 billion a year. The $16 billion will be given out over four years, starting this year until 2015, the official said.
The U.S. share will change from year to year, said the official, a member of the party attending the conference with Clinton. It's expected to be in the range of $1 billion to $2.3 billion and will come with accountability measures intended to counter graft.
Clinton said the ally designation will allow Afghanistan access to U.S. military supplies and to take part in training exercises with the U.S. military.
She told Afghan President Hamid Karzai that the security transition is on track. "You will always have our support" in efforts to stabilize the country, Clinton said.
Clinton also reiterated the U.S. commitment to continuing reconciliation talks with the Taliban movement that is fighting Karzai's government. "We see a positive shift," she said.
Clinton said that, while the security situation remains "far from ideal," the country is more stable. The Afghan National Security Forces are in the process of taking over responsibility for the security of 75 percent of the Afghan population, she said.