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US designates Afghanistan as 'major non-NATO ally'

The US has designated Afghanistan a 'major non-NATO ally.' The move came shortly after Secretary of State Hillary Clinton arrived on an unannounced visit to Kabul, where she met with President Hamid Karzai.

The United States has designated Afghanistan as a "major non-NATO ally." This status will make it easier for Afghanistan to purchase military hardware from the US.

Afghanistan is the 15th country, including Israel, Egypt, Japan and Australia, to which Washington has granted this status.

The announcement came shortly after US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton arrived on an unannounced visit to Kabul, where she met with Afghan President Hamid Karzai ahead of an international donors' conference.

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The U.S. announces Afghanistan to be a "major non-NATO ally"

"We see this as a powerful commitment to Afghanistan's future," Clinton said at a joint news conference.

"There are a number of benefits that accrue to countries that have this designation. They are able to have access to defense supplies, for example."

"They can take part in certain kinds of training and capacity-building," Clinton added.

Both the Afghan president and the US secretary of state were to attend the donors' conference on Sunday, which is to be hosted by the Japanese foreign minister, Koichiro Gemba, in Tokyo.

"Considering that we are almost literally flying by, the secretary wanted to be able to stop in Kabul en route to Tokyo, in large part just to check signals before this last major, significant ministerial conference," the AFP news agency quoted a US State Department official as saying.

Sunday's conference is meant to drum up financial support for Kabul after the Western military alliance NATO completes its withdrawal of combat troops by the end of 2014.

Karzai has said that he hopes to receive international pledges for Afghanistan of $4 billion (3.25 billion euros) annually. However, the World Bank has estimated that Kabul will need slightly less.

It remains unclear how long the international aid is to continue, the issue being the subject of continuing negotiations.

tj,pfd / rc (AFP, AP, Reuters)

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