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Diplomacy

US pledges continued support for Afghanistan post-Obama

Defense Secretary Ashton Carter has said the US will maintain its military and financial commitment to Kabul even after Donald Trump takes over as president. Carter is in the Afghan capital on a short visit.

Ashton Carter (pictured above) reaffirmed the United States' commitment to Afghanistan on Friday in Kabul while making a surprise visit to troops in the country. In a joint press conference with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, Carter said the US would not give up its role in the country, where it had been present for more than 15 years and where 2,200 US soldiers had died.

"The interests we are pursuing here and clear and enduring," Carter said, explaining that the goal was to prevent another attack like the one on September 11, 2001 in the US, which killed nearly 3,000 people.

"To have a stable security partner that is eager and willing to work with the United States is an asset for the future for us," Carter said.

The top US commander in Afghanistan, John Nicholson, said the "fundamental logic" of the US' counterterror mission was solid.

"Our policy of having an enduring counterterrorism effort alongside Afghan partners is, in my view, very sound - something that we need to continue," he said.

Watch video 04:01

Inside a NATO training camp in Afghanistan

Extended stay

Ashraf Ghani thanked the US for its military presence, calling Washington's decision to extend its stay in Afghanistan last year "historic." Earlier this year, President Obama had decided to reduce the number of troops to 1,000 by the time his term ended in January 2017, but scrapped that plan after repeated assaults by the Taliban on US bases in Afghanistan.

The trip is Carter's final visit before President Barack Obama's term as president comes to an end and Donald Trump takes over as the US head of state. James Mattis, a retired Marine general, has been chosen by Trump to fill Carter's position.

There are around 10,000 US troops in Afghanistan who train and advise Afghan forces fighting the Taliban, which is getting increasingly difficult to control. According to US estimates, the Afghan government controls around two-thirds of the country's population, with about 10 percent  under the hold of Taliban insurgents.

mg/se (AP, dpa)

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