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US hints long presence in Afghanistan

Press TV [1]
April 15, 2011

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has once again shied away from expounding on a timeline about the US military pullout from war-weary Afghanistan.

“We need to underscore that we are transitioning, not leaving,” AFP quoted Clinton as saying at a meeting of NATO foreign ministers in Berlin on Thursday.

“For the transition to be sustainable and irreversible and for reconciliation and diplomacy to bear fruit, we must sustain our efforts,” she added.

The top US diplomat claimed the fight against militants in Afghanistan has made progress in the past 15 months. However, US Democrat lawmakers have rejected the upbeat government assessment of progress in Afghanistan, pointing out that 2010 has been the deadliest year for both Afghan people and US soldiers.

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Clinton also warned of a “violent spring fighting season” in Afghanistan, saying that the withdrawal of troops will benefit the Taliban as there is the possibility of a rise in the militants’ attacks.

Since 2009, Washington has tripled the number of US troops in Afghanistan to 100,000. The Obama Administration had promised to begin a drawdown of troop levels in July but later announced that US forces would leave in 2014.

The US has plans to set up permanent military bases in Afghanistan, claiming the bases are aimed at fighting the Taliban and al-Qaeda. However, the plan has spawned outrage and criticism from Afghan people and officials who insist that they will never succumb to the subjection of foreigners.

At least 1,424 American soldiers have been killed in Afghanistan since the US-led invasion of the country began in 2001, according to a recent report by the Associated Press.