Afghanistan/USA — Top-Level Afghan Delegation to Visit Washington

WASHINGTON, May 6, 2010 — Afghan Pres­i­dent Hamid Karzai and sev­er­al mem­bers of his Cab­i­net will vis­it Wash­ing­ton next week for sev­er­al days of ses­sions focused on ensur­ing suc­cess of the U.S. strat­e­gy in Afghanistan and strength­en­ing the two coun­tries’ long-term part­ner­ship, defense offi­cials con­firmed today.

The vis­it will begin with an open­ing cer­e­mo­ny at the State Depart­ment on May 11, and will include a meet­ing host­ed by Pres­i­dent Barack Oba­ma at the White House the next day. Defense Sec­re­tary Robert M. Gates is expect­ed to par­tic­i­pate in most of the ses­sions and will host a bilat­er­al meet­ing at the Pen­ta­gon with Afghan Defense Min­is­ter Abdul Rah­min War­dak, Pen­ta­gon Press Sec­re­tary Geoff Mor­rell told reporters.

The ses­sions will address themes crit­i­cal toward achiev­ing joint objec­tives imple­ment­ing the Afghan government’s Lon­don Con­fer­ence com­mit­ments, Under­sec­re­tary of Defense for Pol­i­cy Michele Flournoy told the Sen­ate For­eign Rela­tions Com­mit­tee.

But both Flournoy and Mor­rell empha­sized that the dis­cus­sions will go beyond imme­di­ate secu­ri­ty issues.

“Meet­ings with Pres­i­dent Oba­ma and U.S Cab­i­net offi­cials will rein­force the long-term and vital part­ner­ship between our two coun­tries in areas rang­ing from secu­ri­ty to gov­er­nance and eco­nom­ic devel­op­ment,” Flournoy said.

“We will make it clear … that we wish this rela­tion­ship to be based on far more than our mutu­al secu­ri­ty con­cerns,” Mor­rell added. “And so, much of the con­ver­sa­tion to take place will be, ‘How do we grow the rest of the rela­tion­ship over the long term?’ as we wish this to be an endur­ing part­ner­ship that out­lasts the war we are cur­rent­ly fight­ing togeth­er.” Among top­ics on the table will be a strength­ened U.S.-Afghan Strate­gic Part­ner­ship Dec­la­ra­tion, to be final­ized lat­er this year, Flournoy said. “This is a shared pri­or­i­ty for the Afghans and for us, and we believe it will add con­fi­dence and clar­i­ty to our long-term part­ner­ship with Afghanistan,” she told the Sen­ate com­mit­tee.

Mor­rell sug­gest­ed sev­er­al means that could be dis­cussed to expand the bilat­er­al rela­tion­ship, includ­ing edu­ca­tion­al and cul­tur­al exchanges, eco­nom­ic devel­op­ment efforts and secu­ri­ty assis­tance beyond a large mil­i­tary pres­ence.

In addi­tion to fos­ter­ing a long-term rela­tion­ship between the two coun­tries, these efforts will offer the Afghans assur­ance of the endur­ing U.S. com­mit­ment there, Mor­rell said. “We are not going to turn our backs on Afghanistan as we did after the defeat of the Sovi­ets,” he said. “We are not going to aban­don this cause. We are very much there for the long run.”

The hope is this recog­ni­tion will give the Afghanistan gov­ern­ment the con­fi­dence “to take on some of the hard issues that it needs to in the years to come – know­ing that we are going to be there to back them up; we are going to be there in sup­port for the long run,” Mor­rell said.

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)