Iran condemns US over military bases in Afghanistan
Published Thursday, June 14, 2012
Iran on Thursday warned a key international conference that a long-term US military presence in Afghanistan would fan regional insecurity and could plunge the war-torn country back into further chaos.
Representatives from 29 countries gathered in Kabul for the conference, weeks after NATO agreed at a summit in Chicago to stick to plans to withdraw the bulk of 130,000 foreign combat troops from Afghanistan by the end of 2014.
The Taliban militia leading a 10-year insurgency against President Hamid Karzai's government has begun the annual fighting season with a series of attacks which saw US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta admit that violence was rising.
Karzai sought to reassure neighbors that strategic partnership deals signed by Kabul with several Western powers – particularly the United States – to govern relations beyond 2014, would not damage ties.
But the foreign minister of Iran alluded to the Kabul-Washington pact by saying it added to security concerns among Afghanistan's neighbors.
"A particular country intends to prolong its military presence in Afghanistan in pursuit of its extra regional objectives. This certainly adds to the security concerns of Afghanistan's neighboring countries," said Ali Akbar Salehi.
The strategic partnership deal and efforts to establish foreign military bases in Afghanistan ran against regional and international moves to achieve peace, and "could turn this country once again into scene of security rivalries" he said.
Washington denies it is seeking to establish permanent military bases in Afghanistan, but American military sources say they envisage around 15,000 forces remaining in Afghanistan after the 2014 withdrawal.
Last month, Karzai warned that tough talks with Washington lay ahead over a security pact that would address the US presence in Afghanistan beyond 2014, including the crucial issue of the legal status of foreign troops.