The terms and goals of the projected U.S. presence in Afghanistan beyond 2014 need to be clarified, Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich said on Thursday.
On Sunday, the United States and Afghanistan reached a deal on a long-delayed strategic partnership agreement that ensures continued U.S. military and financial support to the war-crippled country for at least a decade after most foreign combat troops leave Afghanistan in 2014. The agreement is expected to be signed during a NATO summit in Chicago in May.
Commenting on the deal on Tuesday, U.S. Defence Secretary Leon Panetta said it “represents a significant step in the relationship and makes clear that the U.S. is committed to an enduring presence in Afghanistan.”
He said the details are yet to be worked out “to determine what the nature of and the size of that force beyond 2014 will be.”
Lukashevich said Russia touched upon the issue with its U.S. partners within the NATO-Russia Council, adding that “many key questions” remained unresolved regarding the goals and grounds for such a presence.
Russia’s “principal position is that sooner or later, foreign military presence in this country should be halted,” Lukashevich said. But until that moment, the international community “needs to take active efforts to improve the military capabilities of the Afghan national armed forces so that they could ensure security on the entire Afghan territory on their own.”
He also said Russia was still undecided whether to accept the invitation by NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen to attend the Chicago summit.
“It is important for us to understand whether we are speaking about an occasional invitation or about [NATO’s] readiness for Russia’s participation in such meetings on a permanent basis,” Lukashevich said.
“So far, they have been unable to answer this question,” he said.