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Afghanistan named major non-NATO U.S. ally

  |   July 7, 2012 at 8:00 AM
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WASHINGTON, July 7 (UPI) -- The Obama administration Saturday designated Afghanistan a major non-NATO ally of the United States, the White House said.

President Barack Obama announced the designation in a memorandum to U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

"Consistent with the authority vested in me as president by Section 517 of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961, as amended ... I hereby designate the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan as a major non-NATO ally of the United States for the purposes of the act and the Arms Export Control Act," the president said in the memo to Clinton.

"You are authorized and directed to publish this determination in the Federal Register."

The Foreign Assistance Act states no assistance will be given to a government that "engages in a consistent pattern of gross violations of internationally recognized human rights, including torture or cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment, prolonged detention without charges, causing the disappearance of persons by the abduction and clandestine detention of those persons, or other flagrant denial of the right to life, liberty, and the security of person, unless such assistance will directly benefit the needy people in such country."

Clinton, during a visit Saturday to Afghanistan, said the designation is a "powerful symbol" of the U.S. commitment to Afghanistan after the departure of U.S. troops in 2014, Voice of America reported.

"This is the kind of relationship that we think will be especially beneficial as we do the transition and as we plan for the post-2014 presence because it will open the door to Afghanistan's military to have a greater capacity and a broader kind of relationship with the United States," Clinton said.

The secretary pledged continued support to Afghan President Hamid Karzai, with whom she met in Kabul.

"We know Afghanistan has an agenda ahead of itself to make key economic reforms, to fight corruption, to strengthen the rule of law, to attract more trade and investment," Clinton said. "And I want to commend President Karzai for his strong public pledges to stamp out corruption and build institutions that will be critical for Afghanistan's future."

The United States and its allies have been at war in Afghanistan since Oct. 7, 2001, when they invaded the country to topple the Taliban regime that had provided safe haven for al-Qaida, which was responsible for the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks on the United States. Karzai, who has strong ties to the United States and other NATO members, has been president of Afghanistan since 2002, first appointed on an interim basis and then winning two elections.

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