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Last Updated: Wednesday, 13 April, 2005, 17:48 GMT 18:48 UK
Karzai seeks US strategic links
Donald Rumsfeld and Hamid Karzai in Kabul
Mr Karzai talked of a "strategic security relationship"
Afghan President Hamid Karzai has said his country wants a long-term security relationship with the United States.

Mr Karzai was speaking after talks with US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld in the capital, Kabul.

Mr Rumsfeld flew into Afghanistan on Wednesday morning from Iraq. He is now in Pakistan for talks on military ties and the war on terror.

Correspondents say the US is assessing the future military role of American troops in Afghanistan.


Reports say the possibility of setting up permanent US military bases in Afghanistan figured in the discussions.

But Mr Rumsfeld skirted the issue.

"What we generally do when we work with another country [is] we find ways we can be helpful, maybe training, equipment or other types of assistance," he told a news conference.

Extremists in this part of the world continue to thrive
US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld

"We think in terms of what we are doing rather than the question of military bases."

Mr Karzai said Afghans wanted "a longer-term relationship with the United States".

"They want this relationship to be a sustained economic and political relationship and most importantly of all, a strategic security relationship to enable Afghanistan to defend itself, to continue to prosper," he said.

Security threat

Mr Rumsfeld went straight into talks with President Musharraf on arrival in Pakistan.

The BBC's Zaffar Abbas in Islamabad says President Bush sees General Musharraf as one of the US's most trusted allies in the region.

Donald Rumsfeld in Kandahar
Rumsfeld told troops in Kandahar they were doing a "superb job"

Talks centred on Pakistan's security operation in the tribal areas against suspected al-Qaeda fighters and other Islamic militants.

Mr Rumsfeld had earlier visited the southern Afghan city of Kandahar to boost morale among coalition troops still engaged in fighting Taleban militants in the south and to get an overview of the reconstruction work.

He told the US troops that they and their colleagues in Iraq were doing an "absolutely superb job", the AFP news agency reported.

Despite a recent increase in attacks, Washington maintains the militants have been significantly weakened.

This has allowed the US to shift some of its resources to what most Afghans see as the biggest threat to the country's security: the rising production in opium and heroin, the BBC's Paul Anderson reports from Kabul.

Afghanistan supplied more than 80% of the world's demand for heroin last year, according to the UN.

A decision on the future of US forces in Afghanistan is not expected before Afghan parliamentary elections in September.

Assuming these are successful, correspondents say the Americans are widely expected to begin pulling out their troops.

Mr Rumsfeld has visited Afghanistan a number of times - the last one was in December for President Karzai's inauguration.

Hamid Karzai wants a lasting Afghan-US relationship

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