- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 12, 2012

Afghan officials visiting Washington this week asked the West to have patience with the Afghan war effort.

“I ask the people and the government of the United States that you have come a long way with us on a long, difficult journey, the final destination is now within the reach,” Defense Minister Gen. H.E. Abdul Rahim Wardak said Thursday at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “Please help us to reach the final destination.”

Gen. Wardak’s comments come just ahead of a NATO defense ministerial meeting in Brussels next week, and ahead of a NATO conference in May in Chicago, where members are expected to pledge financial support to sustain the Afghan National Security Forces after international combat troops leave in 2014.

Interior Minister Bismallah Khan Mohammadi, speaking alongside Gen. Wardak, said a strategic partnership agreement between the U.S. and Afghanistan will be signed before the Chicago conference.

The agreement would dictate the future diplomatic and economic U.S.-Afghan relationship after 2014, and is seen by experts as key to a stable withdrawal of NATO troops from Afghanistan.

It also is seen as crucial to sustaining financial support of the growing Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF), which are expected to reach a peak of 352,000 troops by October.

Gen. Wardak said Afghanistan is unable to sustain the ANSF in the foreseeable future but added that his country would increase its share as its economy develops.

“These partnerships help us look beyond 2014 … [and] provide stability both for Afghanistan and the region,” he said.

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