KABUL - US Ambassador James B. Cunningham has said withdrawing all troops from Afghanistan after 2014 will not be in the interests of either country, downplaying the so-called zero option.
At an event hosted by the Afghan Institute for Strategic Studies (AISS) in Kabul late on Tuesday, the diplomat said: "The zero choice would not be a choice that we would want."
Mooted earlier this year by US deputy national security advisor Ben Rhodes, the idea has sparked concerns among politicians and civil society leaders, who fear a complete pullout could be detrimental to hard-won gains over the past decade.
With representatives from ministries, lawmakers, civil society leaders and media in attendance, the ambassador said the next decade would represent an opportunity for the Afghans to build their country. "You will have lots of international help to do that."
The Bilateral Security Agreement signified the long-term commitment of the United States to Afghanistan, Cunningham said, hailing post-2014 pledges reflected a unique offer of partnership from the international community,
"My country is very proud to lead this, but it’s an offer that must be taken up by the Afghans,” remarked the ambassador, who called next year's presidential elections the most important priority.
In response to a query, Cunningham said: “The zero choice would not be a choice that we would want. We don’t think it’s in the interests of the Afghan people or of the United States.”
Supporting women's rights was a core issue for the US in Afghanistan and around the world, he said. “One of the outcomes of a political process has to be respect for the Afghan Constitution and the protections that it provides for human rights and for women’s rights.” (Pajhwok)