US to keep 20,000 troops in nine bases in Afghanistan: Pakistani senator

Islamabad, Sept 14, IRNA – The US will keep approximately 20,000 American and NATO troops in Afghanistan who will reside in nine different bases in different parts of the war-torn country, a top Pakistani senator said on Saturday on the conclusion of visit to Afghanistan.

Chairman of the Pakistani Senate Committee on Defence, Senator Mushahid Hussain Sayed said on his return after a four-day visit that he was informed in Kabul that within the next two months, a bilateral security agreement between Kabul and Washington will be signed that will allow foreign troops to remain in Afghanistan.

Speaking at a news conference he also mentioned that according to informed sources in Kabul, there were over 100,000 American contractors who were engaged in various security and other related responsibilities for both Afghanistan and Pakistan.

“This number would not be affected by the draw-down of NATO troops,” Senator Hussain said.

He referred to the upcoming challenge of 2014 which will be the biggest logistical exercise after World War-II in military terms since 750,000 pieces of armaments, ammunition, equipment and vehicles, worth a total of 35 billion dollars, would have to be taken out of Afghanistan.

He said 70% percent will be transported through Pakistan while the rest would go through the Northern Distribution Network via Central Asia.

The Pakistani delegation had also met President Hamid Karzai, who welcomed the results of a recent parliamentary conference which decided to initiate dialogue with the militants.

Referring to people to people contacts between Pakistan and Afghanistan, Senator Hussain said that the Pakistan Embassy in Kabul was issuing 1200 visas a day without charging any visa fee while at least 55000 people cross over on both sides of the border on a daily basis via 124 various crossing points between the two countries.

Referring to an initiative for greater people to people contact, he announced that a Pakistan-Afghanistan Peoples Friendship Association was being launched, which would hold a big Pakistan-Afghanistan Peoples Friendship Festival in Kabul during October 26-28, 2013.

The four-day visit of the Senate Defence Committee to Kabul has institutionalized the first-ever dialogue on defence, security and military related issues between the two neighbours.

The two sides signed a MOU to institutionalize the dialogue, the next round of which will be convened in Islamabad after the Afghanistan presidential elections in April 2014.

The two sides also issued a joint declaration which was mutually agreed upon, which presented a common vision of problems faced by both countries, and both sides agreed that peace, security and stability in the two neighbours is inextricably intertwined.



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