Kabul: The United States has designated Afghanistan a major non-NATO ally, giving the war-torn country special privileges as the US prepares to pull its troops out in 2014, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said today.
Clinton announced the designation, which provides a long- term framework for security and defence cooperation, during a visit to Kabul where she held talks with President Hamid Karzai.
"We see this as a powerful symbol of our commitment to Afghanistan's future," Clinton said after the meeting.
The new status, which comes into effect immediately, makes it easier for a country to purchase and finance its acquisition of US defence equipment, a US official said.
"As we withdraw, they want to ensure that they continue to have this preferential treatment," he said.
This is the first such designation by President Barack Obama's administration, which will usher Afghanistan into an exclusive club of nations that enjoy privileged ties with the United States.
Other countries with the designation include Pakistan, Israel, Egypt, Japan, Jordan Korea, Argentina, Australia and New Zealand.
"Going forward as we move towards a more normalised relationship these are things that they can really harness," the official said.
Such status allows members priority delivery of defence articles and the right to stockpile US military hardware. Major non-NATO allies also benefit from US government loan guarantee programs which can back up loans issued by private banks to finance arms exports. But they do not benefit from security guarantees that are enjoyed by full members of the western alliance.
Obama vowed at the NATO summit in Chicago in May that Afghanistan would not be abandoned by the international community at the end of the foreign combat mission there in 2014.