Ten years can change a lot. In the ongoing effort to build a relationship with Afghanistan, Hilary Clinton said the country is officially America's newest ally. On a surprise trip to Afghanistan, Clinton announced that Afghanistan is now considered "a major non-NATO ally" to the United States, joining a list of other best friends like Israel, Japan, Pakistan, Australia and Egypt. "We see this as a powerful commitment to Afghanistan's future," Clinton said at a joint press conference with Hamid Karzai, the Afghan president. "We are not even imagining abandoning Afghanistan."
The trip was a slight detour for Clinton, who is on her way to Tokyo for a conference to discuss Afghanistan's future. The conference is expected to announce $4 billion in annual funding for Afghanistan (on top of $4 billion in military funding) to help the country develop. The New York Times has the best breakdown of what this means for Afghanistan:
The designation by the United States grants special privileges, like access to excess American military supplies, and training, to countries, Mrs. Clinton said at the news conference in Kabul. In a separate statement, the State Department said Afghanistan would be able to benefit in some areas of military planning, and procurement.
Afghanistan will also be able to obtain loans of equipment from the United States and financing for leasing other equipment. The agreement does not, however, “entail any security commitment” by the United States to Afghanistan, the State Department said, unlike America’s commitment to its allies under NATO treaties.
Even though the new agreement gives Afghanistan the ability to purchase U.S. military equipment, the BBC's David Lyon points out it'll be a long time before they have enough to afford it. The move is seen as part of the on-going effort to sooth fears the U.S. will abandon Afghanistan after the planned 2014 troop withdrawl. Clinton said on Saturday that about 10,000 to 25,000 U.S. troops would remain in Afghanistan after 2014 as part of the new agreement to help train Afghan forces to eliminate insurgency.