KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) - Afghan President Hamid Karzai, who has irked Washington with his frequent criticism of American military operations in his country, said Thursday that his government is now ready to let the U.S. have nine bases across Afghanistan after most foreign troops withdraw in 2014.
White House spokesman Jay Carney said Thursday that the U.S. "does not seek permanent military bases in Afghanistan." The U.S. military presence in Afghanistan after 2014 would be "only at the request of the Afghan government," Carney said.
Karzai said the U.S. wants bases in Kabul; Bagram Air Field, north of the capital; Mazar-e-Sharif in the north; Jalalabad and Gardez near the eastern border with Pakistan; Kandahar and Helmand provinces, which are Taliban strongholds in the south; and Shindand and Herat in western Afghanistan.
In return, Afghanistan wants a U.S. commitment to boost Afghan security, strengthen its armed forces and provide long-term economic development assistance.
As of May, there were 180 coalition bases in Afghanistan, down from a high of more than 425. The bulk of those are U.S. bases. Altogether, the U.S. and its allies had about 800 installations across Afghanistan in October 2011, including small combat outposts and checkpoints. That number has dropped to about 167.
U.S. leaders have repeatedly said that the U.S. does not want to keep permanent bases in Afghanistan, but would want access to Afghan bases based on the number of American troops that remain in the country after 2014.