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Saturday, December 5, 2009

India to decide on its role in Afghanistan: US

NEW DELHI: The US has not sought Indian troop deployment in Afghanistan and it was for New Delhi to decide on a possible military role in that country, Admiral Robert F. Wilard, who heads the US Pacific Command, said on Friday even as he praised India's "rebuilding role" in Afghanistan.

"We have not sought any ground level cooperation (deployment) from India. We are happy with India's rebuilding role in Afghanistan," Willard told reporters here.

"It (deployment of Indian troops in Afghanistan) is for Indian military and establishment to decide," he added.

Willard reiterated that "succeeding in Afghanistan and stabilising Pakistan" are in the larger interests of the US. The US has announced addition of 30,000 troops in Afghanistan and has envisaged boosting of the Afghan National Army.

"This (sending of more troops to Afghanistan) will start but there is no end date on the withdrawal of troops," said Willard.

Willard met Indian Army chief General Deepak Kapoor, Navy chief Admiral Nirmal Verma and Air Force vice chief Air Marshal P.K. Barbora Thursday. He also met Defence Secretary Pradeep Thakur.

India has time and again ruled out sending troops to Afghanistan to be part of the US-led offensive but has been providing developmental and medical aid as mandated by the United Nations.

India's military interaction with Afghanistan has been through training its military officers in the National Defence Academy here. It also runs a medical facility in Afghanistan staffed by army doctors. It has also posted instructors to teach English and martial music to Afghan soldiers and officers.

India is heavily investing in Afghanistan, particularly in infrastructure projects such as roads, hospitals, schools and the new parliament building in Kabul. Indian reconstruction aid totals $1.5 billion.

India had hosted Afghan army's chief General Bismillah Khan Mohammadi earlier this year. Mohammadi has also been seeking enhanced military cooperation between the two countries.

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