Thorning-Schmidt pledges continued support to Afghanistan

Afghan president Hamid Karzai was on a state visit today to sign a ‘partnership agreement’ between the two countries

Afghanistan president Hamid Karzai was in Copenhagen today to meet with PM Helle Thorning-Schmidt (Socialdemokraterne) and discuss relations between the two countries.

The primary topic of the Karzai's official state visit was Denmark's military and civil engagement in Afghanistan up to and following the Danish military's withdrawal later this year.

Thorning-Schmidt and Karzai signed a long-term "partnership agreement" that expresses Denmark's commitment to remain engaged in Afghanistan after the military pulls out.

"Denmark has been deeply engaged in Afghanistan for more than eleven years," Thorning-Schmidt said prior to today's meeting. "Therefore it is only natural that we sign a strategic partnership agreement that will seal a mutual desire for long-term co-operation."

The agreement pledges Denmark's commitment to help foster stabile development in Afghanistan, but stresses that Afghanistan has "full responsibility" for its political, social and economic development and, after 2014, will be solely responsible for its own security situation.

Denmark has previously committed to put a greater focus on efforts to aid civil society in Afghanistan after its military engagement ends. The Danish government will contribute to the development of the Afghan police force and will give more than two billion kroner to Afghanistan in financial support. Denmark has also proposed a globally-committed relief effort to help Afghans.

Thorning-Schmidt and Karzai used this afternoon's press conference to compliment each other.

Thorning-Schmidt told Karzai that Afghanistan "had come a long way" under his leadership and that he could continue to "trust Denmark", while Karzai thanked Thorning-Schmidt for Denmark's "extremely valuable contribution".

Karzai also used the press conference to dispute reports that the lives of Afghan interpreters who assisted coalition forces were in danger in his country.

"Interpreters for Denmark can feel safe in Afghanistan," Karzai told the assembled press.

The safety of Afghan interpreters has been a hot issue in Denmark. The defence minister, Nick Hækkerup (Socialdemokraterne), has thus far ruled out offering asylum for Afghan interpreters who assisted the Danish military. He said last month however, that Denmark has a moral responsibility to the interpreters and that Denmark would be in dialogue with the US and Britain to address the issue of interpreters' safety.

Despite Karzai's claim today, reports from both the UN and the Danish Immigration Service have concluded that Afghans who have co-operated with NATO forces are particularly under threat from the Taleban. Karzai's assessment also contradicts a former Afghan interpreter who recently shared his story with The Copenhagen Post.

Prior to the press conference, Karzai visited the military area at Kastellet with Hækkerup and the foreign minister, Villy Søvndal (Socialistisk Folkeparti).

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