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US Diplomat: Washington's Policy on Afghanistan to Remain Unchanged After Election - 2004-07-16

Senior U.S. diplomat Richard Armitage says Washington's policy in Afghanistan will remain unchanged, regardless of who wins the U.S. presidential election in November. Mr. Armitage is visiting the Afghan capital, Kabul, as Afghanistan prepares for its own election.

U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Armitage said Friday that both American political parties agree with the United States' current economic and military support for Afghanistan.

"Regarding our election season, Afghanistan is not an issue. The people of the United States are going to stand with the people of Afghanistan to the successful conclusion of this endeavor," he said.

The United States is a major aid donor to Afghanistan. It also has approximately 17,000 of its troops deployed in the country to help provide security as Afghanistan recovers from over two decades of war.

Afghans are currently preparing for a presidential election on October 9 and a parliamentary election next spring.

But anti-government militants, led by remnants of the former Taleban regime, oppose the election process, which they see as a scheme to ensure U.S. domination over the nation.

The United States joined forces with Afghan dissident fighters in 2001 to oust the Taleban from power, after Taleban leaders refused to surrender accused terrorist Osama bin Laden, blamed for attacks on New York and Washington.

Earlier in the day, Mr. Armitage met with Afghan election workers, offering praise for the country's efforts to include women in the coming election.

"Already over seven million Afghan citizens have been registered to vote and 40 percent of those registered to vote are women. This is a phenomenal achievement, and it's not over," Mr. Armitage said.

The previous Taleban government received strong international criticism while in power for severely limiting the civil rights of women.