WASHINGTON

The United States is not seeking permanent military bases in Afghanistan, and any future American presence in the country will be possible only at the invitation of the Afghan government, according to White House spokesman Jay Carney.

The spokesman echoed what US President Barack Obama said in response to a statement made by Afghan President Hamid Karzai earlier in the day about Washington’s intention to set up nine military bases across the Asian nation after the exit of most US and NATO combat troops by the end of 2014.

“The United States does not seek permanent military bases in Afghanistan, and any US presence after 2014 would only be at the invitation of the Afghanistan government and aimed at training Afghanistan forces and targeting the remnants of al-Qaeda,” Carney told reporters at a regular briefing on Thursday.

Washington and Kabul have been working on a deal allowing a limited US military presence in Afghanistan, as US and NATO troops have failed to weed out the Taliban and al-Qaeda forces in a bloody and costly war that has lasted more than 11 years.

“As we have said, we envision that the bilateral security agreement will address access to and use of Afghanistan facilities by US forces,” Carney noted. “But we seek no permanent military bases in Afghanistan. We’ve been very clear about that.”

In a speech at the Kabul University on Thursday, Karzai said that Washington wants military bases in major Afghan cities including Kabul, Bagram, Mazar-i-Sharif, Jalalabad, Gardez, Kandahar, Helmand, Shindand and Herat. He added that Kabul conditions the request on US help in boosting the country’s security and national forces as well as in building a strong economy and government.

Negotiations between the US and Afghan governments on security agreements started late last year. Karzai stressed on Thursday that Afghanistan would seek a balanced relationship with other nations and try to allay concerns of its neighbours.