The Obama administration on Saturday declared Afghanistan the United States’ newest “major non-NATO ally,” an action designed to facilitate close defense cooperation after U.S. combat troops withdraw from the country in 2014 and as a political statement of support for Afghanistan’s long-term stability.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, who arrived in Kabul on an unannounced visit to meet Afghan President Hamid Karzai, disclosed the alliance to diplomats at the U.S. Embassy.

The designation allows for streamlined defense cooperation, including expedited purchasing ability of American equipment and easier export control regulations. Afghanistan’s military, which is heavily dependent on American and foreign assistance, already enjoys many of these benefits. The non-NATO ally status guarantees it will continue to do so.

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