U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has announced that the Obama administration has declared Afghanistan a major non-NATO ally of the United States.
The annoucnement, at a news conference at the Presidential Palace in Kabul, came after Clinton arrived on July 7 on an unannounced visit to Afghanistan.
"I am pleased to announce today that President [Barack] Obama has officially designated Afghanistan as a major non-NATO ally of the United States," Clinton said.
"We see this as a powerful symbol of our commitment to Afghanistan's future."
Afghanistan's neighbor Pakistan was the last nation to gain the designation in 2004.
The declaration was part of a strategic partnership agreement signed by Presidents Barack Obama and Hamid Karzai in Kabul at the beginning of May.
Analysts say the move will facilitate defense cooperation between the two countries and make it easier for Afghanistan to acquire U.S. defense materiel.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (left) speaks as Afghan President Hamid Karzai listens during a press conference at the presidential palace in Kabul on July 7.
Clinton later held talks with Karzai in the Afghan capital.
After meeting with Clinton, Karzai left for Japan to attend an Afghan donors conference in Tokyo, which will discuss civilian aid to Afghanistan after military operations end there in 2014.
A statement from the president's office said Karzai will meet Japan's emperor, prime minister, and foreign minister, as well as United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, and the German and French foreign ministers on the sidelines of the conference.
The one-day international conference in Tokyo, scheduled for July 8, will bring together leaders and representatives of 70 countries and international organizations.
Kabul is hoping to secure pledges for some $4 billion to help finance the country after 2014.
This despite the fact that Afghanistan's central bank has said the country needs at least $6 billion a year to spur economic growth over the next decade.
U.S. officials with Clinton declined to say how much aid the United States would pledge.
Donor nations will be eager to hear how Kabul will make sure that their taxpayers' money will not be lost to corruption and mismanagement.
Rights group Amnesty International says donors need confirmation that the aid is directed "to human rights improvements that make a difference to Afghan lives."
Afghanistan has received nearly $60 billion in aid since 2002, but corruption remains rampant in the country.
Transparency International last year said Afghanistan was the second-most corrupt nation in the world.
With reporting by AP and Reuters