01:42 GMT +317 December 2017
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    In this July 24, 2016 file photo, a US military personal stands guard during a graduation ceremony for Afghan troops, in Lashkargah, capital of southern Helmand province, Afghanistan.

    Foreign Military Presence Bars Afghanistan From Joining SCO

    © AP Photo/ Abdul Khaliq
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    The Russian president’s special envoy to the Eurasian political and military bloc said that foreign military presence in Afghanistan is stopping it from joining the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation.

    MOSCOW (Sputnik) — Foreign military presence in Afghanistan is stopping it from joining the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), the Russian president’s special envoy to the Eurasian political and military bloc said Tuesday.

    "Afghanistan applied for SCO membership in 2015 … But the internal situation in this country, specifically foreign military presence, calls into question its prospects of membership at least in the long term, considering the existing criteria," Bakhtier Khakimov told the Kommersant newspaper.

    The bloc was founded in Shanghai in 2001 and is made up of China, Russia, India, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, all key regional powers.

    Afghanistan has the status of an observer state due to a residue NATO presence in the country. It was downsized in 2015 when the US-led alliance launched a new mission called Resolute Support with a stated goal of training and assisting Afghan security forces in the fight against Taliban insurgency.

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    Shanghai Cooperation Organization, Afghanistan
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