DUSHANBE - General James Mattis, the head of US Central Command, on Saturday held talks with Takjik President Emomali Rakhmon as Washington seeks continued support for its military operation in next-door Afghanistan. "Tajikistan would like to see further strengthening of the development of ties with the United States in the sphere of security and the establishment of peace and stability in the region," Rakhmon told the visiting US general in comments released by his office. Mattis for his part thanked Tajikistan for its support of the NATO-led operation in Afghanistan, saying Washington would continue providing assistance to the impoverished Central Asian nation's army and border guards.

, the Tajik statement said. "The need to ramp up such cooperation is increasing, especially from 2014, that is upon the withdrawal of international coalition forces from Afghanistan," said the statement.

Tajikistan, which shares a porous 1,340-kilometre (830-mile) border with war-torn Afghanistan, agreed in 2009 to permit the overland transit of non-military supplies intended for NATO operations in Afghanistan.

Under NATO's strategy, Afghan army and police are due to assume security for the whole of the country by the end of 2014, while the United States hopes to keep a small force in place post-2014 pending negotiations with the Kabul government.

On Friday, Mattis held talks with Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov, the leader of isolated but energy-rich Turkmenistan. On Thursday, he met with Uzbek President Islam Karimov.

The office of Karimov whose country also provides Washington with logistical support for the war in neighboring Afghanistan said the two countries had recently improved cooperation in political, economic, and regional security matters.