The new US-Afghan pact

The United States is likely to retain a military presence in Afghanistan for another decade following its troops withdrawal in 2014. Denying any plans for a long-time presence, the US has redefined the terms of its engagement with Kabul in a new strategic pact, aptly titled “Enduring Strategic Partnership Agreement between Afghanistan and the United States”.

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Published: Wed 25 Apr 2012, 9:59 PM

Last updated: Fri 3 Apr 2015, 12:38 AM

First and foremost, the agreement sends out a loud and clear message to the Taleban-led insurgency that the deadline for troops withdrawal would not materialise in Washington leaving the country to the warring factions once again as was the case in the post-Soviet withdrawal scenario. Continued training and support of the Afghan forces, for at least another 10 years is a top agenda priority as is the funding of the forces, estimated to cost at least $ 4 billion annually. This is not anything new. Previously as well US officials have hinted at a longer presence and especially so after Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s call to have an international presence to help with security and development work after the withdrawal deadline.

More significant is the part that states that United States will not launch any attacks on a neighbouring country from Afghan soil. While this is good news for Pakistan that has been at the receiving end of the countless drone strikes from across the Durand Line, a contradictory clause in the same agreement throws up another question that automatically safeguards any US action.

According to Afghan national security adviser Rangin Dadfar Spanta, the agreement gives the US the right to take action, even military, if it deems any third party interference in Afghanistan affecting US interests. While this is conditional on Kabul’s approval, it does send a strong message to Pakistan which in Washington’s viewpoint has not taken credible action against powerful Afghan insurgent groups, allegedly in its tribal areas. How the strained US-Pakistan relations fare in these three years is yet to be seen. The good news is that Islamabad and Kabul seem to be on a better wavelength despite the sporadic blame game following any major insurgent attack in Kabul against the government installations or personnel. Similarly, while Islamabad and Washington are yet to achieve a degree of harmony after a disastrous spell that marred their counter-terrorism ties, there has been some improvement after Pakistan government redefined terms of engagement in the war on terror. The good news for Kabul is that it has assumed responsibility for the night raids and for running of Bagram detention facility from the US-led Coalition. While it is heartening to see Kabul set the terms of strategic engagement with its allies, there should be renewed efforts on reaching a political agreement with the insurgents on an urgent basis.

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