A day after Afghan forces with NATO support fought off multiple attacks by Taliban militants, Afghan President Hamid Karzai is focusing on ensuring international financial support after most Western combat troops leave in 2014. In a speech Tuesday, Karzai said he wants the U.S. to guarantee at least $2 billion annually to fund the Afghan army and police under a strategic partnership agreement now being negotiated between the two countries.
Both the U.S. and Afghanistan want a strategic partnership agreement to demonstrate America's commitment to stay engaged in Afghanistan after 2014. Karzai said negotiations have stalled over whether or not to include in the agreement a minimum of $2 billion dollars a year to fund the Afghan army and police.
Karzai said the U.S. side indicated that in the future it may want to increase the amount of funding, but that he wants the strategic partnership document to include a written guarantee that Washington will provide at least $2 billion to Afghan security forces annually.
U.S. officials said they could pay up to about $4 billion a year to fund Afghan forces. But they also said the strategic pact is not meant to be a detailed aid package, but rather a broad framework committing both sides to continue to work together for years to come.
Sunday's attacks by Taliban militants in the Afghan capital and in the eastern Nangarhar, Logar and Paktia provinces have raised concerns about the readiness of Afghan forces to maintain security without U.S. and NATO support.
U.S. officials are pushing to sign the deal before a NATO conference in Chicago in May.
But negotiations over the long-term pact with the U.S. have dragged on for months as Karzai has asked for specific commitments before signing. The biggest of these demands - that the U.S. transfer authority over detainees and night raids to the Afghan government - have been recently resolved.
The Afghan president's comments suggest a growing concern on the Afghan side that the U.S. will not follow through on its promises after most American soldiers leave.
The U.S. has already greatly reduced some funding for development programs in Afghanistan, and a number of NATO nations are accelerating their withdrawal timetables. On Tuesday, Australia announced it would to pull out its troops nearly a year earlier than planned.
Watch video of aftermath of Monday attack, Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard