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NATO’s Post-2014 Afghan Mission Uncertain


Italian soldiers with the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) Sept, 10, 2013. (AP Photo/Hoshang Hashimi)

Italian soldiers with the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) Sept, 10, 2013. (AP Photo/Hoshang Hashimi)

As Kabul and Washington are finalizing a bilateral security and defense agreement to define the U.S. military presence in Afghanistan after 2014, some NATO members have also indicated a willingness to keep troops in the country after their UN-authorized mandate expires on December 31 2014.

Allied states such as Germany, Britain and even Georgia have said they will each keep forces in Afghanistan beyond 2014 under a redefined NATO mission.

However, it’s yet to be decided, between Kabul and NATO, under what arrangements NATO forces will remain in Afghanistan alongside their U.S. allies.

“In principle we’re not opposed to NATO’s presence in Afghanistan after 2014 but NATO has to come up with proposals and we’ll discuss as we have with the U.S.,” Aimal Faizi, a spokesman for President Hamid Karzai told VOA’s Dari Service.

“We would not prefer bilateral agreements with every state but prefer an agreement with NATO that will cover all forces operating under NATO’s command,” said Faizi adding that small NATO member states like Georgia could not provide effective help to Afghanistan in its tough challenges to peace, he said.

U.S. needs allies

Michael O’Hanlon, an expert at Brookings Institution says the U.S. will need its NATO allies present in Afghanistan post-2014 as it embarks on a new mission there.

“The Obama Administration wants to keep U.S. forces level [in Afghanistan] as low as possible partly for budgetary reasons and also because it’s important to have international legitimacy that comes with a multinational approach,” O’Hanlon said.

As of October 2013, more than 86-thousand service personnel from 49 countries, with 60,000 of them from the U.S., were deployed under NATO’s International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) structure in Afghanistan, according to NATO figures.

NATO has 28 member states but 21 other allied states like Jordan, Bahrain and Mongolia have also contributed troops to ISAF.

Some countries such as Canada and the Netherlands have already withdrawn forces from Afghanistan and it is still unclear how many of the remaining allied states would like to keep a military footprint there after 2014.

“Everyone has been waiting to see what happens to the U.S.-Afghanistan bilateral security agreement,” said O’Hanlon, “I would assume, however, that the agreement with United States could be a template and a model for other countries.”

End of UN role

The UN Security Council has authorized NATO’s mission in Afghanistan under resolution 2120 which will expire on December 31 2014 and with that the UN role in authorizing the mission will come to an end.

While authorized by the UN Security Council since 2003 on annual basis, NATO-led ISAF is not a UN peacekeeping force. Its mandate covers operations such as conducting stability and security actions to assisting in the development of Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF).

“The new mandate of NATO in Afghanistan will be very limited and mostly related to training and equipping ANSF,” said Aimal Faizi.

Speaking to VOA on condition of anonymity, one senior Afghan official said President Karzai would not offer immunity from Afghan laws to non-U.S. NATO troops.

Raids on Afghan homes, another prerogative offered to U.S. forces in Afghanistan under exceptional circumstances, would also be denied to NATO allies, the official said.

It took the U.S. over a year and numerous rounds of contentious negotiations to finalize a draft security and defense agreement with the Karzai government. It is still unclear whether President Karzai will eventually put his signature on the agreement, now approved by a Loya Jirga of 2,500 delegates from across Afghanistan, in the next five months of his presidency.

If the U.S. – Afghanistan draft security agreement is a lesson to learn from, any agreement with NATO countries will be a matter for the next president of Afghanistan to deal with.

Akmal Dawi is a managing editor at Voice Of America’s Dari Service.

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