January 29, 2014
Afghan Officials Give Mixed Reactions to Obama SOTU Address
Politicians and peace negotiators from Afghanistan gave mixed reactions to parts of US President Barack Obama's State of the Union address dealing with the future of U.S. troops there.
Mr. Obama said the U.S. is prepared to leave a small force in Afghanistan to help train and assist Afghan forces, as it ends its long combat mission in the country.
Former Afghan Prime Minister Ahmad Shah Ahmadzai, who is one of several politicians and peace negotiators attending a conference in Islamabad, told VOA that although he approves of Mr. Obama's plan to withdraw forces by the end of this year, he does not think part of the force should be left behind to train Afghan soldiers.
"If American or Western countries want to train Afghan soldiers that should be done in another separate agreement not including the existing American or NATO forces in Afghanistan. Even if very small number of forces are there and agreed on, they will do what they want. And the things they want to do are not in the interest of the Afghan nation."
Ghairat Baheer, spokesman for an Afghan insurgent group, says American forces should withdraw from Afghanistan "completely and unconditionally".
"Even if they are asking for the presence of their limited soldiers in Afghanistan through BSA (Bilateral Security Agreement) I think it is again a mistake because even a limited number of their troops in Afghanistan, their presence will be naturally the continuation of war in Afghanistan."
Mr. Obama said once the Afghan government signs the bilateral security agreement, a small force of Americans could remain in Afghanistan with NATO allies to train and assist Afghan forces, as well as launch counterterrorism operations to pursue remnants of al-Qaida.
Maulana Shhzada Shahid, spokesman for Afghanistan's High Peace Council, says before that happens he would like to see the start of the reconciliation process.
"The people do not want the war to continue whether the Americans stay or leave. So, the High Peace Council believes that the withdrawal of Americans is one part of the issue. But we wish that before their departure the process of reconciliation and talks also starts."