News / Asia

    Karzai Standoff on Security Deal Sows Uncertainty

    FILE - Afghan President Hamid Karzai speaks during the first day of the Loya Jirga in Kabul, Afghanistan, Nov. 21, 2013.
    FILE - Afghan President Hamid Karzai speaks during the first day of the Loya Jirga in Kabul, Afghanistan, Nov. 21, 2013.
    Ayaz Gul
    Afghan President Hamid Karzai is continuing to defend his decision to put off signing the key security pact allowing foreign troops to operate in Afghanistan after 2014. Critics and analysts say he has several possible motives for postponing the deal, but the stakes are so high that many believe it will eventually go through.
     
    NATO is scheduled to terminate its current combat mission in Afghanistan by the end of 2014. U.S. officials insist they must have the security pact in place without any delay to continue counterterrorism operations and allow for a residual American military presence to train and advise Afghan forces beyond 2014.
     
    A traditional Afghan grand assembly (known as a Loya Jirga) last month urged President Hamid Karzai to sign the bilateral security agreement, but he says he will not sign it before certain demands are met.
     
    Speaking in India last week, the president said Washington must end raids on Afghan homes, end drone strikes, and encourage the Taliban to open peace talks with his government.
     
    “Now, if it is done before the elections I will go ahead and allow it to be signed. If it is not done before the elections then the next Afghan president should undertake the responsibility and do it. So, it is not time bound it is action bound,” said Karzai.
     
    Karzai also has dismissed as “brinkmanship” U.S. warnings that a long delay in signing the pact could mean a total pullout of its forces.
     
    Afghan politicians, representatives of civil society and the business community have all urged the president to finalize the deal. They say Karzai’s reluctance is causing nationwide uncertainty and confusion.
     
    Many Afghans, including parliamentarian Khalid Pashtoon, are now speculating about the president's motives in not yet signing an agreement that so many of his peers and allies support.
     
    “It looks like he is trying to achieve some credit from the people, you know, like he is very nationalist, he does care for Afghanistan, he does care for the future of Afghanistan and he does not want to show himself as a puppet of foreign powers. On the other hand, some people are saying that he may have some personal needs, some personal demands that he may ask from the U.S. side,” said Pashtoon.
     
    Opposition politicians like Humayun Shah Asefi say President Karzai’s reluctance to respect a Loya Jirga decision is unprecedented in national history.
     
    “Maybe he is seeking some personal advantages because a huge majority of Afghans and nearly all the [presidential] candidates, they want that this agreement must be signed,” said Asefi.
     
    Although President Karzai has repeatedly vowed to stay neutral in the April election, his political opponents and independent experts fear that by delaying the agreement, President Karzai may be pressing for Washington’s tacit backing for his “favored” presidential candidate.
     
    Karzai's brother, Quayum Karzai, and his close aid, former foreign minister Zalmai Rassoul, are among the top presidential candidates. Skeptics like Kabul-based political commentator Said Azam say that the incumbent president is unlikely to stay neutral.
     
    “He has explicitly said that he might support someone as a person, as an individual, as a citizen of the country. So, I think he will definitely support someone and he wants to have a strong say in forthcoming administration because he does not want to be seen just as an ex-president without having any particular leverage over decisions being made over the next five to ten years,” said Azam.
     
    Whatever the political calculations behind the standoff, security analysts say the security agreement is critical for the government and security forces; both remain heavily dependent on foreign assistance.
     
    Anatol Lieven, a professor in the War Studies Department of King’s College London, says the delay is putting much-needed financial and military aid in jeopardy.
     
    “The Afghan state is dependent for nine-tenths of its budget on international assistance. The entire military budget comes from U.S., four billion dollars a year. If that is seriously cut then the Afghan army and state will collapse just as they did in 1992 when Soviet aid was cut off with the fall of Soviet Union and the thing is what Karzai may not realize the deep desire of many Americans and Europeans just to get out of Afghanistan and to forget about the place,” said Lieven.
     
    Politicians and independent commentators say there is hardly anyone in Afghanistan who believes that their president will stick to his stand for long. But they also say that by prolonging the process, Karzai has succeeded in keeping himself at the center of the debate over the country's future, a role he has long grown accustomed to.

    You May Like

    Multimedia Obama Calls on Americans to Help the Families of Its War Dead

    In last Memorial Day of his presidency, Obama lays wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery

    The Strife of the Party: Will Trump Permanently Alter Republicans?

    While billionaire mogul's no-holds-barred style, high-energy delivery are what rocketed him to nomination, they also have created rift between party elites and his supporters

    China's Education Reforms Spark Protest

    Beijing is putting a quota system in place to increase the number of students from poor regions attending universities

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trendi
    X
    May 27, 2016 5:57 AM
    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trend

    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Reactions to Trump's Success Polarized Abroad

    What seemed impossible less than a year ago is now almost a certainty. New York real estate mogul Donald Trump has won the number of delegates needed to secure the Republican presidential nomination. The prospect has sparked as much controversy abroad as it has in the United States. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Drawings by Children in Hiroshima Show Hope and Peace

    On Friday, President Barack Obama will visit Hiroshima, Japan, the first American president to do so while in office. In August 1945, the United States dropped an atomic bomb on the city to force Japan's surrender in World War II. Although their city lay in ruins, some Hiroshima schoolchildren drew pictures of hope and peace. The former students and their drawings are now part of a documentary called “Pictures from a Hiroshima Schoolyard.” VOA's Deborah Block has the story.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese Rapper Performs for Obama

    A prominent young Vietnamese artist told President Obama said she faced roadblocks as a woman rapper, and asked the president about government support for the arts. He asked her to rap, and he even offered to provide a base beat for her. Watch what happened.
    Video

    Video Roots Run Deep for Tunisia's Dwindling Jewish Community

    This week, hundreds of Jewish pilgrims are defying terrorist threats to celebrate an ancient religious festival on the Tunisian island of Djerba. The festivities cast a spotlight on North Africa's once-vibrant Jewish population that has all but died out in recent decades. Despite rising threats of militant Islam and the country's battered economy, one of the Arab world's last Jewish communities is staying put and nurturing a new generation. VOA’s Lisa Bryant reports.
    Video

    Video Meet Your New Co-Worker: The Robot

    Increasing numbers of robots are joining the workforce, as companies scale back and more processes become automated. The latest robots are flexible and collaborative, built to work alongside humans as opposed to replacing them. VOA’s Tina Trinh looks at the next generation of automated employees helping out their human colleagues.
    Video

    Video Wheelchair Technology in Tune With Times

    Technologies for the disabled, including wheelchair technology, are advancing just as quickly as everything else in the digital age. Two new advances in wheelchairs offer improved control and a more comfortable fit. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Baby Boxes Offer Safe Haven for Unwanted Children

    No one knows exactly how many babies are abandoned worldwide each year. The statistic is a difficult one to determine because it is illegal in most places. Therefore unwanted babies are often hidden and left to die. But as Erika Celeste reports from Woodburn, Indiana, a new program hopes to make surrendering infants safer for everyone.
    Video

    Video California Celebration Showcases Local Wines, Balloons

    Communities in the U.S. often hold festivals to show what makes them special. In California, for example, farmers near Fresno celebrate their figs and those around Gilmore showcase their garlic. Mike O'Sullivan reports that the wine-producing region of Temecula offers local vintages in an annual festival where rides on hot-air balloons add to the excitement.
    Video

    Video US Elementary School Offers Living Science Lessons

    Zero is not a good score on a test at school. But Discovery Elementary is proud of its “net zero” rating. Net zero describes a building in which the amount of energy provided by on-site renewable sources equals the amount of energy the building uses. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, the innovative features in the building turn the school into a teaching tool, where kids can't help but learn about science and sustainability. Faith Lapidus narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora