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

Video Americans, Tourists, Reflect on Meaning of Thanksgiving

VOA garnered opinions from several people soon after November 13 Paris attacks, which colored many of their thoughts

Video Thais Send Security Concerns Down the River

In northern Thailand, the annual tradition of constructing floating baskets to carry away the year’s bad spirits highlights the Loy Krathong festival

Video Tree Houses - A Branch of American Dream

Workshops aimed at teaching people how to build tree houses have become widely popular in America in recent years

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continuesi
Ayesha Tanzeem
November 25, 2015 10:46 PM
One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continues

One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syria

Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

Video Taiwan Looks for Role in South China Sea Dispute

The Taiwanese government is one of several that claims territory in the hotly contested South China Sea, but Taipei has long been sidelined in the dispute, overshadowed by China. Now, as the Philippines challenges Beijing’s claims in an international court at The Hague, Taipei is looking to publicly assert its claims. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.

Video Syrian Refugees in US Express Concern for Those Left Behind

Syrian immigrants in the United States are concerned about the negative tide of public opinion and the politicians who want to block a U.S. plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees. Zlatica Hoke reports many Americans are fighting to dispel suspicions linking refugees to terrorists.

Video After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against IS

The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Americans Sharpen Focus on Terrorism

Washington will be quieter than usual this week due to the Thanksgiving holiday, even as Americans across the nation register heightened concerns over possible terrorist threats. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports new polling data from ABC News and the Washington Post newspaper show an electorate increasingly focused on security issues after the deadly Islamic State attacks in Paris.

Video World Leaders Head to Paris for Climate Deal

Heads of state from nearly 80 countries are heading to Paris (November 30-December 11) to craft a global climate change agreement. The new accord will replace the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change that expired in 2012.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

Video Creating Physical Virtual Reality With Tiny Drones

As many computer gamers know, virtual reality is a three-dimensional picture, projected inside special googles. It can fool your brain into thinking the computer world is the real world. But If you try to touch it, it’s not there. Now Canadian researchers say it may be possible to create a physical virtual reality using tiny drones. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video New American Indian Village Takes Visitors Back in Time

There is precious little opportunity to experience what life was like in the United States before its colonization by European settlers. Now, an American Indian village built in a park outside Washington is taking visitors back in time to experience the way of life of America's indigenous people. Carol Pearson narrates this report from VOA's June Soh.

Video Even With Hometown Liberated, Yazidi Refugees Fear Return

While the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar has been liberated from Islamic State forces, it's not clear whether Yazidi residents who fled the militants will now return home. VOA’s Mahmut Bozarslan talked with Yazidis, a religious and ethnic minority, at a Turkish refugee camp in Diyarbakır. Robert Raffaele narrates his report.

Video Nairobi Tailors Make Pope Francis’ Vestments

To ensure the pope is properly attired during his visit, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops asked the Dolly Craft Sewing Project in the Nairobi slum of Kangemi to make the pope's vestments, the garments he will wear during the various ceremonies. Jill Craig reports.

Video Cross-Border Terrorism Puts Europe’s Passport-Free Travel in Doubt

The fallout from the Islamic State terror attacks in Paris has put the future of Europe’s passport-free travel area, known as the "Schengen Zone," in doubt. Several of the perpetrators were known to intelligence agencies, but were not intercepted. Henry Ridgwell reports from London European ministers are to hold an emergency meeting Friday in Brussels to look at ways of improving security.

Video El Niño Brings Unexpected Fish From Mexico to California

Fish in an unexpected spectrum of sizes, shapes and colors are moving north, through El Niño's warm currents from Mexican waters to the Pacific Ocean off California’s coast. El Nino is the periodic warming of the eastern and central Pacific Ocean. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this phenomenon thrills scientists and gives anglers the chance of a once-in-a-lifetime big catch. Faith Lapidus narrates.

Video Terrorism in Many Forms Continues to Plague Africa

While the world's attention is on Paris in the wake of Friday night's deadly attacks, terrorism from various sides remains a looming threat in many African countries. Nigerian cities have been targeted this week by attacks many believe were staged by the violent Islamist group Boko Haram. In addition, residents in many regions are forced to flee their homes as they are terrorized by armed militias. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Study: Underage Marriage Rate Higher for Females in Pakistan

While attitudes about the societal role of females in Pakistan are evolving, research by child advocacy group Plan International suggests that underage marriage of girls remains a particularly big issue in the country. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports how such marriages leads to further social problems.

VOA Blogs