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

US, China Have Dueling Definitions of Cybersecurity

Analysts say attribution or or proving that a particular individual or government is responsible for a hack, is a daunting task More

Snowden: I'd Go to Prison to Return to US

Former NSA contractor says he has not received a formal plea-deal offer from US officials, who consider him to be a traitor More

Goodbye Pocahontas: Photos Reveal Today's Real Native Americans

Weary of stereotypes, photographer Matika Wilbur is determined to reshape the public's perception of her people More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europei
Luis Ramirez
October 02, 2015 4:45 PM
European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europe

European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video First Self-Driving Truck Debuts on European Highways

The first automated semi-trailer truck started its maiden voyage Friday, Oct. 2, on a European highway. The Daimler truck called 'Actros' is the first potentially mass-produced truck whose driver will be required only to monitor the situation, similar to the role of an airline captain while the plane is in autopilot mode. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video Nano-tech Filter Cleans Dirty Water

Access to clean water is a problem for hundreds of millions of people around the world. Now, a scientist and chemical engineer in Tanzania (in East Africa) is working to change that by creating an innovative water filter that makes dirty water safe. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.

Video Demand Rising for Organic Produce in Cambodia

In Cambodia, where rice has long been the main cash crop, farmers are being encouraged to turn to vegetables to satisfy the growing demand for locally produced organic farm products. Daniel de Carteret has more from Phnom Penh.

Video Migrant Influx Costs Europe, But Economy Could Benefit

The influx of hundreds of thousands of refugees and migrants is testing Europe’s ability to respond – especially in the poorer Balkan states. But some analysts argue that Europe will benefit by welcoming the huge numbers of young people – many of them well educated and willing to work. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

Video Botanists Grow Furniture, with Pruning Shears

For something a bit out of the ordinary to furnish your home, why not consider wooden chairs, crafted by nature, with a little help from some British botanists with an eye for design. VOA’s Jessica Berman reports.

Video New Fabric Helps Fight Dust-Related Allergies

Many people around the world suffer from dust-related allergies, caused mainly by tiny mites that live in bed linen. Polish scientists report they have successfully tested a fabric that is impenetrable to the microscopic creatures. VOA’s George Putic has more.

Video Burkina Faso's Economy Deeply Affected by Political Turmoil

Political turmoil in Burkina Faso over the past year has taken a toll on the economy. The transitional government is reporting nearly $70 million in losses in the ten days that followed a short-lived coup by members of the presidential guard earlier this month. The crisis shut businesses and workers went on strike. With elections on the horizon, Emilie Iob reports on what a return to political stability can do for the country's economic recovery.

Video Fleeing Violence, Some Syrians Find Refuge in Irbil

As Syrians continue to flee their country’s unrest to seek new lives in safer places, VOA Persian Service reporter Shepol Abbassi visited Irbil, where a number Syrians have taken refuge. During the religious holidy of Eid al-Adha, the city largely shut down, as temperatures soared. Amy Katz narrates his report.

Video Nigeria’s Wecyclers Work for Reusable Future in Lagos

The streets and lagoons of Africa's largest city - Lagos, Nigeria - are often clogged with trash, almost none of which gets recycled. One company is trying to change that. Chris Stein reports for VOA from Lagos.

Video Sketch Artist Helps Catch Criminals, Gives a Face to Deceased

Police often face the problem of trying to find a crime suspect based on general descriptions that could fit hundreds of people in the vicinity of the crime. In these cases, an artist can use information from witnesses to sketch a likeness that police can show the public via newspapers and television. But, as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, such sketches can also help bring back faces of the dead.

Video Thailand Set to Build China-like Internet Firewall

Thai authorities are planning to tighten control over the Internet, creating a single international access point so they can better monitor content. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Bangkok on what is being called Thailand’s own "Great Firewall."

Video Croatian Town’s War History Evokes Empathy for Migrants

As thousands of Afghanistan, Iraqi and Syrian migrants pass through Croatia, locals are reminded of their own experiences with war and refugees in the 1990s. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from the town of Vukovar, where wartime scars still are visible today.

Video Long Drought Affecting California’s Sequoias

California is suffering under a historic four-year drought and scientists say even the state's famed sequoia trees are feeling the pain. The National Park Service has started detailed research to see how it can help the oldest living things on earth survive. VOA’s George Putic reports.

VOA Blogs