News / Asia

Pundits Split Over Long-Term US Role in Afghanistan

U.S. troops assess damage to an armored vehicle in a NATO-led international security force in Afghanistan's Jalalabad province, Aug. 24, 2014.
U.S. troops assess damage to an armored vehicle in a NATO-led international security force in Afghanistan's Jalalabad province, Aug. 24, 2014.

While auditors rush to finish reviewing ballots in Afghanistan’s disputed June 14 presidential runoff election before incumbent Hamid Karzai leaves office, some American foreign policy experts are looking beyond the political standoff to a deadline that will end U.S. military involvement in the war-torn country.

That, they say, could further complicate Afghanistan’s security.

For years, Washington and Kabul could not come to terms on a bilateral security agreement, which would have determined the scope of what U.S. troops could do after 2014. So in May, U.S. President Barack Obama announced a unilateral plan: The United States would reduce its troop levels while continuing to train and equip Afghan national security forces for another two years.

"By the end of 2016, our military will draw down to a normal embassy presence in Kabul, with a security assistance component, just as we’ve done in Iraq," Obama said in a speech from the White House.

But the president also made it clear that a U.S. presence beyond 2014 would be contingent upon a security agreement, which Karzai has refused to sign. Both Ashraf Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah, the candidates hoping to succeed Karzai, have said they support the pact – but they’re caught up in the country’s political paralysis as United Nations-supervised auditors review roughly 8.1 million ballots.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai, center, calls for resolution in presidential election. He's flanked by candidates Ashraf Ghani, left, and Abdullah Abdullah in Kabul Aug. 19, 2014.Afghan President Hamid Karzai, center, calls for resolution in presidential election. He's flanked by candidates Ashraf Ghani, left, and Abdullah Abdullah in Kabul Aug. 19, 2014.
x
Afghan President Hamid Karzai, center, calls for resolution in presidential election. He's flanked by candidates Ashraf Ghani, left, and Abdullah Abdullah in Kabul Aug. 19, 2014.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai, center, calls for resolution in presidential election. He's flanked by candidates Ashraf Ghani, left, and Abdullah Abdullah in Kabul Aug. 19, 2014.

U.N. and U.S. officials had hoped to have a new president installed by August's end, when Karzai plans to leave office. On Tuesday, Abdullah threatened to pull out of the auditing process because his team believes some fraudulent votes haven’t been discarded.

Deadline disagreements

The Obama administration should have paid attention to realities on the ground in Afghanistan, not on setting deadlines, said Anthony H. Cordesman, a national security analyst at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a public policy research center in Washington, D.C.

"The chairman of the Joint Chief of Staff advised that the U.S. have a minimum of 16,000 troops" serving as advisers, enablers and the counter-terrorism force in Afghanistan, Cordesman said. The chiefs "had wanted that force potentially to stay there for as long as they are needed rather than be part of some fixed deadline."

Cordesman said Obama has called for inadequate support in deciding to deploy 9,500 troops in 2015 and only half that many in 2016.

Security agreement expected

Former American diplomat Paul Russo – who served as a U.S. ambassador and as special assistant to former U.S. President Ronald Reagan – teaches a Georgetown University course on the modern presidency. He agrees with Obama’s timetable, but said the pullout ultimately hinges on the security agreement.

He said he’s optimistic that Washington and Kabul will sign a pact “and also that we will leave 10- to 12,000 troops for training and assistance for a 10-year period in Afghanistan.”

Ghafoor Lewal, director of Afghanistan’s Center for Strategic Studies in Kabul, contends the United States has come too far in Afghanistan to make a U-turn.

"Afghanistan is too important a place from a strategic point of view," he said, "and if NATO and [the] U.S. resort to an irresponsible pullout from the country without paying attention to realities on the ground, any possible civil war in Afghanistan will not remain within the Afghan borders."

Lewal said insecurity in Afghanistan would have a domino effect on the region and eventually the world.

Will Afghanistan follow Iraq?

Some fear that Afghanistan will face the same upheaval that Iraq has since the United States pulled out its combat troops.

When Baghdad failed to sign a status of forces agreement with Washington in 2011, the United States picked the “zero option” and removed all its fighting forces from Iraq. Three years later, the extremist Islamic State militant group has captured large swaths of areas in north of Iraq and made advances in eastern Syria as well.

Some fear that Afghanistan may experience the current insecurity of Iraq as well if things go wrong.

Lisa Curtis, a South Asian expert at the conservative Heritage Foundation in Washington, believes that the Islamic State poses as great a danger to the region as the Taliban does.

The Islamic State "is a breakaway faction of al-Qaida, and of course the al-Qaida located in Pakistan’s tribal areas is supporting the Afghan Taliban in Afghanistan. So you still have the al-Qaida Taliban alliance," Curtis said.

Obama wants to be remembered as the president who ended two wars, she said, but she warned his approach could backfire.

"If he doesn’t adopt sound policies to deal with challenges that we face in both Iraq and Afghanistan, he could actually end up with a legacy of being the U.S leader who allowed parallel jihadist movements to succeed in two pivotal parts of the world," Curtis said.

Others disagree with Curtis, seeing Iraq and Afghanistan as fundamentally different scenarios.

"I think Afghans have not decided about the fate of the U.S forces in their country the way Iraqis did," said Lewal, who added that he expects Afghanistan’s next president “will soon sign” a security pact with the United States. "Afghanistan is far more important to U.S national security interests than Iraq is."

Russo agrees with Lewal.

"I think it’s altogether a different situation in Afghanistan and I think that those who are comparing the two are missing a lot of the finer points," Russo said.

U.S. public’s support for war wanes

The United States has been fighting in Afghanistan for 13 years, making this the longest war in U.S. history, and the public has grown weary. Given its flagging support, how willing is the U.S. Congress to financially support the Afghanistan mission beyond 2016 – especially if there is no bilateral security agreement?

Heritage’s Curtis said the U.S. should remain in Afghanistan as long as its help is needed.

"I realize there are financial pressures, but what we have heard from several congressional members is they would like to see President Obama reconsider this withdrawal strategy from Afghanistan and keep [the] options open," she said.

She said Afghanistan deserves a commitment of at least 10,000 troops. She pointed out that the United States has provided at least 28,500 troops to South Korea for decades.

But Cordesman, the national security analyst, said Afghan’s needs go beyond military support. He said its civil dimension was critical, requiring attention from the Afghan government and the international community.

You May Like

Egypt's Suez Canal Dreams Tempered by Continued Unrest

Seen as a potential driver of recovery, Cairo’s plan to expand waterway had been raising hopes to give country much needed economic boost More

Ebola Maternity Ward in Sierra Leone First of its Kind

Country already had one of world's highest maternal mortality rates before Ebola arrived, virus has added even more complications to health care More

Malaysia Flight 370 Disappearance Ruled Accident

Aircraft disappeared on March 8, 2014; with ruling, families of 239 passengers and crew can now seek compensation from airline More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: norman from: usa
August 27, 2014 9:03 AM
We should ask ourselves why is it taking so long to eliminate the Taliban from Afghanistan? The Taliban are not as well armed as the German or Japanese army of WW2. If Afghanistan does not want us in their country then we should leave. We do not have the inherent right to invade another sovereign country at will. We are not contemplating invading Syria to eliminate ISIS. But when Russia invaded Croatia and Ukraine wow the world went nuts. The White House needs to get a coalition together but only one problem. No other country wants to side with the Americans because of the friction between obama and other leaders.


by: meanbill from: USA
August 27, 2014 12:03 AM
THE WISE MAN said it;.. Afghanistan is to important of a place in a strategic view, (the only country that would allow them to launch US killer drones in that region of the world), and the US must get a Security Agreement with Afghanistan signed, to leave from 5,000 to 16,000 US troops hiding behind those (30) foot high blast-proof walls to kill suspected enemies of America, with immunity from prosecution in Afghan courts for killing innocent Afghan men, women and children, with the US killer drone missiles and bombs.... (that seem to miss their targets a lot of the time?).... oops?.... Look out?...."FOUR".... sorry about that?.... damn !!!!

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Groundbreaking Hand-Painted Documentary About Van Gogh in Productioni
X
George Putic
January 29, 2015 9:43 PM
The troubled life of the famous 19th century Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh has been told through many books and films, but never in the way a group of filmmakers now intends to do. "Loving Vincent " will be the first ever feature-length film made of animated hand-painted images, done in the style of the late artist. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Groundbreaking Hand-Painted Documentary About Van Gogh in Production

The troubled life of the famous 19th century Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh has been told through many books and films, but never in the way a group of filmmakers now intends to do. "Loving Vincent " will be the first ever feature-length film made of animated hand-painted images, done in the style of the late artist. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Rock-Consuming Organisms Alter Views of Life Processes

Scientists thought they knew much about how life works, until a discovery more than two decades ago challenged conventional beliefs. Scientists found that there are organisms that breathe rocks. And it is only recently that the scientific community is accepting that there are organisms that could get energy out of rocks. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports.
Video

Video Paris Attacks Highlight Global Weapons Black Market

As law enforcement officials piece together how the Paris and Belgian terror cells carried out their recent attacks, questions are being asked about how they obtained military grade assault weapons - which are illegal in the European Union. As VOA's Jeff Swicord reports, experts say there is a very active worldwide black market for these weapons, and criminals and terrorists are buying.
Video

Video Activists Accuse China of Targeting Religious Freedom

The U.S.-based Chinese religious rights group ChinaAid says 2014 was the worst year for religious freedom in China since the end of the Cultural Revolution. As Ye Fan reports, activists say Beijing has been tightening religious controls ever since Chinese leader Xi Jinping came to office. Hu Wei narrates.
Video

Video Super Bowl Ads Compete for Eyes on TV, Web

Super Bowl Sunday (Feb. 1) is about more than just the NFL's American football championship and big parties to watch the game. Viewers also tune in for the world famous commercials that send Facebook and Twitter abuzz. Daniela Schrier reports on the social media rewards for America’s priciest advertising.
Video

Video Theologians Cast Doubt on Morality of Drone Strikes

In 2006, stirred by photos of U.S. soldiers mistreating Iraqi prisoners, a group of American faith leaders and academics launched the National Religious Campaign Against Torture. It played an important role in getting Congress to investigate, and the president to ban, torture. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Freedom on Decline Worldwide, Report Says

The state of global freedom declined for the ninth consecutive year in 2014, according to global watchdog Freedom House's annual report released Wednesday. VOA's William Gallo has more.
Video

Video MRI Seems to Help Diagnose Prostate Cancer, Preliminary Study Shows

Just as with mammography used to detect breast cancer, there's a lot of controversy about tests used to diagnose prostate cancer. Fortunately, a new study shows doctors may now have a more reliable way to diagnose prostate cancer for high risk patients. More from VOA's Carol Pearson.
Video

Video Smartphones About to Make Leap, Carry Basic Senses

Long-distance communication contains mostly sounds and pictures - for now. But scientists in Britain say they are close to creating additions for our smartphones that will make it possible to send taste, smell and even a basic touch. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Former Sudan 'Lost Boy' Becomes Chess Master in NYC

In the mid-1980’s, thousands of Sudanese boys escaped the country's civil war by walking for weeks, then months and finally for more than a year, up to 1,500 kilometers across three countries. The so-called Lost Boys of the Sudan had little time for games. But one of them later mastered the game of chess, and now teaches it to children in the New York area. VOA’s Bernard Shusman in New York has his story.
Video

Video NASA Monitors Earth’s Vital Signs From Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, is wrapping up its busiest 12-month period in more than a decade, with three missions launched in 2014 and two this month, one in early January and the fifth scheduled for January 29. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, the instruments being lifted into orbit are focused on Earth’s vital life support systems and how they are responding to a warmer planet.
Video

Video Crowded Republican Presidential Field Off to Early Start for 2016

It seems early, but the 2016 U.S. presidential election campaign is already heating up. Though no one has officially announced a candidacy, several potential Republican contenders have been busy speaking to conservative groups about making a White House run next year. Many of the possible contenders are critical of the Obama administration’s foreign policy record. VOA national correspondent Jim Malone reports.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid