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

    Mother of IS Supporter: Son Was Peaceful, 'Role Model'

    Somali-American Abdirizak Mohamed Warsame pleaded guilty Thursday to charges of conspiring to provide material support to Islamic State militants

    Factions Shift as Civilians Die in Syrian War

    Scenario likely only to further confuse military situation on ground and potentially worsen humanitarian crisis that already has grown to epic proportions

    Presidential Hopefuls Woo Minorities, Evangelicals

    Four GOP candidates to speak at forum at Bob Jones University in Greenville, South Carolina

    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.
    Two-thirds of World Faces Water Shortagei
    X
    February 12, 2016 7:31 PM
    Four billion people — or two out of every three on the planet — do not have enough water to meet their basic needs. That is far greater than previously thought, according to a new study that presents a more accurate picture of the problem. As VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports, the findings will help policymakers and the public craft solutions to address the threat.
    Video

    Video Two-thirds of World Faces Water Shortage

    Four billion people — or two out of every three on the planet — do not have enough water to meet their basic needs. That is far greater than previously thought, according to a new study that presents a more accurate picture of the problem. As VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports, the findings will help policymakers and the public craft solutions to address the threat.
    Video

    Video Gateway to Mecca: Historical Old Jeddah

    Local leader Sami Nawar's family has been in the Old City of Jeddah for hundreds of years and takes us on a tour of this ancient route to Mecca, also believed to be the final resting place of Adam's wife, Eve.
    Video

    Video New Technology Aims to Bring Election Transparency to Uganda

    A team of recent graduates from Uganda’s Makerere University has created a mobile application designed to help monitor elections and expose possible rigging. The developers say the app, called E-Poll, will make Uganda's democratic process fairer. From Kampala, VOA's Serginho Roosblad reports.
    Video

    Video As Refugees Perish, Greek Graveyards Fill

    Aid workers on the Greek island of Lesbos say they are struggling to bury the increasing number of bodies of refugees that have been recovered or washed up ashore in recent months.  The graveyards are all full, they say, yet as tens of thousands of people clamor to get out of Syria, it is clear refugees will still be coming in record numbers. For VOA, Hamada Elrasam reports from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video Russia Bristles at NATO Expansion in E. Europe

    Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is meeting Friday with the head of NATO after the Western military alliance and the United States announced plans for the biggest military build-up in Europe since the Cold War. Russia has called NATO's moves a threat to stability in Europe. But NATO says the troop rotations and equipment are aimed at reassuring allies concerned about Russia as VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video To Fight Zika, Scientists Target Mosquitoes

    Mosquitoes strike again. The Zika virus outbreak is just the latest headline-grabbing epidemic carried by these biting pests, but researchers are fighting back with new ways to control them. VOA's Steve Baragona takes a look.
    Video

    Video Mosul Refugees Talk About Life Under IS

    A top U.S. intelligence official told Congress this week that a planned Iraqi-led operation to re-take the city of Mosul from Islamic State militants is unlikely to take place this year. IS took over the city in June 2014, and for the past year and a half, Mosul residents have been held captive under its rule. VOA's Zana Omar talked to some families who managed to escape. Bronwyn Benito narrates his report.
    Video

    Video Scientists Make Progress Toward Better Diabetes Treatment, Cure

    Scientists at two of the top U.S. universities say they have made significant advances in their quest to find a more efficient treatment for diabetes and eventually a cure. According to the International Diabetes Federation, the disease affects more than 370 million people worldwide. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video NATO to Target Migrant Smugglers

    NATO has announced plans to send warships to the Aegean Sea to target migrant smugglers in the alliance's most direct intervention so far since a wave of people began trying to reach European shores.
    Video

    Video Russia's Catholics, Orthodox Hopeful on Historic Pope-Patriarch Meeting

    Russia's Catholic minority has welcomed an historic first meeting Friday in Cuba between the Pope and the Patriarch of Russia's dominant Orthodox Church. The Orthodox Church split with Rome in 1054 and analysts say politics, both church and state, have been driving the relationship in the centuries since. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video Used Books Get a New Life on the Streets of Lagos

    Used booksellers are importing books from abroad and selling them on the streets of Africa's largest city. What‘s popular with readers may surprise you. Chris Stein reports from Lagos.
    Video

    Video After NH Primaries All Eyes on South Carolina

    After Tuesday's primary in New Hampshire, US presidential candidates swiftly turned to the next election coming up in South Carolina. The so-called “first-in-the-South” poll may help further narrow down the field of candidates. Zlatica Hoke reports.
    Video

    Video Smartphone Helps Grow Vegetables

    One day, you may be using your smartphone to grow your vegetables. A Taipei-based company has developed a farm cube — a small, enclosed ecosystem designed to grow plants indoors. The environment inside is automatically adjusted by the cube, but it can also be controlled through an app. VOA's Deborah Block has more on the gardening system.
    Video

    Video Exhibit Turns da Vinci’s Drawings Into Real Objects

    In addition to being a successful artist, Renaissance genius Leonardo da Vinci designed many practical machines, some of which are still in use today, although in different forms. But a number of his projects were never realized — until today. VOA’s George Putic reports.