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

    Republicans Struggle With Reality of Trump Nomination

    Despite calls for unity by presumptive presidential nominee, analysts see inevitable fragmentation of party ahead of November election and beyond

    Spanish Warrants Point to Russian Govt. Links to Organized Crime

    Links to several Russians, some of them reputedly close Putin associates, backed by ‘very strong evidence,’ Spanish judge says

    Video US Worried Political Chaos in Iraq Will Hurt IS Fight

    Iraq needs stable, central government to push back against Islamic State, US says, but others warn that Baghdad may not have unified front any time soon

    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.
    Press Freedom in Myanmar Fragile, Limitedi
    X
    Katie Arnold
    May 04, 2016 12:31 PM
    As Myanmar begins a new era with a democratically elected government, many issues of the past confront the new leadership. Among them is press freedom in a country where journalists have been routinely harassed or jailed.
    Video

    Video Press Freedom in Myanmar Fragile, Limited

    As Myanmar begins a new era with a democratically elected government, many issues of the past confront the new leadership. Among them is press freedom in a country where journalists have been routinely harassed or jailed.
    Video

    Video Taliban Threats Force Messi Fan to Leave Afghanistan

    A young Afghan boy, who recently received autographed shirts and a football from his soccer hero Lionel Messi, has fled his country due to safety concerns. He and his family are now taking refuge in neighboring Pakistan. VOA's Ayaz Gul reports from Islamabad.
    Video

    Video Major Rubbish Burning Experiment Captures Destructive Greenhouse Gases

    The world’s first test to capture environmentally harmful carbon dioxide gases from the fumes of burning rubbish took place recently in Oslo, Norway. The successful experiment at the city's main incinerator plant, showcased a method for capturing most of the carbon dioxide. VOA’s Deborah Block has more.
    Video

    Video EU Visa Block Threatens To Derail EU-Turkey Migrant Deal

    Turkish citizens could soon benefit from visa-free travel to Europe as part of the recent deal between the EU and Ankara to stem the flow of refugees. In return, Turkey has pledged to keep the migrants on Turkish soil and crack down on those who are smuggling them. Brussels is set to publish its latest progress report Wednesday — but as Henry Ridgwell reports from London, many EU lawmakers are threatening to veto the deal over human rights concerns.
    Video

    Video Tensions Rising Ahead of South China Sea Ruling

    As the Philippines awaits an international arbitration ruling on a challenge to China's claims to nearly all of the South China Sea, it is already becoming clear that regardless of which way the decision goes, the dispute is intensifying. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
    Video

    Video Painting Captures President Lincoln Assassination Aftermath

    A newly restored painting captures the moments following President Abraham Lincoln’s assassination in 1865. It was recently unveiled at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, where America’s 16th president was shot. It is the only known painting by an eyewitness that captures the horror of that fateful night. VOA’s Julie Taboh tells us more about the painting and what it took to restore it to its original condition.
    Video

    Video Elephant Summit Results in $5M in Pledges, Presidential Support

    Attended and supported by three African presidents, a three-day anti-poaching summit has concluded in Kenya, resulting in $5 million in pledges and a united message to the world that elephants are worth more alive than dead. The summit culminated at the Nairobi National Park with the largest ivory burn in history. VOA’s Jill Craig attended the summit and has this report about the outcomes.
    Video

    Video Displaced By War, Syrian Artist Finds Inspiration Abroad

    Saudi-born Syrian painter Mohammad Zaza is among the millions who fled their home for an uncertain future after Syria's civil war broke out. Since fleeing Syria, Zaza has lived in Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan and now Turkey where his latest exhibition, “Earth is Blue like an Orange,” opened in Istanbul. He spoke with VOA about how being displaced by the Syrian civil war has affected the country's artists.
    Video

    Video Ethiopia’s Drought Takes Toll on Children

    Ethiopia is dealing with its worst drought in decades, thanks to El Nino weather patterns. An estimated 10 million people urgently need food aid. Six million of them are children, whose development may be compromised without sufficient help, Marthe van der Wolf reports for VOA from the Metahara district.
    Video

    Video Little Havana - a Slice of Cuban Culture in Florida

    Hispanic culture permeates everything in Miami’s Little Havana area: elderly men playing dominoes as they discuss politics, cigar rollers deep at work, or Cuban exiles talking with presidential candidates at a Cuban coffee window. With the recent rapprochement between Cuba and United States, one can only expect stronger ties between South Florida and Cuba.
    Video

    Video California Republicans Weigh Presidential Choices Amid Protests

    Republican presidential candidates have been wooing local party leaders in California, a state that could be decisive in selecting the party's nominee for U.S. president. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports delegates to the California party convention have been evaluating choices, while front-runner Donald Trump drew hundreds of raucous protesters Friday.
    Video

    Video ‘The Lights of Africa’ - Through the Eyes of 54 Artists

    An exhibition bringing together the work of 54 African artists, one from each country, is touring the continent after debuting at COP21 in Paris. Called "Lumières d'Afrique," the show centers on access to electricity and, more figuratively, ideas that enlighten. Emilie Iob reports from Abidjan, the exhibition's first stop.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora