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

WHO: Anti-Ebola Efforts Should Focus on West Africa

Official says WHO is 'reasonably confident' countries bordering those hardest hit by the Ebola outbreak are not seeing the virus crossing their borders More

South Sudan Crisis Threatens Development

Economic costs and lost development opportunities in South Sudan have erased what little progress the country has made since independence in 2011 More

Ukrainian PM Warns: Russia May Try to Disrupt Sunday Poll

Arseniy Yatsenyuk orders full security mobilization for parliamentary election to prevent ‘terrorist acts’ from being carried out 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.
After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rulesi
X
October 21, 2014 12:20 AM
European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.
Video

Video Young Nairobi Tech Innovator on 'Track' in Security Business

A 24-year-old technology innovator in Nairobi has invented a tracking device that monitors and secures cars. He has also come up with what he claims is the most robust audio-visual surveillance system yet. As Lenny Ruvaga reports from the Kenyan capital, his innovations are offering alternative security solutions.
Video

Video Latinas Converting to Islam for Identity, Structure

Latinos are one of the fastest growing groups in the Muslim religion. According to the Pew Research Center, about 6 percent of American Muslims are Latino. And a little more than half of new converts are female. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti travelled to Miami, Florida -- where two out of every three residents is Hispanic -- to learn more.
Video

Video Exclusive: American Joins Kurds' Anti-IS Fight

The United States and other Western nations have expressed alarm about their citizens joining Islamic State forces in Syria and Iraq. In a rare counterpoint to the phenomenon, an American has taken up arms with the militants' Syrian Kurdish opponents. Elizabeth Arrott has more in this exclusive profile by VOA Kurdish reporter Zana Omer in Ras al Ayn, Syria.
Video

Video South Korea Confronts Violence Within Military Ranks

Every able-bodied South Korean male between 18 and 35 must serve for 21 to 36 months in the country’s armed forces, depending upon the specific branch. For many, service is a rite of passage to manhood. But there are growing concerns that bullying and violence come along with the tradition. Reporter Jason Strother has more from Seoul.
Video

Video North Carolina Emerges as Key Election Battleground

U.S. congressional midterm elections will be held on November 4th and most political analysts give Republicans an excellent chance to win a majority in the U.S. Senate, which Democrats now control. So what are the issues driving voters in this congressional election year? VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone traveled to North Carolina, one of the most politically competitive states in the country, to find out.
Video

Video Comanche People Maintain Pride in Their Heritage

The Comanche (Indian nation) once were called the “Lords of the Plains,” with an empire that included half the land area of current day Texas, large parts of Oklahoma, New Mexico, Kansas and Colorado.The fierceness and battle prowess of these warriors on horseback delayed the settlement of most of West Texas for four decades. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Lawton, Oklahoma, that while their warrior days are over, the 15,000 members of the Comanche Nation remain a proud people.
Video

Video Turkey Campus Attacks Raise Islamic Radicalization Fears

Concerns are growing in Turkey of Islamic radicalization at some universities, after clashes between supporters of the jihadist group Islamic State (IS) or ISIS, and those opposed to the extremists. Pro-jihadist literature is on sale openly on the streets of Istanbul. Critics accuse the government of turning a blind eye to radicalism at home, while Kurds accuse the president of supporting IS - a charge strongly denied. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

All About America

AppleAndroid