Top Afghan Officials Welcome Pact with US

Kent Klein

The partnership agreement signed by President Barack Obama and Afghanistan’s President Hamid Karzai on Tuesday is getting a generally positive reception from officials in Kabul. Some top Afghans are welcoming the long-term U.S. commitment to their country’s security.

In announcing the agreement at Bagram Air Base, President Obama told Americans it marked the beginning of the end of the long U.S. military commitment in Afghanistan.

“My fellow Americans, we have traveled through more than a decade under the dark cloud of war. Yet here, in the pre-dawn darkness of Afghanistan, we can see the light of a new day on the horizon,” he said.

Some members of Afghanistan’s government are praising the agreement because, they say, it shows that the United States will not abandon their country.

The Afghan parliament is expected to approve the proposal, possibly as early as next week.

Parliament member Shukria Barekzai said she supports it. “It is very early to say that the parliament may pass [it] or not.  But for my point of view, as long as it is good for the country and good for the Afghan people, we would like to vote for it,” Barekzai said.

Afghanistan's former ambassador to the United States, Said Tayeb Jawad, says the plan signals America's commitment to remain engaged in his country, and that the agreement is not a threat to Afghanistan's neighbors.

“It in fact encourages the regional countries to contribute to the safety and security of Afghanistan.  At the same time, if the neighboring countries have ill intentions, they will understand the United States is there to stay,” Jawad said.

The plan does not specify U.S. troop levels in Afghanistan.  But it gives Washington the option of keeping troops there for a decade after 2014, to train Afghan forces or for operations against al-Qaida.

Some experts in Washington say that the war will not be winding down soon, and that U.S. special forces might need to stay in Afghanistan for years to come.

A reminder of that came shortly after Mr. Obama’s plane left Bagram Air Base.  The Taliban set off a suicide car bomb at a foreigners' housing compound, and militants killed at least seven people.

But Caroline Wadhams of the Washington-based Center for American Progress, told Alhurra Television that the agreement might help advance talks with the Taliban.

"I think what it does is that this agreement, in a sense, strengthens the hand of the Afghan government in some kind of negotiation process that the U.S. hopes will occur with the insurgency.  It gives the Afghan government a stronger card to play in that process," Wadhams said.

Another detail not included in the agreement is the amount of financial support the United States will give Afghanistan.  Officials in Washington say that will be decided by Congress.

Former Afghan Ambassador Jawad says that after many months of negotiations, there was a desire to have an agreement in place before this month’s NATO summit in Chicago.

“But they would like to see more commitment on the U.S. part as to the financial commitment Afghanistan will be receiving.  Therefore there was a push on the Afghan government to quantify the amount of assistance Afghanistan would be receiving,” Jawad said.

Still, Jawad says, it is a positive agreement that will benefit Afghanistan and the region.

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