The U.S. and Afghan governments have finalized the initial draft of a strategic partnership agreement. The deal insures American military and financial support for the Afghan people for at least a decade beyond 2014, the deadline for most foreign combat forces to withdraw.
U.S. troops and Afghan security forces have fought on the front lines together. They have worked together to build up the Afghan Army and police force. And billions of dollars have poured into the country to boost the economy.
Now the new strategic partnership agreement shows Afghanistan the U.S. will not completely leave the country after 2014.
“NATO and its partners cannot and will not abandon Afghanistan after 2014. Our ongoing support will be essential to preserving and building on the gains we’ve made thus far,” said Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
Western nations are negotiating how much to spend to support Afghan security forces following 2014. Analysts say whatever the cost, it will be far less than the more than $100 billion being spent this year.
Lisa Curtis is a South Asia specialist at The Heritage Foundation.
“Providing say two to three billion [dollars] to sustain Afghan security forces after 2014 seems like a pretty good bargain to ensure the U.S. is not attacked again - that we don’t have another type of 9/11 attack on the U.S. homeland,” she said.
U.S. Representative Dana Rohrabacher, a strong critic of the Afghan government, was recently banned from traveling to Kabul by President Hamid Karzai. Rohrabacher said the strategic partnership agreement is an admission that a decade of nation-building has not worked.
“One of the reasons we are in bad shape and have lost so many people already, is we have imported combat troops to try to force local people to accept Kabul as the legitimate power. And Kabul, of course, is run by a corrupt regime under Karzai,” said Rohrabacher.
But U.S. military officials say they will need to stay in Afghanistan beyond 2014 to train local security forces. Major General John Toolan has spent the past year commanding troops in Afghanistan.
“They will have to be in Afghanistan as long as it takes for the Afghan security forces to establish, particularly the police and I’ll say specifically the police, to establish local security and credibility among the population,” said Toolan.
Earlier, officials signed agreements on the thorny issues of night raids by U.S. troops and the handover of detention facilities to Afghan authorities.
Analysts say the strategic partnership sends a strong message to Pakistan and the Taliban that Americans will not abandon the region as they did in the 1990s after the Soviets were pushed out of the country.
“I think what this agreement shows is that the U.S. is not desperate for a peace deal with the Taliban. Yes, certainly, some kind of settlement that involves the Taliban is desirable, but the U.S. is simply not desperate to reach some type of agreement in the next two years,” said Curtis of the Heritage Foundation.
A post-2014 military force could provide training, air power, intelligence sharing and counter-terrorism operations in partnership with Afghan soldiers.