News / Asia

US Military Presence in Afghanistan Uncertain After 2014

U.S. Army soldiers from the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division sit on a plane at Forward Operating Base Salerno in Afghanistan to return home to Fort Campbell, Ky., May 21, 2013
U.S. Army soldiers from the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division sit on a plane at Forward Operating Base Salerno in Afghanistan to return home to Fort Campbell, Ky., May 21, 2013
After 12 years of fighting in Afghanistan, America’s longest war is coming to an end. By the end of this year, all U.S. combat personnel will be out of the country.

The question facing U.S. officials is what kind of a residual force - if any - will remain. That force would continue training Afghan military and security forces and sustaining counterterrorism operations against al-Qaeda.  

Brent Scowcroft was national security adviser to two U.S. presidents, Gerald Ford (1974-77) and George H.W. Bush (1989-93). He said a minimum of 10,000 troops are needed to - in his words - give a sense of reassurance to the Afghan military.

“We’ve made great progress in building an Afghan military that can keep the country together - but they have also operated sort of under the wisdom of the U.S. advisers,” said Scowcroft.  “I think what they need is just enough of a force there, just to give them a sense of confidence that we’re still there.”

Karzai does not sign key accord

Afghan President Hamid Karzai has refused to sign a Bilateral Security Arrangement with the United States for a residual U.S. force.  His term as president expires in April and many experts say the Obama administration will have to deal with Karzai’s successor.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai greets journalists as he leaves a press conference in Kabul, Jan. 25, 2014.Afghan President Hamid Karzai greets journalists as he leaves a press conference in Kabul, Jan. 25, 2014.
x
Afghan President Hamid Karzai greets journalists as he leaves a press conference in Kabul, Jan. 25, 2014.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai greets journalists as he leaves a press conference in Kabul, Jan. 25, 2014.
U.S. officials have said that if Karzai does not sign the accord, that would force the U.S. military to withdraw all its troops from Afghanistan - the so-called “zero option.”

Former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton is against the “zero option.”

“And if that happens, I’m afraid it is simply a matter of time before Taliban and al-Qaeda take control again. And if that were to happen, that would be a tremendous loss. And not only because it would give Taliban and al-Qaeda once again a base of operations as they used to plan the 9/11 attack,” said Bolton, “but it would strengthen the hand of radicals like the Pakistani Taliban and other terrorist groups next door who could put the fragile government of Pakistan at risk.”

Tense relations between Washington and Kabul

Over the past several years, President Karzai has been increasingly critical of the United States. Many experts say the partnership between Washington and Kabul is strained - and Karzai’s reluctance to sign a bilateral security arrangement is just one example of the tense relations between the two governments.

Retired Marine Corps General Anthony Zinni, former head of U.S. Central Command (1997-2000) says Karzai has been an erratic ally.

“He’s been an up and down ally - it’s been schizophrenic. There are times when he seems to be willing to work together and cooperate in some way - and then there are other times when he just goes 180 degrees in the other direction,” said Zinni, “and sometimes in a very unpredictable fashion. So this has been a roller coaster collaboration since he rose to power and our involvement in there.”

"Mercurial ally"

General Scowcroft puts it this way:

FILE - Former National Security Adviser Brent Scowcroft.FILE - Former National Security Adviser Brent Scowcroft.
x
FILE - Former National Security Adviser Brent Scowcroft.
FILE - Former National Security Adviser Brent Scowcroft.
“I would say, to put it mildly, he’s been a mercurial ally. We’ve invested a lot in Karzai and he has paid off in some ways - and in other ways he’s been a great disappointment. Unfortunately, we don’t control Karzai. Exactly what he’s up to, it’s never been clear to me. He always seems to be playing more than one game. He’s there and so we don’t have any choice but to deal with him.”

Ambassador Bolton describes President Karzai as “fickle.” And in dealing with him, Washington must be very clear about the reasons for the U.S. presence in Afghanistan.

“We’re there because it represents a plus for America’s national security interest, to take on terrorists like the Taliban and al-Qaeda at a distance. We’re not there to remake Afghanistan. We’re not trying to turn it into the Switzerland of Central Asia,” said Bolton. “I wish nothing but the best for the Afghan people, but we’re not there to make their lives better - we’re there to safeguard American lives - if we can help the Afghans out in the process, so much the better. But let’s be clear - the more Karzai attacks the United States, the harder it is for us to justify being there.”

FILE - Retired Gen. Anthony Zinni.FILE - Retired Gen. Anthony Zinni.
x
FILE - Retired Gen. Anthony Zinni.
FILE - Retired Gen. Anthony Zinni.
General Anthony Zinni said Washington is partly to blame for the deteriorating relationship with Karzai.

“On our side too there have been some issues there. We had 11 commanders in 11 years. You can’t be changing people in and out like that. He [Karzai] hasn’t dealt with a consistent set of leaders in there and the ambassadors have turned over too, significantly.”

General Zinni said what compounds the problem is that personal relationships mean everything in that part of the world - and you can’t build solid relationships with such a turnover in leadership.

Andre de Nesnera

Andre de Nesnera is senior analyst at the Voice of America, where he has reported on international affairs for more than three decades. Now serving in Washington D.C., he was previously senior European correspondent based in London, established VOA’s Geneva bureau in 1984 and in 1989 was the first VOA correspondent permanently accredited in the Soviet Union.

You May Like

Video British Fighters on Frontline of Islamic State Information War

It’s estimated that several hundred British citizens are fighting for Islamic State alongside other foreign jihadists More

Pakistan's Political Turmoil Again Shines Spotlight on Military

Thousands of protesters calling for PM Sharif to step down continue protests in front of parliament, as critics fear political impasse could spur another military coup More

Photogallery Ebola Quarantines Spark Anxiety in Liberian Capital

Food prices rise sharply as residents attempting purchases clash with security forces, leaving one person dead More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Native Bees May Help Save Cropsi
X
Deborah Block
August 22, 2014 12:23 AM
U.S. President Barack Obama has called for a federal strategy to promote the health of bees that have been declining. The honeybee has been waning due to parasites, disease and pesticides. Wild bees may be used to take over their role as crop pollinators. Scientists first need to learn a lot more about wild bees, says biologist Sam Droege, who is pioneering the first national inventory on native bees. VOA’s Deborah Block went to his research laboratory in Beltsville, Maryland, to bring you more.
Video

Video Native Bees May Help Save Crops

U.S. President Barack Obama has called for a federal strategy to promote the health of bees that have been declining. The honeybee has been waning due to parasites, disease and pesticides. Wild bees may be used to take over their role as crop pollinators. Scientists first need to learn a lot more about wild bees, says biologist Sam Droege, who is pioneering the first national inventory on native bees. VOA’s Deborah Block went to his research laboratory in Beltsville, Maryland, to bring you more.
Video

Video US Defense Officials Plan for Long-Term Strategy to Contain Islamic State

U.S. defense officials say American air strikes in Iraq have helped deter Islamic State militants for the time being, but that a broad international effort is needed to defeat the extremists permanently. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel warned Thursday that the group formerly known as the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL, is better organized, and financially and militarily stronger than any other known terrorist group. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Drug-Resistant Malaria Spreads in Southeast Asia

On Thailand’s border with Myanmar, also known as Burma, a malaria research and treatment clinic is stepping up efforts to eliminate a drug-resistant form of the parasite - before it spreads abroad. Steve Sandford reports from Mae Sot, Thailand.
Video

Video Gaza Conflict, Hamas Popularity Challenge Abbas

The Palestinian unity government of Mahmoud Abbas has failed to convince Hamas to agree to Egyptian-negotiated terms with Israel on a Gaza cease-fire. VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports on what the Gaza conflict means for President Abbas, with whom U.S. officials have worked for years on a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Video

Video Nigeria's 'Nollywood' Movie Industry Rolls in High Gear

Twenty years after its birth in a video shop in Lagos, Nigeria's "Nollywood" is one of the most prolific film industries on earth. Despite low budgets and whirlwind production schedules, Nigerian films are wildly popular in Africa and industry professionals say they hope, in the future, their films will be as great in quality as they are in quantity. Heather Murdock has more for VOA from Lagos.
Video

Video UN Launches 'Biggest Aid Operation in 30 Years' in Iraq

The United Nations has launched what it describes as one of the biggest aid operations in 30 years in northern Iraq, as hundreds of thousands of refugees flee the extremist Sunni militant group calling itself the Islamic State. As Kurdish and Iraqi forces battle the Sunni insurgents, the fighting has forced more people to flee their homes. Kurdish authorities say the international community must act now to avert a humanitarian catastrophe. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Cambodian American Hip Hop Artist Sings of Personal Struggles

A growing underground movement of Cambodian American hip hop artists is rapping about the struggles of living in urban America. Most, if not all of them, are refugees or children of refugees who came to the United States from Cambodia to escape the Khmer Rouge genocide of the 1970s. Through their music, the artists hope to give voice to immigrants who have been struggling quietly for years. Elizabeth Lee reports from Long Beach, California.
Video

Video African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebola

While the Ebola epidemic continues to claim lives in West Africa, information technology specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about the disease - using social media to educate the public about the deadly virus. VOA’s George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid