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

Could Nemtsov Threaten Putin in Death as in Life?

Dynamic and debonair opposition leader had supported liberal economic reforms, criticized Russian president's aggression in Ukraine More

Oil Smuggling Highlights Challenges in Shutting Down IS Finances

Pentagon spokesman says Islamic State 'certainly continues to get revenue from the oil industry black market' but that airstrikes have made a dent More

India Focuses on Infrastructure, Investment to Propel Economy

Government expects economy to grow at 8 to 8.5 percent in next fiscal year More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Casei
X
Katherine Gypson
February 25, 2015 11:30 PM
The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Case

The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Hurt Nascent Illinois Hydraulic Fracturing Industry

Falling oil prices are helping consumers purchase cheaper petroleum at the pump. But that’s made hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” less economically viable for the companies in the United States invested in the process. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports on one Midwestern town that was hoping to change its fortunes by cashing in on the next big U.S. oil boom.
Video

Video Fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan Fuels Mass Displacement

Heavy fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan state is causing hundreds of thousands to flee into uncertain conditions. Local aid organizations estimate as many as 400,000 civilians have been internally displaced since the conflict began more than three years ago, while another 250,000 have fled across the border to refugee camps in South Sudan. VOA's Adam Bailes reports.
Video

Video Lao Dam Project Runs Into Opposition

A Lao dam project on a section of the Mekong River is drawing opposition from local fishermen, international environmental groups and neighboring countries. VOA's Say Mony visited the region to investigate the concerns. Colin Lovett narrates.
Video

Video A Filmmaker Discovers Her Biracial Identity in "Little White Lie

Lacey Schwartz grew up in an upper middle-class Jewish family, in a town in upstate New York where almost everyone she knew was white. She assumed that she was, as well. Her recent documentary, Little White Lie, tells the story of how she uncovered the secret of her true racial background. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more on the film.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.
Video

Video US-Cuba Normalization Talks Resume Friday

Negotiations aimed at normalizing diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba resume Friday. On the table: lifting a half-century trade embargo and easing banking and travel restrictions. There's opposition in Congress, but some analysts say there may be sufficient political and economic incentives in both nations for a potential breakthrough this year. VOA's Mil Arcega reports.
Video

Video Pakistan's Deadline For SIM Registration Has Cellphone Users Scrambling

Pakistani cell phone users have until midnight Thursday to register their SIM cards, or their service will be cut off. While some privacy experts worry about government intrusion, many Pakistanis are just worried about keeping their phone lines open. VOA Deewa reporter Arshad Muhmand has more from Peshawar.
Video

Video Myanmar Warns Factory Workers to End Strikes

Outside Myanmar's main city Yangon, thousands of workers walked off their jobs earlier this month demanding a doubling of their wages, pay raises after a year and input from labor unions on industrial regulations. Since Friday, the standoff has grown more tense as police moved in to disrupt the sit-ins, resulting in clashes that injured people from both sides. VOA correspondent Steve Herman visited industrial zones which have become a focus of Myanmar's fledgling workers rights movement.
Video

Video Oscar Winners Do More Than Thank the Academy

The Academy Awards presentation is Hollywood’s night to reward the best movies from the previous year. It’s typically a lot of glitter, a lot of thank you’s, a lot of speeches. But many of this year’s speeches carried messages beyond the thank you's. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti takes a look.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More