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

    Taj Mahal Battles New Threat from Insects

    Swarms of insects are proliferating in the heavily contaminated waters of the Yamuna River, which flows behind the 17th century monument

    Self-doubt, Cultural Barriers Hinder Cambodian Women in Tech

    Longtime Cambodian tech observer Sok Sikieng says that although more women have joined profession in recent years, there remain significant factors hindering women from reaching tech potential

    Trans-Adriatic Pipeline to Boost European Energy Security

    $4.5 billion-pipeline will become operational in 2020 and will deliver gas from Azerbaijan’s Shah Deniz II field to southern Italy

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnami
    X
    Elizabeth Lee
    May 22, 2016 6:04 AM
    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnam

    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video First-generation, Afghan-American Student Sets Sights on Basketball Glory

    Their parents are immigrants to the United States. They are kids who live between two worlds -- their parents' homeland and the U.S. For many of them, they feel most "American" at school. It can be tricky balancing both worlds. In this report, produced by Beth Mendelson, Arash Arabasadi tells us about one Afghan-American student who seems to be coping -- one shot at a time.
    Video

    Video Newest US Citizens, Writing the Next Great Chapter

    While universities across the United States honor their newest graduates this Friday, many immigrants in downtown Manhattan are celebrating, too. One hundred of them, representing 31 countries across four continents, graduated as U.S. citizens, joining the ranks of 680,000 others every year in New York and cities around the country.
    Video

    Video Vietnam Sees Strong Economic Growth Despite Incomplete Reforms

    Vietnam has transformed its communist economy to become one of the world's fastest-growing nations. While the reforms are incomplete, multinational corporations see a profitable future in Vietnam and have made major investments -- as VOA's Jim Randle reports.
    Video

    Video Qatar Denies World Cup Corruption

    The head of Qatar’s organizing committee for the 2022 World Cup insists his country's bid to host the soccer tournament was completely clean, despite the corruption scandals that have rocked the sport’s governing body, FIFA. Hassan Al-Thawadi also said new laws would offer protection to migrants working on World Cup construction projects. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Infrastructure Funding Puts Cambodia on Front Line of International Politics

    When leaders of the world’s seven most developed economies meet in Japan next week, demands for infrastructure investment world wide will be high on the agenda. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s push for “quality infrastructure investment” throughout Asia has been widely viewed as a counter to the rise of Chinese investment flooding into region.
    Video

    Video Democrats Fear Party Unity a Casualty in Clinton-Sanders Battle

    Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton claimed a narrow victory in Tuesday's Kentucky primary even as rival Bernie Sanders won in Oregon. Tensions between the two campaigns are rising, prompting fears that the party will have a difficult time unifying to face the presumptive Republican nominee, Donald Trump. VOA national correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video Portrait of a Transgender Marriage: Husband and Wife Navigate New Roles

    As controversy continues in North Carolina over the use of public bathrooms by transgender individuals, personal struggles with gender identity that were once secret are now coming to light. VOA’s Tina Trinh explored the ramifications for one couple as part of trans.formation, a series of stories on transgender issues.
    Video

    Video Amerikan Hero Flips Stereotype of Middle Eastern Character

    An Iranian American comedian is hoping to connect with American audiences through a film that inverts some of Hollywood's stereotypes about Middle Eastern characters. Sama Dizayee reports.
    Video

    Video Budding Young Inventors Tackle City's Problems with 3-D Printing

    Every city has problems, and local officials and politicians are often frustrated by their inability to solve them. But surprising solutions can come from unexpected places. Students in Baltimore. Maryland, took up the challenge to solve problems they identified in their city, and came up with projects and products to make a difference. VOA's June Soh has more on a digital fabrication competition primarily focused on 3-D design and printing. Carol Pearson narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora