The recent push on the part of the Afghan president to delay a security agreement with the United States has served only to undermine confidence in the future of Afghanistan, testing international support at a crucial moment for the country. At least, that is the opinion of the top commander of the United States led coalition.
U.S. Marine Corps Gen. Joseph Dunford gave warning recently that President Hamid Karzai’s reluctance to agree to the pact could weaken the economy in Afghanistan. It could also buoy the courage of some of their neighbors and eventually bring about the downfall of the Afghanistan security forces.
Dunford said in a recent interview that he is not sure if Karzai completely understands the nature of the risks involved.
The fact that the security agreement is lacking in clarity and is needed for the United States led forces to stay in Afghanistan after their mandate runs out in December 2014 is beginning to affect morale.
There has been a steady deterioration of relations between the United States and Afghanistan after Karzai was intentionally slow in implementing a planned security deal with his Western allies and thus affecting the future of his own nation.
In the past week, Karzai has intensified his confrontation with Washington concerning the bilateral security agreement, which got the stamp of approval from the Afghanistan governing body after more than a year of intense discussion.
The tension seemed to resurface on Thursday evening when Karzai’s office released a statement of condemnation against an airstrike on the part of the coalition in the southwestern Helmand province. The statement alleged that the strike injured two Afghan women and killed a child.
Karzai has frequently blamed the United States led forces for the suffering of Afghan civilians and has recently insisted that any agreement must prohibit both international and United States forces from raiding homes of Afghan nationals. The International Security Assistance Force, under United States leadership, said in a statement that their forces had been executing an operation in Helmand in hopes of capturing of a “known insurgent.” They further said in the statement that they were aware of the possibility of civilian casualties resulting from the operation.
The agreement is required for the Afghanistan nation to receive billions of dollars in critical civilian and military aid. In spite of a request by the Loya Jirga (Afghanistan’s governing body) to ratify the agreement promptly, Karzai has recently insisted on some new conditions before giving his signature. He has asked for more time to consider the agreement and said that the United States must go ahead and start the peace negotiations with Taliban insurgents.
The White House responded with a warning that a failure on the part of Karzai to sign the deal before the end of 2013 would call for a complete withdrawal of all forces from Afghanistan by the end of 2014.
A similar thing happened in Iraq in 2011 and the breakdown of talks there led to a full pullout of United States forces and the unfortunate breakout of fanatical violence afterward. Dunford said he is sure Karzai will eventually sign the agreement. He also feels confident that the agreement would allow soldiers with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization to keep a presence there even after 2014.
Iraq had their wealth from their oil reserve to rely on in the funding of its security forces. However, Afghanistan has depended heavily on international pledges made at the North Atlantic Treaty Organization summit in Chicago last year. At that summit, $4.1 billion was pledged annually to fund the Afghan nation’s police and military.
Dunford said he doesn’t see how Afghanistan can keep up their security forces if the Chicago commitments fall through.
In addition to these commitments, a similar amount was pledged last year at a conference in Tokyo. The White House said that Karzai could jeopardize both commitments if he fails to sign the security agreement. This would have an adverse effect on the future of Afghanistan.
By Rick Hope