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COLUMNISTS

The Colonial Agreement between Afghanistan and the U.S.

Nikolai BOBKIN | 21.12.2013 | 00:00
 

 U.S.hopes of signing an agreement on security with Afghanistan before the end of the year may not be realized. Despite attempts to frighten Afghan leaders with the consequences of a full withdrawal of American troops, it looks like President Hamid Karzai has made a final decision not to sign the agreement. The Obama administration is clearly in a panic over this; several times a week it revises its position on the terms of signing the agreement.  The leadership of NATO is no less nervous; without an agreement with Kabul, the member countries of the alliance will be forced to speed up the full withdrawal of its troops from Afghanistan. The most recent arguments in the dispute with the Afghan president have been threats to end aid to the Afghan government and even provoke disturbances in the country.

However, Hamid Karzai is not giving in to blackmail, and recently he announced his decision to leave the right to sign the agreement to his successor.U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry's reacted curiously, expressing the wish that Hamid Karzai or his successor would sign the agreement by the end of the year, although within that timeframe there will not yet be a successor to the president of Afghanistan; the successor will only become known after the elections planned for April 5, 2014.

All of the countries neighboring Afghanistan support the agreement between Kabul and Washington, with the exception of Iran. As for Russia, the Russian Foreign Ministry has denied reports that President Vladimir Putin urged Afghanistan to sign the agreement with the United States (such reports came from the American side). Now there is a need for everyone interested in peace and stability in Afghanistan to read the articles of the agreement which the United States is so persistently pushing through very carefully and attentively.

The widespread opinion that the president of Afghanistan does not like only certain provisions of the Security and Defense Cooperation Agreement between the United States of America and the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan does not reflect the actual situation. Hamid Karzai rejects the very essence of the agreement being offered, accusing the U.S. of trying to turn Afghanistan into an American colony…

Even the preamble to the agreement declares aims which are not characteristic of international treaties with independent states. The U.S. plans to "enhance the ability of Afghanistan to deter internal and external threats against its sovereignty, security, territorial integrity, national unity, and its constitutional order". Hamid Karzai sees no prospects of attaining national unity without the return of the Taliban movement to the political arena; this movement is categorically opposed to continued American occupation. The reference to external threats to Afghan sovereignty is not addressed to anyone, as no one but the U.S. and NATO is threatening to intervene in Afghanistan.

And Hamid Karzai especially dislikes U.S. demands that he give the Americans the right to independently wage their "war on terror" on Afghan soil.The Afghan president considers the U.S. fight against terrorism a threat to the citizens of his country. "Why," he asks, "should the Afghan people pay the price for the war against terrorism?" Especially since NATO, he says, is waging its war with terrorists not in camps or training bases, but in Afghan villages. Casualties among the civilian population of Afghanistan are one of the main problems Karzai has with the Americans. Over 12 years of occupation, over two thousand American soldiers have been killed. About another thousand from other NATO countries have been killed. The exact number of casualties among the civilian Afghan population cannot be calculated; according to various figures, between 18,000 and 23,000 civilians have been killed. Many were the victims of erroneous or inept actions of NATO forces, including aviation.

Now Karzai is asking, "Is an American more valuable than an Afghan? The question is a legitimate one. Afghan losses are somehow not really taken into account; Washington prefers not to notice them. Hundreds of civilians continue to be killed in Afghanistan each month. The Taliban is responsible for the deaths of many of them, but a significant number are killed as a result of the actions of the international coalition, although ISAF troops are already refraining from active combat, having shifted the main burden of armed combat onto the Afghans. In U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel's last report to Congress on the situation in Afghanistan, he noted that the Afghan Armed Forces are responsible for 95% of planned operations and 98% of special operations, and the local police and army have been given responsibility for 75% of the country's territory.

Nevertheless, in Hagel's opinion, after the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan, the Afghan Armed Forces will be "subjected to serious risk" if the international community ceases to support and advise them. Measures in the area of cooperation with Afghan defense and law enforcement agencies are laid out in Article 4 of the agreement. There it mentions only assistance in organizing, training and equipping specialists, officers and command personnel. To accomplish such tasks it is not necessary to maintain, much less expand, nine large American military bases in Afghanistan. The military expedience of maintaining a force of 10,000-12,000 people deployed in large cities and unable to provide control over the main part of the country's territory is also doubtful. American experts express concerns that troops left there could become a "living shield" for protecting Obama's policy on the future of Afghanistan.

An example of Washington's weak knowledge of power dynamics in Afghan society is its approach to recruiting in the Afghan Armed Forces. The Americans were able to increase the size of the Afghan security forces to the planned 352,000 people. Now there are approximately 185,000 in the army and almost 147,000 in the police. However, 70% of the Afghan security forces are non-Pashtuns, which makes them very unpopular in the eyes of the Pashtun majority of the population. The race to achieve the target size of the armed forces led to forced mobilization in a number of the country's regions; most of the recruits are poorly educated, and there is massive desertion. It is no coincidence that losses in the Afghan army, which is poorly trained and has little fighting spirit, are much greater than those in the ISAF force. The allies lost between 13 and 27 men per month, while in the Afghan national police and local defense brigades in 2013 over 100 men were killed and around 300 wounded each week. Currently the most vulnerable regions of Afghanistan are the south, where mostly Pashtuns live, but the Afghan army is unlikely to be able to fight there. Not one paragraph of Article 5 of the agreement, which sets out measures for supporting the defense and security of Afghanistan, answers the question of how the U.S. plans to maintain stability in Pashtun regions.

The greater part of the agreement is devoted to Afghanistan's obligations in supporting the long-term presence of American troops. Two-thirds of the text deal with this in astounding detail, from the procedure for American personnel to bring currency into the country to the use of American driver's licenses. One gets the impression that the Americans plan to stay in Afghanistan for good, and on special terms which usually are only granted to diplomats. In order that the Afghans might not be tempted to violate the special privileges for American soldiers, the creation of a Joint Commission to oversee implementation of the agreement is provided for in Article 27.

In all, one cannot but agree with Hamid Karzai's doubts that the agreement will serve the interests of Afghanistan. At least, the text of the agreement gives little indication of U.S. ability to bring security and peace to the Afghan people, who are still hoping that after 2014 the NATO troops will leave their country. The Afghan leader recently made visits to Iran and India, trying to garner support there and not focus one-sidedly on Washington and Brussels.

The end of the mission in Afghanistan should be a reminder to NATO leaders that after the breakup of the Soviet Union and the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact, this military alliance is no longer needed; it has outlived its usefulness and is playing an increasingly negative role in the system of international security, trying to expand its influence to the borders of China.

For obvious reasons, Washington is having difficulty admitting that America is now losing its might. The world has witnessed how the Americans were forced to forgo military intervention in Syria's affairs and how they chose a diplomatic route rather than a military one in resolving the issue of Iran's nuclear program. Why shouldn't the Americans continue in the same direction and abandon their plans to secure their military presence in Afghanistan after the expiration of the UN mandate? Especially since the current leaders of Afghanistan do not want their country to become a U.S. colony.

 
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