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Afghan president takes a hard line approach on U.S. withdrawal

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Afghan President Hamid Karzai seems to be taking an hard approach to the planned U.S. withdrawal this year. Karzai ordered a review of 88 detainees at the Parwan Detention Facility and the review panel found that 45 cases showed no evidence of wrongdoing. In another 27 cases, insufficient evidence was cited as a reason for letting the detainees go. This would allow the release of all but 16 detainees, according to a Jan. 9 article in the Military Times. The remaining detainees will have their cases reviewed at a later date.

The U.S. disagrees with Karzai, who has already ordered 77 prisoners released. Because the detainees are accused in the deaths of 60 coalition and 57 Afghan forces they are considered to be a threat to Afghanistan and to the region. The U.S. wants them to go to trial.

A group of U.S. senators met with Karzai last week to reiterate that it would be a mistake to release the prisoners, but he went ahead with his release orders.

An Afghan panel actually wanted a total of 650 prisoners to be released from the Parwan Detention Facility, which was turned over to Afghani control last year.

It is becoming clear that Karzai is positioning himself for a post U.S. Afghanistan by attempting to appease the Taliban. The Afghan head of state also demanded the release of prisoners from Guantanamo Bay, a condition of approving the presence of U.S. forces after the end of 2014.

It may be impossible to get Karzai to sign a long term agreement on any deadline the U.S. establishes. This means that many are already speculating on Karzai's odds of survival after he causes a complete withdrawal of U.S. forces.

If the pact is not signed until after the presidential elections as Karzai wants, the U.S. and NATO will not have time to plan for a post 2014 presence.

Another problem is that U.S. aid to Afghanistan will always be tied to a U.S. military presence. Few, if any see a positive outcome from sending aid or maintaining an understaffed embassy if there is not even a "modest" U.S. force in place. That would be between 8,000-12,000 U.S. and NATO troops. Currently there are 39,000 troops in Afghanistan.

James Dobbins, the U.S. envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan. According to a Dec. 26 Business Insider article, he said,

"My judgment is no troops, no aid, or almost no aid. The political support for the aid comes from the military presence."

This leaves the final problem. The U.S. could easily make plans to transition its forces to theaters in Africa and the Pacific, leaving Karzai on his own. He would then experience a loss of aid and a great fading of all the advancements that have been made so far.

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