The President of Afghanistan Hamid Karzai has expressed his indignation at the United States for not helping his government restore stability in the country after the scheduled withdrawal of foreign forces in 2014. He added that the Taliban were in contact with the NATO and the U.S. forces and had launched a campaign to create a sense of insecurity. In support of his argument, he cited the two Taliban attacks in Khost and Kabul on Saturday that left nineteen people dead.
The Afghan President canceled a scheduled press conference with visiting U.S. Secretary of Defense, Chuck Hagel. A senior Presidential aide clarified that the cancellation was because of tensions due to civilian casualties, failure of the U.S. to hand over control of the Bagram prison to the Afghan government and actions of U.S. special forces in Wardak province.
General Joseph Dunford, Commander of the U.S. and NATO forces responded by saying that his forces have fought too hard during the last 12 years and shed too much blood to ever think that violence or instability would be to their advantage. A statement from the U.S. embassy in Kabul said that Washington had long supported an Afghan led process for dialogue between the Afghans themselves.
The Afghan President demanded that all foreign forces must respect national sovereignty of his country and all of it's customs. On the President's statement that the Taliban were in communication with the United States, the U.S. Embassy spokesman clarified that the Taliban had suspended talks with the U.S. in March 2012 and it was up to them to take the next steps.
Following are some important points:
• The Afghan President's speech has come at a time when Mr. Hagel is conducting his first visit to Afghanistan after taking charge of his new office. It sends a clear message of discontent by the Afghan government.
• There are presently 66, 000 U.S. military personnel in Afghanistan. The number will drop to 34,000 next year. Both governments are currently in the process of determining the number of troops to be stationed after 2014.
• At a juncture where Afghanistan's security apparatus will help to envision its prospects as a country at peace within itself and with its neighbors, this is not a time to project differences with the United States or NATO.
• Soon after the international security forces withdraw from Afghanistan in 2014, the country will need the support of immediate neighbors especially Pakistan and Iran. It will also look up to the United States to act as an honest broker.
• The United States must help to establish a dialogue mechanism, which allows the Afghan government to discuss it's official policy on the conduct of U.S. military on the Afghan soil. The process must promote an understanding at the highest level of governments so that public statements from either side do not cast a negative eye on bilateral relations.
A secure and stable Afghanistan means security and prosperity of South Asia and of the world as a whole. The United States and Afghanistan cannot achieve either objective by remaining isolated on issues of critical significance.
BBC News March 10, 2013
Dawn News March 9 & 10 2013