US-Afghan Security Agreement Challenges

By: Sami Jabarkail

KABUL: (MEP) – Karzai and ObamaThe visit of Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the joint chief of staff to Kabul ostensibly appears to have yield positive and encouraging results for reviving negotiation on a Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) between the U.S and Afghanistan. The Government of Afghanistan suspended the security talks in protest at the ceremonial opening of the Taliban office in Qatar which was fabricated as an embassy for a quasi-government in exile.

Distinct from the Bilateral Strategic Partnership formalized during President Barack Obama’s visit to Kabul on May 2, 2012, this security agreement with Afghanistan would allow the United States to own as many as 9 military bases in the country and grant immunity for US military personnel from persecution under the Afghan law.

In a statement issued by the Afghan President’s office on July 22, 2013, President Karzai has said “Afghans are ready to sign a security pact with the United States on condition that it leads to peace and stability in the country, the strengthening of the Afghan forces, and a united and sovereign Afghanistan.”

Whether or not President Karzai’s conditions are legitimate could be addressed in two basic questions: How do you bring peace to a country that has been raged by war for decades? Is it worthwhile to negotiate peace with Taliban at their new headquarters in Doha, Qatar; or should the international community concentrate on Islamabad where new Taliban members are recruited and trained? For those keen to find out, a twofold approach could be the answer.

First, Kabul explores every possibility to maximize its gains from bilateral security agreement with United States by renewing its wish-list from time to time. The Afghan government expects the United States to modernize its security institutions by committing to long-term financial and material support. Leaving a skillfully trained and well equipped afghan army is crucial for both sides after the end of combat mission in Afghanistan in 2014.

Second, President Karzai’s conditions are aimed at drawing international attention to the most prominent needs of the Afghan people which are peace and security. To achieve this difficult yet possible task, the international community, especially the United States, has to increase their pressure on Pakistan until Islamabad can demonstrate it’s cutting ties with Taliban insurgents. Since the killing of Osama Bin Laden in a military cantonment town of Pakistan by an elite US special operations unit, Islamabad left  no room to doubt its support for terror groups such as Al-Qaida, the Haqqani network, and other militant organizations who fight US-Afghan troops.

Given the changes in regional dynamics, Pakistan is likely to continue exercising militancy as a tool of foreign policy. Like other States, Pakistan has made policies both bad and good to achieve its interests in the region. Part of Islamabad’s strategic interest is in conflict with that of Afghanistan. For example, the Afghan-Indian relationship is a legitimate security concern for Islamabad which ought to be accommodated through meaningful political and economic diplomacy in order for peace to prevail.

Kabul has been limited in its ability to constructively address Pakistan’s regional concerns and fears while the International community has done less or nothing to build that much needed trust between the two neighbors. Instead of negotiating peace with Taliban officials in Qatar, the focus should be on Islamabad where the key to Afghan peace remains locked.

To ensure long term peace and security, the Afghan army needs to be equipped with sophisticated weapons so that they can thwart any militant attacks. The international partners should therefore be more realistic in delivering on their commitments underlined in strategic partnerships they have signed with the Afghan people. Otherwise, it indicates a dire lack of international partnership to see Afghanistan seeking military assistance from India while NATO allies continue to remove their resources from the war-torn country and implode their military bases.

Sami Jabarkail, a Fulbright Scholar at Texas A&M University. Email: sjabark@gmail.com

 

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